Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 9, Issue 7;   February 18, 2009: Four Popular Ways to Mismanage Layoffs: I

Four Popular Ways to Mismanage Layoffs: I

by

When layoffs are necessary, the problems they are meant to address are sometimes exacerbated by mismanagement of the layoff itself. Here is Part I of a discussion of four common patterns of mismanagement, and some suggestions for those managers and other employees who recognize the patterns in their own companies.
Christ's Indian Paintbrush

Castilleja christii (Christ's Indian Paintbrush) in Cassia County, Idaho, on Mount Harrison — their only known habitat. The C. christii are the showy yellow spiked flowers in the center of the photo. Named after John H. Christ, they survive on the mountain in a subalpine meadow about 200 acres in size (about 81 hectares). They are therefore extremely vulnerable to the effects of global climate change, because a small change in the climate of that meadow could render their only habitat hostile to them.

Humanity's approach to the problem of global climate change has many of the attributes of the denial and procrastination patterns described here. We have been able to measure the effects of global warming for decades, but only recently has a consensus emerged that they are real effects. Even so, we still have no consensus about taking action collectively. Photo courtesy U.S. National Forest Service.

The news of spreading layoffs, production pauses, and bankruptcy-driven closures is by now upsetting almost everyone and every organization. Sadly, the mismanagement that leads to the need for such drastic actions is being replicated in the way managers deal with layoffs. Here are the first two of four fairly common ways to bungle layoffs, emphasizing the personal perceptions of decision makers.

Procrastination
Management delays action to repair the financial damage, hoping that "things will turn around when <whatever> happens."
Usually, in procrastination, management can no longer repair the company's finances even by doing a major layoff. Because of delay, organizational survival is now threatened. They're willing to consider layoffs only when the alternative is total business failure. Employees have actually figured this out months ago, and some of the best people have already departed or are already searching for jobs.
If you're in a position to do something about this pattern, remember that the earlier you act the better. Waiting rarely helps. And the longer you have already waited, the more important it is to act immediately. Don't worry about getting it perfectly right. It's far more important to make a start than to make a perfect start.
If you aren't in a position to do anything about the layoff procrastination, you have three basic options: you can exit the company voluntarily, you can stay but prepare for a possible exit or layoff, or you can do nothing. Most choose the latter. Preparing for a layoff is probably wisest for those who can't move on. But if your personal situation permits it, exiting voluntarily can be an excellent choice, especially if you're among the first to exit, because once the layoffs begin, competition for available jobs elsewhere might be more rigorous.
Denial
More insidious Denial and procrastination
are costly in themselves,
but they can create some
even more costly
synergistic patterns
than procrastination is denial, because management fails to see the need for reconfiguration. Spending, expansion, and even acquisitions often continue as if future projections were both accurate and optimistic.
In procrastination, the nagging feeling that all is not well has a benign effect — it can make managers cautious. In denial, by contrast, caution is less common — the organization might actually go into a power dive.
As an employee, denial is difficult to recognize, because your main sources of information are the very people who are in denial. But if you examine closely what they say about the parts of the company with which you are personally familiar, you might catch a glimpse of reality.

While denial and procrastination are costly in themselves, they can create some even more costly synergistic patterns. We can be in denial about whether we're procrastinating, and we can procrastinate about examining our actions for symptoms of denial.

We'll examine two common tactical errors associated with layoffs next time.  Next in this series Go to top Top  Next issue: Four Popular Ways to Mismanage Layoffs: II  Next Issue

52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenZLkFdSHmlHvCaSsuner@ChacbnsTPttsdDaRAswloCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

Jigsaw puzzle piecesFirst Aid for Painful Meetings
The foundation of any team meeting is its agenda. A crisply focused agenda can make the difference between a long, painful affair and finishing early. If you're the meeting organizer, develop and manage the agenda for maximum effectiveness.
Detour SignHow We Avoid Making Decisions
When an important item remains on our To-Do list for a long time, it's possible that we've found ways to avoid facing it. Some of the ways we do this are so clever that we may be unaware of them. Here's a collection of techniques we use to avoid engaging difficult problems.
The male red-capped manakinFinding Work in Tough Times: Communications
Finding work in tough times entails presenting yourself to many people. You'll be conversing, interviewing, writing, presenting, and when you're finally successful, negotiating.
A Great Grey OwlHow to Waste Time in Virtual Meetings
Nearly everyone hates meetings, and virtual meetings are at the top of most people's lists. Here's a catalog of some of the worst practices.
A performance reviewPerformance Mismanagement Systems: I
Some well-intentioned performance management programs do more harm than good, possibly because of mistaken fundamental beliefs. Specifically: the fallacy of composition, the reification error, the myth of identifiable contributions, and the myth of omniscient supervision.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Managing Your Boss for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Two bull elk sparring in Grand Teton National Park, WyomingComing February 8: Kerfuffles That Seem Like Something More
Much of what we regard as political conflict is a series of squabbles commonly called kerfuffles. They captivate us while they're underway, but after a month or two they're forgotten. Why do they happen? Why do they persist? Available here and by RSS on February 8.
Stained Glass of William of Ockham in a church in Surrey, England, United KingdomAnd on February 15: Four Razors for Organizational Behavior
Deviant organizational behavior can harm the people and the organization. In choosing responses, we consider what drives the perpetrators. Considering Malice, Incompetence, Ignorance, and Greed, we can devise four guidelines for making these choices. Available here and by RSS on February 15.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenZLkFdSHmlHvCaSsuner@ChacbnsTPttsdDaRAswloCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.