Friday, January 15, 2010

How Layoffs Can Sometimes Be a Good Thing

Seems like when we have a bad economic situation, like now, we talk about the negative aspects of it. Layoffs, foreclosures and a falling stock market become part of the daily news.

But when about 20 people at one of our locations were being "displaced," I saw a scenario where some people were happy about it.

Displacement (in my company) means having to find a new job in the company and if there are displaced employees who qualify for an open position, it cannot be offered to outside candidates (unless, I suppose, that the displaced employees all turn it down). But, basically, because most people don't want to take a job unless it's just right (location, coworkers, status, etc.), for many it just is a nice way of being laid off.

Several of the displaced administrative staff asked me if I knew of any jobs. They would ask over and over again, venting about the process and complaining because they were losing their jobs. Not fun to listen to (none of them were what I'd call friends), but understandable.

So it surprised me when some of the folks who didn't lose their job told me (very quietly) at lunch one day, that it was a good thing.

"We had been trying to get rid of that person for about a year and a half. They didn't do their job, they just hung out. So, we started the process of collecting information and counseling them, so if they continued to not do their job, we could write them up and eventually let them go.

Then, they hurt their back at work. They filed a workers comp claim and were out on leave for about a month and a half. When they came back, HR didn't want it to appear that we were trying to get rid of them because of the claim. We had to back off and haven't been able to do anything about it since then. We're glad they're finally going to be gone."

I realized, that if you have employees that don't do their work, can't seem to get along with others, are bullies or have some other issue that prevents them from getting the job done, that layoffs are the perfect time to let some of those folks go. It may not be nice, but when you're forced to reduce staff and you keep the essential employees (read: the ones who do the work), that probably means losing some dead weight.

It's a great reason, even if you're tenured or past your probationary period, to be indispensable. Bottom line, do your job well.

I've survived one round of layoffs (at another company) where, by all rights, I should have been let go. Instead they let go of someone with more tenure than me and kept me instead. I was the only exception that they made to the rule. I'd like to think it was because I'd become too important to the 'powers that be' because of my skills and attitude.

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