Jettisoning ...

The point is – as professionals choose to jettison organizations from their lives, why then should one hold layoffs against organizations? Laissez-faire!


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Whether the reasons were restructuring, cost-cutting, non-performance or behavioural conduct- layoffs are never easy. They are in fact a reflection of an organization’s inability to sustain what it started to create or having created, what it was dismantling.

In the trajectory of a typical start-up, they would have hired people in a particular year and then let them go in another. College graduates picked up, trained, put to use, and then as they could no longer be afforded, asked to go. Here are real people with aspirations right out of college, having been shown the road to success in an organization still at its nascency, being asked to go precisely because the nascency having not matured, was unable to meet those aspirations.

Perhaps the pain is lesser if you did not have as many aspirations and expectations. But then given a later stage of life and responsibilities one may be shouldering; it is perhaps worse if a lay-off were to happen much later in the career. There is no right or wrong answer. This especially when the word “restructuring” gets used to describe one’s action of jettisoning what one no longer needs. A leadership change or a strategy change drives departments to be formed or dissolved.

Why just young organizations, those that have been around for over a century face the same issue. The leadership feels the need to focus on a specific function or (say) geographic area and everyone bends backwards to build an organization to support it. And then comes a time when realization dawns on an experiment failed or an idea turned sour, or perhaps a sponsor no longer available. Whatever it may be, a carefully built organization takes upon itself to quietly let go of people it may have hand-picked from the best in the industry.  In fact, several organizations do publicly acknowledge their actions, sometime also exemplifying to their shareholders, their agility in driving decisions and actions!

It is believed that the pains that leadership undergoes in driving such decisions and actions become a part of their experience, their maturity or some may even say their learnings! Learn from mistakes people do. But how do we explain organizations that undergo similar learning time and again? Blame it on external factors- stagnating market, changing customer demands… seems like some leaderships do take learning very seriously, and continuous at that too. Or perhaps some lessons are too difficult to learn with just a couple of experiences. What else would explain organizations for whom this is a way of life- hire when the going is good and fire when it no longer is.

However, there are scenarios under which the idea of a lay-off is justified- and that is in cases of non-performance. There are several categories in which one can bucket the issues that may be behind non-performance. An inability to understand what the job is (blame it on the manager), or having understood, the lack of drive in making it happen (blame it on the employee), or having the understanding and drive, lacking the skill set to deliver it (blame it on whoever enabled the hiring). In most cases, one has the ability to make change happen without getting rid of the employee.

In the case of an employee unable to deliver per manager’s expectations, one generally would let the manager explain what it is that he or she is looking for, not just on the process but also on the deliverables. Measurable output makes this easier for the parties involved. A continuous feedback process makes the going smoother and chances of success for both, much higher.  

Then there is the case of an employee who is just not driven to make things happen. Reasons there could be many- disinterested in the role, a nebulous or toxic manager, issues on the personal front- and so on and so forth. It never harms to sit down such a person to understand whether the issues requiring resolution lie within the realms of the professional world or the psychological one. In most cases of former, they are manageable if the leader thus decides its worth his or her time and the employee in question!

The third set- wrong person for the job- is exactly what most hiring managers and their supporting HR functions always worry on. Perhaps it explains the limitless rounds of interviews, discussions and assessments that organizations undertake before making offers. It perhaps also explains why several folks leave within a short time of joining an organization. The definition of short differs depending upon who you are talking about from anything between a few weeks to a few months or even a couple of years especially when it comes to the top jobs. It depends upon what one perceives as being on stake, or perhaps what one may be throwing out-of-the-window! Whether it is worth finding such a person another role within the organization or better to let go of such a person- there hasn’t been an organization that has not faced this.

Most organizations facing any of the above would generally signal enough to such an employee, their intent of letting him go. Whether in the form of feedbacks, discussions, limited opportunities, diluted focus, missed bonuses, the writing will generally be on the wall. As smart employees one may generally see them but choose to look the other way until the inevitable happens. Or perhaps, given the web of circumstances and denials the human mind can create for oneself, hoping the message from tea leaves was mistakenly from another’s cup!

The question for each one of us remains on why it is such a big deal to acknowledge that something one had placed their faith in, and attached dreams with, is not going to be working out exactly thus. The ability to accept and move on is perhaps one of the biggest gifts we can be taught early on in our lives.

Just the way we view our careers, so do organizations. Better opportunities for growth, or monetary benefits, the corner office lure or the positioning of a bigger fish in a smaller pond. There are plenty of reasons people make job changes, some by choice and some by compulsions not necessarily visible to all who would view a CV. The point is – as professionals choose to jettison organizations from their lives, why then should one hold layoffs against organizations? Laissez-faire!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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