Friday, May 2, 2008

Taxi Cab Confession

The post below comes from Dale Waldt, who is now a consultant in the world of publishing technology. He hasn't had to fire anyone for years.

I was working at a big publisher, head of a department that had offices in NYC, DC and upstate NY. There were several people upstate I was directed to layoff. The wizards in HR set a date for corporate-wide downsizing. Something vague about improving profit margins and being "lean". It struck me that profit margin is another way of saying bigger bonus for senior execs and that I was the henchman that had to rationalize their decision. Of course it snowed that morning and I couldn't get a plane to fly up and layoff my four people. 

I called my HR VP. I wanted to delay it and go when the weather cleared. She said no. Gotta do it all at the same time she said. HR logic. Said I had to do it over the phone. People all over the country getting canned and I have to be the one jerk who can't even do it in person.

I jumped in the cab and headed for LaGuardia anyway, but only got a few blocks before turning around and heading for my office.

The call went about as well as expected. I was called a few colorful names like chicken shit and asshole. I couldn't argue. I didn't even try to explain, just mumbled something about the snow and that I had no choice.

I had spent weeks trying to make their exit packages as strong as possible. But they would never know. We had worked together for years. They did nothing wrong, just victims of across the board cuts. Percentages. I had turned 4 colleagues into new enemies. This wasn't the first time I felt sick about being a mid-level manager. All accountability, no power.

I left the company within a few months.

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