Company Loyalty? Yeah right! All it takes is one quick stroke of a pen, and in less than 24 hours you're being escorted out of your job by security.
By Lama and Samir Makarem
Just recently, my wife, Lama, and I, unfortunately, learned of some re-organizational structure taking place at one of the major companies that a couple of our dear friends work at. With no warning whatsoever, the word came down on a number of employees that their jobs have been terminated on the spot; not for performance reasons, but simply for re-organizational purposes that the company had to undertake.
Within hours, they were literally escorted out of the building by security. Quite a few of those who lost their jobs had been working there for over 10 years. So, you can just imagine the shock, the disappointment, and the disbelief they were and still are now traumatized with.
The funny thing is that had those same employees ended their service of employment voluntarily, a farewell party would have been thrown for them by management and coworkers. But since their employment had been forcefully terminated, the last person who wished them goodbye was the security guard escorting them out of the building.
OK, let's pause here for a couple of minutes and allow me to share with you this other story, as a side note, before moving on with the main one.
About 15 years ago, we met a guy by the name of Kamal, a gentleman who's been running a farm for over 35 years. It was literally a piece of heaven where he lived at. When we insinuated that he must really like his job for having been there for such a long time, he assured us that he’s totally in love with his job.
And why shouldn't he? After all, he lived in a beautiful cozy little house, surrounded by manicured gardens, with all kinds of livestock and cute animals all around him, right in the middle of that amazing farm. But then he said something to us that only now we got to really relate to.
Although he so loved his job and although he was well-taken care of, especially when it came to all kinds of perks and benefits he was offered by management, he assured us that he waked up every morning with the thought that this particular day might very well be his last day on the job.
He just said, "all it takes is one stroke of a pen and it’s goodbye for me." I just turned around and gave him this look of disbelief. Could it be that easy for someone to be let go after all those years? Back then we just thought that he was being overly cynical. But again, only now do we really understand what he really meant.
OK, now back to our first story. This awful situation got us thinking. Should employees get overly attached to the company they’re working for? Should employees really become loyal to the company they’re working at?
Well, these are tough questions to answer especially after witnessing all kinds of companies that just go straight for “head” cutting instead of going for real “cost” cutting every time they face some economic turmoil. Anyways, wasn't it John Kotter who said "Downsizing doesn't get costs, under control" in his book, "Leading Change"?
This is so very true! It is so unfortunate, especially in this day and age, when all you hear about is cost-cutting strategies being implemented by almost every company in the world, only to witness extravagant amounts of money, by those very same companies, being wasted on nonsense sh*t that barely adds any value to the overall business. Nothing but money down the drain!
OK, so a good number of employees got booted out. But what about the survivors? What about those who were spared this round of layoffs? What’s happening to them in the meantime? Should we believe that everything will eventually go back to normal later on? Well, don’t be too quick to assume that life simply moves on.
If you, as a company, are using downsizing as a remedy for your financial maladies, please take into account also the repercussions you leave on the survivors that will, one way or another, adversely affect future performance, not only on a personal level but surely on an organizational level as well. Yes, I'm talking about the ones who are spared such layoffs.
Although it's obvious how generally tough it is on those employees who got fired, whether from a financial, emotional, social, or physical perspective, we simply just can’t forget to also address the effects on the organization as a whole. This downsizing strategy will also have a major adverse impact on the overall performance from the very survivors who are, of course, spared this particular round of layoffs.
Based on our own recent experiences as J&R Business consultancy with a good number of clients in the regions, and based also on academic research (Psychology applied to work by Paul M. Muchinsky) the repercussions are quite drastic on survivors, believe it or not. This is something that is not always addressed and taken seriously, unfortunately.
To start with, survivors will often respond with reduced trust and commitment, moving forward. This is because survivors, for the most part, feel that the organization broke its "psychological" contract with them. You can rest assured that they will from here on out start seeking employment elsewhere that offers greater security and assurances.
You cannot believe the number of calls that Lama and I get on a regular basis from survivors who seek our help to recommend other employers for them just in case they become next on the list of this “head” cutting strategy. Can you just imagine the lack of concentration and commitment they are now experiencing in their current jobs?
Survivors will start questioning their very organization's justice. They of course start questioning whether the downsizing was strictly a necessary response to an economic downturn. Or, whether the terminated employees were adequately forewarned, whether the rules used to choose those to be laid off were objective and fair and whether the organization provided counseling to help adjust to the job loss and last, but not least, whether they were offered enough time to start looking for new opportunities elsewhere. You can clearly see how the very essence of company loyalty is now being chattered!
On top of all that, some survivors may even feel guilty when a fellow worker gets laid off, especially when they know deep down how competent that employee was as compared to them. This is where company politics starts brewing in their minds and where they start believing decisions taken were mostly subjective and not objective.
Survivors start worrying that their turn will eventually come in the next round. Of course, such a feeling will affect their overall morale, motivation, commitment, and hence their productivity on the job. You now have a big number of employees dreading going to work and hating their jobs, on top of all that.
Another major impact that we commonly see among survivor employees is that they start feeling that they're overworked. In most cases, they're expected to take on the work of their terminated fellows. All of a sudden, they’re bombarded with more tasks and, of course, they may feel compelled to accept all the additional responsibilities they get drowned in, just to ensure their own continued employment.
Such a depressed and overwhelming atmosphere will surely provide less time for innovation and creativity when all you're doing is firefighting the overload responsibilities you are now expected to take on.
In addition to the impact on survivors individually, downsizing affects the overall culture and particularly the functioning of its teams and groups. There will be a tendency for groups or departments to engage in defensive behaviors manifested in reluctance to be flexible and accommodating; resorting, unfortunately, to simply ticking boxes.
We notice that a lot of employees simply end up resorting to doing nothing but the minimum for the sake of completing the job rather than going out of their way and wholeheartedly being engaged in the task itself to make a real impact when it comes to achieving their different responsibilities.
So, you can clearly see how company loyalty is now to the most part nothing but a cliché or simply a joke.
To conclude, and believing wholeheartedly in our slogan “mission to empower” here’s a final word from both of us, Lama and myself, Samir Makarem, before closing. Although we do understand that such "head cutting" strategies will forever be followed due to various reasons, whether internal or external, the purpose of this article was simply to shed light on the repercussions that survivor employees will face and how adversely impact such downsizing strategies will have on the overall performance.
So, the message again goes out to all downsizing companies...please beware of the repercussions of your decisions.
Bless you, all…
Lama and Samir Makarem run J & R Business Consultancy