Re: Layoff logistics and etiquette

Subject: Re: Layoff logistics and etiquette
From: Janice Gelb <janiceg -at- marvin -dot- eng -dot- sun -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2001 12:56:53 -0700 (PDT)

> This is very nerve-wracking, to say the least. This time around, my
> team's boss was very humane - he let everybody who would be laid off
> know immediately, then he set up appointments throughout the morning
> to discuss severance. I thought this was much more sensible, because
> it didn't needlessly prolong the agony of not knowing whether we each
> still had a job or not. But most other bosses in my company did not
> follow suit, and there were people who waited 4 to 6 hours to get
> "the verdict."
> This makes me wonder - what have the rest of you experienced in the
> wonderful age of layoffs? Any particularly smooth mass firings? Any
> unnecessarily grueling head-chopping? Any suggestions for how to
> improve the process, or at least make the process more endurable?

Funny you should ask: my company is going through its very first
layoff right now, after 19 years in business. Unfortunately, they
treated it like other company policy changes and decided to be up
front and communicative about what was happening. Therefore, on
October 8, they announced that there was going to be a layoff of
9% of the company, or 3,900 people. Guess when they're going to
announce who gets laid off? By November 1...

You think 4 to 6 hours is agonizing? Try three to four *weeks*!
People are very jittery, not sleeping, trying to figure out
layoff strategies, and finding it extremely difficult to
concentrate on their work.

I think management meant to continue their reputation of being
open and communicating with employees but in this case I think
it backfired in a big way. There certainly wasn't an issue of
wanting to quiet the rumor mill, as I don't think any rumor
would have been as far-reaching as the actual layoff numbers.

Unfortunately, we have a lot of business units and it seems
likely that not all management will use the same criteria in
selecting who is laid off and which projects or job descriptions
are at risk. On my side, we are lucky in that the Director in
charge of our department is a former writer who is already
convinced of the importance of documentation and doc standards.
(Lucky for me especially because I'm an editor, which is often
dangerous when it comes time to cut to the bone.) But I have
already heard of other documentation people who have heard a
hint that they are regarded as a cost center rather than a
revenue producing area.

So, to answer your question in part: *don't* announce a
layoff and wait weeks between the announcement and the actual

Janice Gelb | The only connection Sun has with
janice -dot- gelb -at- eng -dot- sun -dot- com | this message is the return address.

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