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One Of The Problems With Being A Manager Is That Sometimes You Have to Manage

May 12, 2012

The other day I was talking to a friend whose daughter just started a promising career.  “How’s it going?” I asked.

“She loves the job.  But she doesn’t know how much longer she’ll have it.”

“Oh, no.  What happened?”

“Nothing yet.  But she’s had to reapply for the job.”

“Why does she have to reapply for a job she already has?” 

I then got a lesson in contemporary corporate logic.  The story, as I heard it, was that the order came down that overheads were too high.  After deciding that the corporate jet and the stadium box were mission critical to the functioning of the business, management decided that people had to go.  Fat needed to be trimmed.

I’m not sure exactly what happened next but one thing is clear.  No manager put up their hand and said, “No worries.  I’ve let the fat accrete in my department for years.  There’s a ton of people sitting around doing nothing.  I’ll whack ‘em all.  Problem solved.”

It was more like no one wanted to be the bad guy.  They couldn’t very well just walk through the office and fire the person in every fourth cubicle.  And they didn’t want to admit that there were problems.  And, I almost forgot–they didn’t want to have to pay severance pay and things like that to people who were let go through no fault of their own.

So some genius hit upon a brilliant idea.

They decided to announce that changes in the business environment required a bold move to realign the organization’s structure with external realities.  I’m sure that the announcement included phrases like “the only constant in today’s business world is change,” “serve our customers and stakeholders better,” and “achieve our strategic vision.”

But the basic message of the announcement was that effective immediately, everyone’s job had been “disestablished.”   They actually used that word.  That means that whatever job you’ve been doing no longer exists.  Too bad.  But, because we’re such nice guys, we’re letting you reapply to get a job which is not, technically, the same job as the one you’ve been doing.  So we can also pay you less.

Through this act of management by non-management, they have allowed themselves to downsize without firing anyone.  All they have to do is say, “Oh, sorry, you’re not right for the job,” or “There were better qualified applicants,”  “Severance pay?  That’s for people who have been terminated. You weren’t terminated, you just weren’t hired. And everyone knows you don’t have to pay severance pay to people who don’t get jobs they apply for.  And what are you going to do about it?”  

The added bonus is that morale is so bad that, in spite of the economy, people are leaving so headcount may get low enough that they don’t even have to go through the effort of rehiring everyone.

I’m sure the wizard who thought up this plan has a bright future in the organization.  He or she might even get to ride on the corporate jet someday. 

7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2012 12:40 am

    It is an outrage how companies have defrauded long time loyal employees out of their pensions through schemes like this. I think it’s justifiable homicide. I sure don’t see any recovery in Miami. The skilled jobs come with no health insurance, no pension, no sick leave, no vacation , 50-60 hour weeks no overtime – $11.50 an hour take it or leave it. Jackson Memorial Hospital Complex and extensions just laid off 1,200 but rehired back 300 as part time with no benefits and University of Miami Med School and its outreaches just laid off 800. That’s 1,500 more people that won’t be paying a mortgage anymore in a county where one of five homes is in foreclosure and 1,500 more people that won’t be consumers in a consumer economy.

  2. May 13, 2012 4:34 am

    Disestablish. Great dis word along the lines of disinter, disremember, and disacquaint.

  3. May 13, 2012 3:26 pm

    Pathetic. Hope your friend’s daughter takes the opportunity to find a better employer.

  4. May 14, 2012 2:16 am

    Ah…the power of bullshit. Not only working in politics but working for Corporations too.

  5. May 14, 2012 4:47 am

    Thirty-some years ago I worked for a consulting firm which one day requested that everyone in my division submit a resignation letter to be kept in our files, essentially a UXB which the firm could “accept” at any time.

    I walked out then and there rather than continue working for people who would pull that crap — and I should mention it was a “progressive” firm that preened itself on hiring trans people, ex-cons, and other folks who would have been rejected by many typical employers in the sector.

    When I explained the situation to the relevant government agency, they cut me an unemployment check, too. From there on in my goal was always to be in business for myself. With no one to manage and no one managing me.

    Them that live by the sword die by the sword. I hope it’s not long in coming in this case.

  6. May 15, 2012 9:14 am

    Hi Thomas, that’s a new one. I wonder how companies can get away with things like this. I guess that everyone of them is looking for ways to cut costs but they never look at bonuses (bonusi) paid to the CEOs etc just pick always on the little guy.
    I hope your friend’s daughter finds a better job soon.

  7. WordsFallFromMyEyes permalink
    May 16, 2012 12:46 am

    This is depressing. I loved your title – that’s what drew me in – but job security means a HEAP to me. There’s always a 3 month probation period you need to pass here in Australia & then the job is yours (you get full pay, meanwhile). But we have had some companies lay off bundles of workers and it’s tragic and I’m on my knees in thanks that I have a job, to support my one & only son. How it must feel, it’s just devastating. Bless everyone going through that, that’s hell.

    Noeleen, (video diary toward sobriety) / (first draft of a novel I’m writing)

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