Archive for January 25, 2009

Valuable Lessons From Recent Layoffs

Here are my thoughts on the most recent company layoffs. The details are not indicative of every company’s termination decisions, it is simply my assessment of the cuts that occurred at my place of employment.

First, although my team lost a fair number of people, I honestly think another handful or two of people could have been cut without much impact to the quality or caliber of the work my team produces. When faced with layoffs it seems management will cut the minimal number of employees necessary. For example, if the big-wigs tell management to cut 5% they will cut exactly 5%. They will not cut 10% or 15% even though they could easily do so without affecting day-to-day business. My management chain is just as concerned about losing their jobs as the rest of us. In my opinion keeping employees on the payroll helps to make their management positions appear more important and relevant. To save their own jobs, upper management cut exactly the number of individuals they were told to cut.

Second, coworkers who were laid off seemed to fall into a number of different categories. The first group were poor performers. These individuals were assigned tasks but did very little to complete what was required of them. More often than not the rest of us were forced to complete their work for them and often had to work twice as hard because of them.

The second group were a pain in the a** to work with. These are the sort of people who are constantly complaining about the company. They’d love to tell you how smart they are and how stupid everyone else is. They seemed to butt heads with everyone regardless of level or position. When faced with cutting a pain in the a** employee that consistently produced solid results or an employee that is nice but not quite as productive the company chose to cut the difficult one.

The third group included coworkers whose projects had been replaced or cut. These individuals had a hard time moving into new positions or showing how their skills could fit into other roles within the company. Although the termination of projects was not their fault, they were ultimately dismissed because they were unable to find other work or prove their value to the company.

The fourth group included long term employees who grew complacent in their roles. They had been collecting paychecks forever, but hadn’t produced solid results for years. They assumed their tenure would pull them through tough times at the company and that hard work ten years ago would make up for the lack of work today. In the end the company realized they produced very little for their large salaries and benefits.

The fifth group included coworkers who created new roles for themselves. For example, this group included employees who moved from management roles into consulting positions. These individuals were hard workers with good ideas. Unfortunately, the company didn’t need or require the roles they created for themselves. They spent a lot of time on ‘busy work’ that the company ultimately deemed unnecessary.

The last group is not so easy to explain. There are one or two people whose dismissals I can’t quite figure out. Solid employees and hard workers who were good at their jobs and pleasant to work with. I’m sure there were reasons for their dismissals but as an outsider to the process I honestly can’t explain them.

So what did I learn from all of this…

  • Work hard and support your coworkers.
  • Don’t piss people off, at least not on a continually basis.
  • Keep an eye on failing projects so you can jump ship before they end.
  • Make certain others are aware of your strengths and skills and don’t rely on the company to find you a new position if your project ends.
  • Lastly, consider creating additional roles within your current job rather than creating an entirely separate position. After all, if you can perform at least some of your former roles the company may have a harder time terminating you.

January 25, 2009 at 3:45 AM 4 comments


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