Laid-Off Workers Are Striking Back
August 2, 2001 7:29 AM   Subscribe

Laid-Off Workers Are Striking Back What's interesting is the retailators are not doing so *because* they were laid off, but because of the *way* they were laid off. When will business learn humans need to be treated like-- well-- humans?
posted by christina (16 comments total)
I had read this [piece and spoke about it to my wife. My wife a month ago told me about a rage-filled guy who was to be let go and they feared trouble from him. It was my wife's job to get between him and the security people etc and try to calm him down. She managed it. but in this instance the guy got revenge that will not help him when, upon getting out of jail, he has to put together an up-dated resume.
In fact for most getting laid off is sort of like getting your balls cut off, so to speak. I have been through the process after working at a place for some 25 years! I was lucky. I could retire. But it took me a long time to get over what I loved and had to give up.
posted by Postroad at 7:51 AM on August 2, 2001

When will humans learn that nobody has the obligation to buy the services they choose to offer?
posted by dagny at 8:02 AM on August 2, 2001

I find the phrase, "when will business learn," very obnoxious. It's like saying, "when will blacks learn," or, "government is slowly realizing."
posted by techgnollogic at 8:09 AM on August 2, 2001

Dagny, you are absolutely right. There is no obligation to purchase services from anyone ever.

However, the first premise is that actions have reactions. If you have been purchasing my services for an extended period, and have a long record of purchasing them, and then without notice cease the purchases, and do so in an offensive manner, such as implying that your former purveyor is a criminal, the there will be a reaction.

In many cases, the purchasing party has lied to the service vendor, promising ephemeral things like stock options or possible raises, and instead, due to a lack of business acumen, keeps his or her own job while laying off the individual who did the grunt work in building the company.
posted by swerdloff at 8:10 AM on August 2, 2001

Well, if we're to cut out the human element altogether and look at this from a cold business standpoint, it makes financial sense for a business to adopt measures that treat hard-working employees with the respect that they deserve. None of this two guys in a room exit interview nonsense feeding the employee a whopping array of bullshit and emotionless formality. Just basic human decency and a reasonable severance package for both sides. You'd probably put an end to many of these problems and save some money for a business.

This would also seem to be common sense on a basic human level. But, amazingly, corporations continue to treat their employees like idiotic peons down to the final days, when, in most cases, they're far from it.

From an ethical and business standpiont, any corporation that treats its employees with such contempt deserves the disgruntled fracas that results.
posted by ed at 8:25 AM on August 2, 2001

Anyone remember the episode of Cheers where Norm is given the job of telling people they've been laid off, but he's such a softy that he takes them out for beer and cries so much that they get distracted trying to cheer him up? "That's OK, Mr. Peterson, it's not that bad, I can find another job."
posted by straight at 8:34 AM on August 2, 2001

The folks in the article that seem most angry seem to have bought into the wonderful world that was promised over the last two years. They believed the dream. It seems that not only were they losing their job, but also the dreamworld in which they believed.

I completely agree that receiving an e-mail a rather inhumane method of letting somebody go. Both sides of the equation have a difficult time with layoffs and firings. I have many friends that have been on both sides of this and both take it rather hard.

An additional element in the separation from a job is that to many people their lives have been so consumed with their work that they are what they do. Their personal make-up is their job. There has been a transition from the world where the question, "what do you do" received a list of hobbies or activities that the person did outside of work to a response that is what they did for work.

There are some of us that do for work what we do for fun (or part of our recreation).
posted by vanderwal at 9:38 AM on August 2, 2001

A local business just layed off 300 people who'd been with the company for 30 years. How? They all went home one night. After they left, other people cleaned out their desks. When they came in the next morning, security took their badges, handed them the contents of the desks and told them they were no longer needed. How's that for compassion?
posted by Apoch at 9:51 AM on August 2, 2001

you could always get some fuck work stickers.
posted by jcterminal at 10:47 AM on August 2, 2001

It really boggles my mind. You work in an office where the boss-types treat all the workers like dirt, and the workers are grumpy, and they do a bad job, and they bitch and moan. You work in an office where they treat the employees well and they are pleasant, and they work hard, and they go out of their way to do a good job. Which of these seems like a better business plan? And yet, I continue to hear about, or work for companies where the employees are treated poorly. It's so stupid.
posted by bob bisquick at 11:02 AM on August 2, 2001

My current philosophy: "Stupid rises".
posted by owillis at 11:09 AM on August 2, 2001

This is one reason I've always preferred contract work: the end is often expected, and generally cordial and coordinated. When I was laid off by my consulting firm, even though it was handled about as well as could be expected, it still felt like a sucker-punch.

As an IT worker, I really hate being complicit in firings and layoffs. You might have to drop everything to change half-a-dozen passwords that somebody had access to; and even though it's simple to do, often you're not permitted to forward their e-mail. (Then, as admin, you get to wade through the bounces and delete them, often e-mails with forlorn messages like "where are you?")
posted by dhartung at 12:22 PM on August 2, 2001

I've always wondered, exactly, how are we supposed to treat humans? Humans are now willing to work in pens smaller than those we raise livestock in, they are willing to be constantly videotaped and to have their every transmission into and out of work monitored, they're willing to be told what to wear, when to work, how often they can eat and go to the bathroom...humans are just another herd animal, it sometimes seems.

Why shouldn't those who own the businesses treat people like property? They get away with it. Isn't that the first law of the corporate world, do whatever works? I hear a lot of complaining about this, but see little change. And when workers do get organized, they are treated like communists and their jobs moved away or done away with. Whenever the economy is bad, downsizing happens like Sweeney Todd's wet is an economy supposed to rebound if no one has any money, because they are all out of work?

Humans will take a lot, especially if it happens gradually. The problem is, those running these corporations *are* treating humans as humans, rather than as individual people.
posted by Ezrael at 3:57 PM on August 2, 2001

I think that dot-com company's bear an especially high amount of blame here, in that they involved people emotionally in their work, and then in many cases, when things go bad, try to retreat to the old-world style of the unemotional layoff. You can't have it both ways.
posted by brucec at 5:11 AM on August 3, 2001

From my experience, classic dot-coms tended to have a management layer made up of two groups: the people who happened to be there at the start, often type-A personalities intolerant of others' failures; and those shipped in from consultancies to provide a degree of professional experience, who don't have as much emotional investment in the company. So you have a palpable sympathy deficit on both sides: the hot-headed and the cold-hearted.

There's a reason why magazines such as The Industry Standard ran columns on how to lay people off.
posted by holgate at 5:34 AM on August 3, 2001

Longevity means nothing today. What's important is your contribution, and political connections in the firm, that are current. Companies like Lucent have lost good people, and they never get them back.
posted by NJguy at 6:19 AM on August 3, 2001

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