I have managed to reconstruct the article (published in TIM’s November 2008 newsletter) from my personal files. Below:
November Guest Author
Ride the panic – sack ‘em ‘ol!!!!!!
By: Vickie Zisman
“Hey ho, hey ho – it’s time for you to go” and you, you and you. The whole millions and millions of YOU – incompetent lazy morons… In short – welcome to the employer fun fair rollercoaster: we hit the button – you get the ride down!! And out!!!!
It seems that the present economic catastrophe has been the Almighty’s answer to the collective corporate prayer – the perfect Force Majeure to blame for the massive failure of judgment, professional incompetence, mismanagement at the highest executive levels, and the resulting nascent global multi-million lay-offs. I mean, despite several corporate fat dogs (as a mad cat lover, I am all for revision of derogative concepts about felines) that got a widely publicized boot, this crisis has no specific faces to point the finger at. There is this amorphous cloud of invisible culprits cutting across all managerial strata, and thus – in practice – no one to hold accountable for the shambles.
And it’s one great orgy of sacking. Under the pretext of the “situation,” global HR reduction plans are dusted and executed. Now it feels OK, as opposed to a couple of years ago when everybody was upbeat (except maybe for that spoil-sport Meredith Whitney) – then such a drastic step would raise more than one corporate brow. It would be a bit awkward (draw very bad publicity and unwanted poking into one’s business affairs). So it’s not only the inefficient and bad workers who go now, it’s practically everybody: the outsourced teams, permanent staff disliked by the boss for whatever reason, the experts that the company really needs. Israel is a small place and social circles usually overlap. Talking to a friend yesterday, I was told about the lay-offs profile of one of the biggest hi-tech companies. The papers reported 200, the friend told me the real number was more than twice as high. To my remark about the outsourced workforce being cut, she said that permanent employees who have been with the company for over 10 years were made redundant.
Somehow, I don’t buy the tearful interviews of the chiefs regretting the situation and the “drastic measures” it calls for. Their grave expressions and wise admonitions (to others) about how to weather this crisis make me want to scream. I find their PR appearances hypocritical and pathetic – “the situation” is of their making. It does have so many names attached to it – their names. And now they say that HR ‘excesses’ are being capped. Were all those who stayed with the organization for many years incompetent and the company just kept paying them for bad work? If so, who’s responsible for that? Where are all the organizational “wizards” who commission million-dollar fees and churn out lengthy reports full of “professional “clichés explaining how to build and manage a successful company? Where did all those hundreds of thousands or millions of consultancy dollars go? If this is the fruit of their work…
Another friend, who’s privy to the goings on of the powerful, told me once that they were very sensitive about their public image. It doesn’t impress me much either. An executive dismissed with shame and a multi-million dollar severance package (as we saw in the Senate’s questionings of the heads of investment banks) does not invoke my sympathy. Their disgrace is certainly easier to stomach. They will lay low and shameful for a couple of years, write their memoirs which will disclose all the sordid juicy details of the ins and outs of the financial world of power, secure a multi-million dollar deal from the publisher, tour the country signing the books, “telling it all” and then, when they’re out of the woods- get another top management job somewhere. After all, our memory is shorter than an ant’s and theirs was only “corporate responsibility” and “deep down, they are outstanding managers.”
So all are guilty and no one at all. The perfect Force Majeure. There is nothing new under the human sun – the upper echelons always get away with it (except twice in history – France 1789 and Russia 1917), the poor stay poor, and the middle class? They pay the price and lick their wounds trying to get back into the saddle. It’s a historical circle of behavior endlessly repeating itself.
The writer daylights as a corporate communications professional and in her spare time likes to deconstruct modern management myths.