Layoff Spin

Primary sources exposed and explained.
Dec. 8 2008 2:50 PM

Layoff Spin

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Last month more than half a million American workers lost their jobs. How exactly do you tell an employee that his or her services are no longer needed? Institutional guidelines at two University of California campuses (see here and here) recommend "constant, open, and empathic communication." Somewhat less sentimentally, the Fairport, N.Y.-based H.R. Works Inc. advises: "Protect company assets," taking the precaution, for instance, to shut down the laid-off employee's computer and network access not after but "during the termination meeting." The state of Minnesota's instructions warn managers to be prepared for the worst: "If you are concerned that the employee may react to the news in a hostile or threatening manner, be sure to have a safety plan in place. This should include notice to Capitol Security." In the self-published Employee Termination Guidebook ($247.00 + shipping), "turnaround" consultant Kevin Muir urges managers to move quickly before the doomed employee starts "telling lies about you, turning others against you and destroying your reputation."

Inadvertently, the advertising company Carat  provided a window on its termination process in September when the "Chief People Officer" of its New York office accidentally e-mailed companywide an 18-page draft PowerPoint presentation outlining the firm's "restructuring communications plan" (excerpts below and on the following three pages). Within days, AdAge had posted the document.

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