‘Necessary’ job cuts – really?

We all know that business can be tough, but why is the burden of bad decisions so inequitably shared?

In the wake of continuing announcements of job cuts at major (and I am sure unreported by the media at not-so-major) companies, a question has started to reverberate… why are the rank and file the first to go?


I am pretty sure that they aren’t responsible for the strategies and decisions that were at least partly responsible for whatever mess the company is in (hello car manufacturers). So why are they made to bear the brunt?


Of course it is a rhetorical question – because the fastest way to get in the good graces of your shareholders is to show that you are being fiscally responsible – a.k.a. cutting costs. And the fastest way to cut costs is to cut overhead – a.k.a. people.


In many cases the executives of the very companies cutting jobs and closting plants then go on to recieve fat annual bonuses, often driven by the very cuts they made – and we wonder why people think badly of business?


The sad thing is that many organisations see the people on the front lines as expendible cogs in their machine. We don’t need those parts for a while so we will just off-load them and then replace them with new ones when we need them again.


There are of course genuine situations where a business (usually a small business) must let go of staff or go out of business – it is always a heart-wrenching and difficult decision when that is the case, and I am not talking about those situations.


Achieving the business holy grail of productivity and efficiency is so enmeshed into corporate thinking that very little thought is given to what other options there might be. But at what cost? And why is that cost not shared more equitably?


I am not against companies making profits; anyone who doesn’t see profitability as an important objective of business shouldn’t run a company – profitability finances operations, including paying salaries (or it should). Unfortunately, business seems to hold a share (a little) in the good and shoulder the bad mentality towards their “rank and file” employees.


I am waiting (with hope) for the day that the executives of a large organisation announce that they are taking a 50% pay cut and will forgoe all bonuses in the forseeable future before they choose to close one plant and let one employee go.


See you next week!



Alignment is Michel’s passion. Through her work with Brandology here in Australia, and Brand Alignment Group in the United States, she helps organisations align who they are, with what they do and say to build more authentic and sustainable brands.

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