The story in the New York Times today about stealth layoffs is a little haunting. It looks at the trend among Wall Street banks to quietly lay people off—while they’re out for surgery, without formal announcements—rather than doing mass cuts all at one time. People aren’t finding out that layoffs are going on until they get cryptic e-mail bouncebacks, see cardboard boxes and trash bins lining the halls, or notice someone’s desk has been packed up for them.
Whether it’s driven by managers’ fear of facing people or an attempt to avoid bad publicity on the euphemistically named “reductions in force,” such “stealth layoffs” are hardly good for a culture. Anyone who’s ever worked in an environment that knows layoffs are coming—but not when—know how crippling that can be on morale and productivity. Making a big announcement may be painful and earn you some unwanted negative press, but the simmering disgruntlement and distraction in a culture can do a whole lot more damage.
A friend of mine at another publication sounded a similar note recently—big layoff plans are rarely announced there, people just trickle out bit by bit. Has anyone else noticed a similar trend in other industries?
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