Thursday, March 05, 2009

Leeching And Gouging

A big layoff resembles a combination of gouging and leeching aimed at restoring the health of the organization. Management gouges out chunks of it that it believes is festering so bad that there is no hope left of improvement. Then there is blood-letting to the parts that remain ungouged. Teams are decimated and row upon row of empty cubicles remain silent reminders of what they once were.

I have witnessed more than a couple of layoffs and each time have seen a co-worker whose talents I respected let go to be replaced by someone much greener and hence cheaper. I have seen these people process the news with a sense of disbelief, their self-worth take a beating - atleast temporarily and then watched them pick up the remains of their dignity to prepare for life beyond this job.

As with leeching and the human body, the crew that is left behind to get the work done lacks the vitality of the pre-layoff organization. There is a pervasive sense of enervation all around which makes it challenging to function in a business as usual mode. Maybe they are all wondering what roll of dice determined they would get to stay and what after their streak of good luck runs out.

Then there is the business of people being forced to pick up responsibilities way out of their comfort zone with no concessions in expected performance in the new role. This is sometimes a steep price to pay for being choosen to remain. After all is said and done, the organization that remains is not able to achieve the agility or growth that is expected of it. It turns out that some of the gouging and blood-letting was a little unnecessary.

It is also common to discover the real disease was never addressed or cured in this whole process and has now spread to consume what is left of the organization. My co-worker M says that my problem is I let get feelings come in the way of business - the two just don't go together. That may be true but there is such an outpouring of emotion all round before, during and after a layoff that it is impossible to stay clinically matter-of-fact about it.

1 comment:

Priyamvada_K said...

Ah, HC. This article SO resonated with me. Last month I saw two colleagues I respected being let go. It was SO tough. We cannot be clinical about this. I found myself waking up at odd hours and weeping. Its really like a roll of dice.

"Then there is the business of people being forced to pick up responsibilities way out of their comfort zone with no concessions in expected performance in the new role."

You nailed it again. I am struggling with this while reminding myself that anyone who has a job in these times should thank God. In a way its like joining a new company but you don't get concessions in performance - you have to hit the ground running.


Priya.