Thursday, September 07, 2006

We Regret to Inform...

I suspect that they thought they were doing a “hey, it’s the last week of summer, no one will notice a teensie-weensie lay-off like this” when Radio Shack pink slipped 400 employees last week. They may not have been counting on the repercussions (i.e., ultra-bad press) of informing the chosen few via e-mail, rather than in person.

Hey, I’ve been on the giving and receiving end, and there’s no good way to do lay-offs, but this method seems particularly callous. The only story I’ve heard that comes close to this level of depersonalization is one that a former colleague told me years ago (and which would, of course, be manageable only in a small company). A company wide meeting was called, and as the employees got to the meeting room door, each was handed a pink slip or a blue slip. Pink slips proceeded to the lay-off room for processing. Blue slips went into the survivors’ session to hear about how the company was turning a corner, was now on the right track, had right-sized – all the blah-di-blah that always turns out to be a complete crock. But that one had at least some human, mano-a-mano touch.

As noted in the
Seattle Times, Radio Shack, of course, shot back with their spin on it. The way they handled things was ‘fast and private.’

Fast, absolutely. But private? Sure, no manager or HR minion actually got to see the look on the victim's face, but just how private is it when you pack up your cube and do the “dead man walking” thing out to your car while your now former colleagues try not to stare?

Still, I can see this type of lay-off taking hold, with the impersonal ‘fast and “private”’ notification process becoming more commonplace. It’s a virtual world, so why not virtualize this task, too?

(My friend John, in his excellent blog, By the Bayou, did a brief blog on this, which is where I first heard about it. But even though it’s yesterday’s news, it certainly fits with a topic dear to my heart….)

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