I thought it would be instructive to list the euphemisms for layoffs generated by my last post. Thanks so much for all the great -- and troubling -- contributions. It is quite a testimony to the human ability for self-deception and obfuscation. Here they are:
Adjusting to shifts in demand
Cost improvement plans
"He got the box."
Rebalancing the level of human capital
Reduction in force
Special forces philosophy
"We've decided to go in another direction"
I especially liked this contrast between management and employee language about how the process is carried out:
We're letting you go
We're terminating your position
Your position is redundant
He got whacked.
got walked to the door
He got walked to the door
I am also taken with “Special forces philosophy” because it
suggests that someone at Tesla (where this was used) is suffering from a
serious case of self-delusion. The someone, by the way, is Chairman Elon Musk. Check out the link to his announcement. His statement is troubling because, although the language is obfuscated, he is implying that the people he is letting go are the weaker ones, even though many of Tesla's problems clearly stem from errors made by senior management (including Musk) and from the the economic environment. Note the statement, "One of the steps I will be taking is
raising the performance bar at Tesla to a very high level, which will
result in a modest reduction in near term headcount. To be clear, this doesn’t mean that the
people that depart Tesla for this reason wouldn’t be considered good
performers at most companies – almost all would. However, I believe
Tesla must adhere more closely to a special forces philosophy at this
stage of its life if we aspire to become one of the great car companies
of the 21st century." This reminds of a case study I did years ago of the layoffs at Atari, when after the first round of layoffs, the CEO told everyone something like, "The company is strong now, we got rid of all the bad people."
And I liked Mike’s comment that “Euphemisms aside, the bigger issue is not how to handle layoffs, but rather how to avoid them.” Check out his post where he points out, and questions why, “Reducing headcount in an economic downturn is almost a Pavlovian response for many executives.”
P.S. Sim's comment is intriguing and scary I'm in the middle of
"synergy-related headcount restructuring" which also sounds pretty cute
- until you get hit on the head with it.