Company Year-end Letter (or, Here’s Your Pink Slip)

Don't let the grinch steal your Christmas(updated 12/28/2007 – I couldn’t resist the P.S. in the letter :))

This time of year always baffles me – we have record-breaking signups starting around Christmas going through February. I wonder if it’s because people take time to think about their careers, how last year went (the promotion or raise they didn’t get), how they want next year to be, etc.

I know part of it is because companies are readjusting. Downsizing, rightsizing, all that stuff. I tend to think it comes down to poor management and leadership, overambitious hiring, missed sales targets, or excitement about cost savings by offshoring.

In the last three weeks I learned of five people who’s jobs have pretty much went away. Two were professionals at WAMU, two were professionals somewhere else, and on Christmas I learned my uncle finally got the Kodak ax. Over the years he has watched thousands of coworkers get laid off, and now it finally hit him. These are just my personal contacts, I know there are thousands and thousands of professionals who got their own special pink slip this season. Humbug.

In light of that, I figured I’d issue you your own pink slip! Since I don’t have HR behind me to take all the personal caring out of it (er, I mean, to make sure we don’t say anything you could sue us over), I’ll do it in my own Jason Alba style. Rip open the envelope to find the following letter, just for you!

Dear Employee # 3352899238,

What a terrific year we’ve had at Acme Widget Company! The team has really pulled together and we expect it to be the best year yet! Here are some of our accomplishments:

  • We successfully installed our new accounting system – thanks to IT, Finance and Accounting, who worked extra overtime for six months to make this a seamless transition! You will each receive an extra turkey with your customary Christmas ham.
  • We finally updated our Policy and Procedure manual – this significant overhaul brings us up to date and current with industry standards, and compliant with federal regulations. Not the most exciting accomplishment of the year, but we recognize the thousands of hours that went into this project, and we wish to express a hearty thank-you to all of our administrative team who greatly contributed (sorry, no extra turkey for you since this did not have an impact on our profit).
  • We closed deals with four new customers, which guarantees 2008 revenue and profit growth to exceed 60% of our targets – thank you to our sales team who went above and beyond (and sorry to Joe, who lost his family due to the strenuous work conditions)
  • We maintained 94% customer retention, inspite of that Great Product Glitch last spring – our customer service team really saved our hides after we realized problems with some vendors. Their quick thinking and excellent response to customer issues kept us out of legal hot water and helped us keep almost all of our contracts intact – we’ll have an end-of-year party in the cafeteria just for you next Thursday (it’s potluck).
  • We finally established our offshore office, and will begin operations on January 1 – this will result in saving millions of dollars, again, contributing to a very strong 2008!

We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to you as we realize you made a significant impact during 2007.

Unfortunately, due to circumstances that we cannot control, and our new strategy to move professional positions to lower-wage countries, we are terminating your position. This is not a reflection on your performance and we hope that in the future you would consider re-employment with Acme.

Happy new year!


Your management team, where “open door” is our #1 policy!

P.S. We will be unavailable through January 7th, as we will be in Hawaii for our Executive Retreat (luckily we get to take our families with us this year!). Happy New Year!

I’m not against off-shoring. I’m not against companies adjusting their resources so they can operate in a healthy state. I’m almost not against really stupid management and leadership (unless I have to work for a really stupid manager or leader). I realize that this stuff happens, and whining and complaining about “the system” isn’t going to fix it, as the world gets flatter, and competition is so stiff!

I’ll tell you what I am against. And it’s new since I got laid off last year.

I’m against thinking my company is going to care about my career, and take care of me like they took care of my dad and father-in-law. I’m against thinking HR has MY best interest at heart, and even has the power to make my career what it could be. I’m against the idea that we can be passive about our careers.

There’s no better time to think about Me, Inc. Sit down, strategize, pull your board together (close family, mentors, etc.), and figure out what you are going to do in 2008 to make sure Me, Inc. is successful for 2008 and beyond!

15 thoughts on “Company Year-end Letter (or, Here’s Your Pink Slip)”

  1. Jason, I absolutely can’t stand companies that wait until Christmas to fire employees. I mean come on, they know the ax is going to fall way before this, even as a business person, I see no advantage to firing someone days before Christmas. It’s just morally wrong, and the business knows it. Shame on you. CEO’s should be canned for actions like this.

    I do agree with you Jason, too many people think their company is going to help manage their career. It’s not going to happen at any level. So yes, it’s up to the individual to manage, promote and brand their careers. JibberJobber is a great way to do that.

  2. I’m actually not offended being laid off during the holiday season (in fact, I was just writing about being laid off for the holidays being an OK thing).

    The fact is, if you are laying people off to reduce costs, there is no better time to do than than now — whether now is March or June or December. I’d submit, while a layoff is hard no matter when it happens, a holiday layoff actually gives you a lot of time to think about You, Inc. at a time when you are supposed to be thinking about You, Inc, but have no time because of work and holiday commitments.

    But, make no mistake. HR is not about your career; HR is about protecting the company from lawsuits. I say this knowing many HR people read this blog and may actually believe they are helping careers. They may, but only by adding skills for what the company needs, not necessarily an individual.

    And the company overall is not interested in your career, only the skills you bring that can help the company reach their objectives. Even then, you may have great skills, perform well, and still get laid off.

    If you carefully search the history of what happened before the layoff, you will find management’s mismanagement. Managers to took their eye off the costs of the business or who made horrible decisions at the peak of a boom, or management that just doesn’t get it. That decision making — or the lack of it — is the great challenge for a management team.

    All Cubicle Warriors can bring to the table is job skills and performance. The rest is pretty much out of a person’s control, save preparing for what it takes to survive and thrive after a layoff.

    It’s not going to be done by a corporation. The career work must be done by YOU.

  3. Jason, you’re right–it’s really gotten to the point where we cannot expect a company to care for our welfare at all. I too have nothing against offshoring or the other things that companies do to be more competitive, but I resent it when companies hold up a “we care for our employees” mask when they obviously don’t.

    Many of the people my age grew up watching our parents be betrayed by companies that had promised them a secure job. So, we know how the world works and we know better than to trust that our companies will stand by us.

    At the same time though, many HR people and business leaders are complaining about the lack of loyalty in employees today! It astonishes me because they don’t hesitate to layoff workers when it’s in their best interest.

    But layoffs around the holidays are low. Especially when a company is celebrating a year well done.

    On the other hand, it’s a great way to communicate to people that the days of the organization man are completely finished. In some ways, it’s a relief. Now we don’t have to feel guilty about always keeping our eyes open for better opportunities.

  4. I hope the real lesson from this post is the responsibility swing to the employee for own career strategies.

    Many of us get a heavy increase in activity this time of year, but if you really look at the motivations, it is increased goals for more business and responsibility — it is very positive and encouraging, exciting times. leads me to the other lesson I hope taken from Jason’s post. You are doomed if you only think ahead during New Years – true for all your resolutions. Be authentic with your leadership and development and create into the unknown all year long. Make it a great ’08!

  5. Great article and comments. We must be proactive all the time with our networking, personal branding, and managing our OWN careers. The truth is your companies really don’t care about your career plans if they doesn’t fit in with their plans. My own network is 100 times stronger than it was two years ago and I plan to continue to strengthen it and manage my own career.

  6. Jason, brilliant post. Once again, you’ve delivered a “reality check” gift to your readers.

    Today it really is a all about being “the CEO of Company You” — and those who work hard at keeping their companies in business while neglecting Company You will likely be scrambling to regroup after a layoff at some time in their careers. It’s hard, because we’re trained to give 100+% to our jobs — and with long hours, family ties, long commutes, etc, it is hard to look past our present “nose to the grindstone” — but it has to be done.

    Deb Dib, the CEO Coach /
    “Unabashedly passionate about helping visionary, gutsy, fun leaders with a conscience build great careers, mold great companies, and even change the world a bit!”

  7. Wonderful reminder that we can’t rely on our employers to take care of our career. I learned this long ago, but I think many are still surprised when events like you describe happen.

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