How to be safe when layoffs take place

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 | Employment

Every day or two we are informed of yet another wave of retrenchments.

In many instances layoffs are done indiscriminately.  For example, when a company closes down, everyone in the organization is without a job.  However, sometimes arbitrary rules are applied to determine who will be retrenched, such as the LIFO principle – the last ones in will be the first to be out.  Some companies may also use a downsizing situation as an opportunity to move closer to their employment equity targets.

In the current economic climate nobody has absolute job security. Even people employed by the state, or contracted to state-run projects, could be affected when cut-backs are considered.

Layoffs are sad for the victims and their families, but may present a good opening for an organization to get rid of its dead wood. 

Dead wood is defined as “people in a group or organization who are not useful any more and who need to be removed”.  During an economic squeeze, organizations can no longer afford to carry dead wood, even if it was tolerated during more prosperous times.  If staff members have to go, it makes sense to let go of the useless ones and retain the useful ones.

Successful organizations will allow the get-rid-of-the-dead-wood rule to guide their downsizing strategies, rather than directives such as LIFO and EE.

Employees who treasure their jobs want to ensure that they are not regarded as dead wood – they must go out of their way to prove that they are valued fruit-bearing branches of their trees. This may just save them from the pruning knife of the retrencher.


3 Comments to How to be safe when layoffs take place

David Mathe
Thursday, 5 February, 2009

I agree that deadwood are individuals, usually within large organisations, who, instead of adding value to the organisational goals and targets, simply drag it down and inflate the payroll.

While it may be a tricky and usually a remorseful exercise to prune the deadwood, it normally results in a more compact and effective organisation.

And as for the Redwoods, they are needed now more than ever. Their expertise and skills are immeasurably valuable to the organisation.

Thursday, 12 February, 2009

See this interesting blog posting in the blog Successful Teaching, linking to this post:

Debbie Schinker
Monday, 20 April, 2009

Getting rid of the least efficient, least productive employees is a rational, logical approach. Unfortunately, organizations are not always hotbeds of rational, logical thinking with their inherent politics and attitude of managerial self-preservation. It an be extremely difficult – and sometimes even dangerous – to prune the dead wood. I’ll give you a one-word example rampant in both business and education in the United States: unions!

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