There’s been some interesting stories online today, both at the New York Times and here at BusinessWeek, about companies that are trying to cut costs in ways other than resorting to layoffs. Some are trimming salaries of employees. Others are having unpaid holiday shutdowns. Meanwhile, a few companies are testing out four-day work weeks to trim everyone’s work hours a little. (I’ve got to wonder how that works in most professional jobs and knowledge-sector companies, where there’s hardly such a thing as nine-to-five or weekdays and weekends anymore.)
But most companies, it seems, are going straight to layoffs without passing go. Announcements like the one Motorola made in October that it plans to layoff 3000 workers in the next two quarters feel like they come every single day.
The most striking ones, in my mind, are job cuts like the ones Bank of America and Hewlett-Packard have announced. Not for their size so much—though they are big, with BofA promising 35,000 cuts and HP another 24,000—but for their tenure. Both companies have said they’ll make the job reductions over the next three years, an eternity when it comes to staff morale.
It’s hard enough to stay focused on getting a job done well when layoffs are imminent—when you know they’re going to happen in the next week, the next month, the next quarter. But living with the reality of impending layoffs for three years strikes me as a morale killer only the most staunch corporate soldier can survive. Is it really the best move to announce layoffs years before they happen?
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