If you happen to be one of those people who have recently been asked to move on with some dignified (according to the employer) monetary compensation and a possible restraining order (that you will not speak negative about the firm for next 12 months), because the world is in a crisis and because your “not so long ago market leading firm” is collapsing and about to perish, this article is here to help you see through what would have happened behind the scenes, so that even you know how much you are really to be accountable (and if you indeed really are) and what does it speak about the modern day “futuristic caring organisations”! So let’s roll!
If you have been used to reading my articles for sometime now, you know it too well, I like to be to the point, simple and clear, no ambiguity, no opinionated bullshit and no creation of unwanted emotional stress, present the picture and leave it for your perception and interpretation based on how kind or unkind life has been to you! There is a good reason why we all as humankind are unique, even twins will be different, one may be absolutely sane while the other one may be a certified psychopath! So from my perspective there are broadly the following reasons that precipitate Layoffs, if you have any more apart form these, feel to add them to these coveted list!
White Elephants and Peacocks
Right Team for all the Wrong Reasons
Business Led Strategic Opportunism
White Elephants and Peacocks: Well these roam about across businesses and organisations, easy to find, detect and trace! As the name suggests, they exist as long as the senior leadership enjoy their antics and can more importantly afford their salaries at the expense of someone else (that could be public money in case of PSUs or listed companies or money from Investors and parent companies!). Once the senior leadership changes, or has a change of mind (not to be confused with wisdom) they will change the sets of White Elephant and Peacocks with a spooky predictability- that’s why you find that few companies have their white elephants and peacocks getting changed every 2-3 years- it keeps their corporate zoo busy and adds to the meaningless excitement! These are the ones’ who make most of the routine layoffs on an ongoing basis irrespective whether the economy is up or down, whether we are in midst of war, famine , surplus, whether we are growing at 10% or 1%, irrespective of everything and anything else, these are the ones’ who keep the HR teams busy hiring and firing them on a regular basis, larger the organisation, multiple such instances! You may want to ask me- but why do organisations get these White Elephants and Peacocks in the first place? Well hold this question to the end, once we have completed the other types, you will begin to see a singular thread which possibly will answer all your questions and provide ample enlightenment! So let’s leave this circus here and move ahead…
Disconnected Processes: Processes lead to Layoffs? Well, yes they do, normally you would have read them as “automation led layoffs” sounds familiar now right?, So here the question to ask is, why would an organisation create a pathway of automation without figuring out a smooth transition wherein the number of people are gradually phased out through “normal routine loss of workers”. The answers that you will end up getting based on the type of organisation you are dealing with, will be something like these, “we want to build a futuristic place of work”, “we want to flood the market through spewing out tons and tons of our products-irrespective whether someone wants them or not”, “machines are more reliable then people”, “this SBU doesn’t resonate with the new management’s line of thinking” etc etc. So you may start to wonder, why is it so hard to plan a strategy of 2-4 years duration to embrace automation, re-skill needed labour or workforce and then reuse excess workforce through re-skilling and re-utilization aligned to the new process? Why do people start coming up with “Job Ads” to hire new people for the new process? Well hold this question, we will answer this towards the end! Let’s move on to the next one!
Right Team for all the Wrong Reasons: Through my experience, one truth that has established again and again is the fact that, Even as people come in all hues and shades of psychological make- whatever one may want to say, People are good.. always good at who they really are!–Everything else remains to be an acquired skill which either develops or fades away depending upon what opportunities are made available or not to an Individual and the Team that one belongs to! Often you will find in some sectors, that when a Head of a Unit leaves, the whole team moves, what does this say? Well if you ask me, it is the classic case of having a right team and asking them to do all the wrong things! Consider, you have team of excellent communicators and sales professionals and you inform them that they will have to route their sales pitch through scripts and call centre outbound calls and them just keep sending pre-formatted templated emails to prospects- well you know what a true bred salesperson is going to tell you! well yes, he is all likely to ask the senior leadership to “FO” and not teach him how sales is done and managed! Now you may have a valid question, Why do organisations hire right people and ask them to do things which they aren’t supposed to do or make them do things the way it is detrimental to their growth or the process? We will answer this too towards the end…so hold on to this!
Incompetent Leadership: This certainly is the perhaps the most apparent and visible factor as Layoffs happen! Layoffs are almost always seen as Leadership Incompetence and in many cases- most of them that hold good- this is not about the Incompetence of Individuals at the top, that is different, this is about the collective intelligence or lack of it at the top that translates into Incompetent Leadership! One more face about Leadership Incompetence is that the more larger an Organisation, more are the chances of the same getting manifested and more are the pathways of Incompetence manifestation- imagine a debilitating attack on the nervous system from within- that is what Incompetent Leadership does! You may now argue that, how is that when majority of top management comes from famed business colleges/engineering/medical degrees from institutions (which most of us only can aspire to be an alumnus of), how can they be so dumb? or rather incompetent? Well sure enough that’s not how all of them are, most of them would be sane and wise- as long as they are all by themselves- the moment you add them to a team which comprises of similar people and calls for applying collective wisdom- and is trying hard to realize an utopian dream-shit happens and that’s when you start listening, “A” has joined the board, “B” has left the board and so on and so forth! So what, has this got to do with layoffs, well as these leaders struggle with their own collective challenges- they often get lost in a maze of inconsequential things and as this seeps through the organisational structure, the effects start to show and the resulting layoffs happen!
Business Led Strategic Opportunism: This is by far the most often invincible and the real reason behind many layoff stories around the world! This is what leads to creation of compelling PR narratives and creating diversion, distraction and deviation from real issues and this is the one reason which superimposes itself on all the above reasons and plays out choosing one or other type above! Human greed with no end, senseless capitalism and the ability to decide the fate of the majority by a few eclectic minority- when goes wrong- layoffs are perhaps one of the most minor things that manifest, the world has witnessed more murderous and damaging aspects of Business driven greed and Capitalist domination with no end in sight! If you think Conflicts and world wars were fought for territory, well you are right, but partly because each of them weer funded deep and long and that funding didn’t come only from government taxes but also through the invisible hands of the capitalists who favored one side over the other so that when everything settles down they get their pie of the cake to exploit and continue with their never ending hunger for world dominance through wealth creation and managing that!
This strategic led intervention when micro-managing- chooses the timeline for the elephants and peacocks, starts to throw spanners into the operational wheels so that collective wisdom start to falter and even the highly skilled and qualified individuals start to fail collectively! It is this factor that creates imagery of adding SBUs, shrinking units and hiring the best and then without much noise doing away with the best! This is what creates a narrative that wipes off every gain and every note of what Individuals and teams would have achieved in the organisation for the organisation and has the power to play down every achievement in face of some other narrative that is completely opposite to what real facts could be!
You may be a CEO and if you think you drive the business, you are wrong, equally wrong as the last executive who got laid off even as he had given all that the job called for! Layoffs are a narrative which are a dynamic camouflage to a larger purpose which is held close to the heart and mind of the business owner who is in turn dictated by the people who own the ecosystem wherein the business exists! If you think It’s your fault or mistake…think about it all over again! Ask one simple question- If you were really that bad and incompetent- Why would they hire you to begin with!
As the old saying goes , not all is white and neither all is black- we live in an era that is colorful as it gets and has these specks of grey here and there, at times these grey’s block out everything around and that is the philosophical essence of what layoffs truly are! They are not the measure of the competence or lack of it of an Individual- rather they are a statement of how change is being allowed to come in- Transformation – as they call it- whether that’s a positive experience or not- depends on which side of a table you are sitting and what is the bargaining power that you bring to the table!
I will leave you here, and just to say this- Layoffs are good, like everything else, as long as you know how to make use of this blessing in disguise- be glad that it happened now as it happened for some other time perhaps would have been more painful- As long as you are bound by corporate slavery- Growth is Optional and Layoff is a Certainty!
Ciao for now, I will leave you here with your coffee, to think and reflect and make yourself Layoff proof if you can! At Simplifylives, we are able to help and guide those who need help during these times with regards to their professional challenges and ambiguity, drop us a mail and we will be glad to assist!
Say no to Corporate Slavery! Embrace Layoffs!
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