The Hardships of Layoffs (“It’s Just a Business Decisions” with Real Impact)

“It’s just a business decision.”

You’ve heard that before, right?  The message is “we don’t hate you… it’s not about you or your personality or your skills… it’s just bottom line dollars and the health of the company.  And, by laying you off, we can still have a company where we employ others… so while this is hard, at least we aren’t causing everyone to lose their jobs.”

I get, and in general, agree with, that message.

However, there’s an interesting side-effect of the layoffs that seem to be unprecedented…. or at least different than what happened in the 60’s and 70’s, when (I’m guessing) the notion of job security was really made part of the thread of the idea of careers.

Check out the first line from this article from Bay Today (a newspaper):

“A young man who just bought a house, and whose wife just gave birth to a child is among 21 more layoffs announced today at Ontario Northland.”

Does Ontario Northland have any obligation to protect someone who “just bought a house”?  Or someone who “just gave birth to a child”?

Usually those factors are not decision-makers/breakers on whether someone should keep their job or not… but is a company somehow responsible for their soon-to-be past employees, and the life-changing decisions they have made?

Initially, my response is “no.”  I think of the board meetings I’ve been in where I know the board members would have sympathy/empathy, but they would be clear that the company is not responsible for helping you make your house payments.  After all, that was a personal choice… probably not dictated by the company.

After my initial response wore off, I remembered when I got my first real, out-of-college, career job.  I bought a house and a newer car, and was immediately burdened with a debt load that I wasn’t used to.  We could handle it, with my new salary, but it was a lot of money going out the door!  If I lost my job then I would have been in a world of hurt.

It would have been my fault, but, as I’m writing this my impression is that when a company hires us, they give us a life-changing event.  Usually it’s a step up, financially and professionally.  There are expectations of us bringing our best to the job, and them “taking care of” us.  There is an idea that they’ll pay us enough to do our job so that we don’t have to sleep on the streets, or worry about how we are going to pay our bills.

But if companies don’t take their role seriously, and have more loyalty towards employees, and they continue to dispatch employees like they are simple pawns, people will have a harder time making other life-changing decisions, like purchasing a home, settling into a community, getting married, having kids, etc.

Maybe I’m off my rocker on this one, but this morning as I read this line about the young man who just bought his first house, and his wife who just gave birth, I wonder how different things would be if there were a different kind of loyalty towards employees so making life-changing decisions was less stressful.  Like I think it was just a few decades ago.

But maybe I’m just naive. 


1 thought on “The Hardships of Layoffs (“It’s Just a Business Decisions” with Real Impact)”

  1. “if companies don’t take their role seriously”

    They don’t. And, they continue to treat people like “Human Resources”.

    Having been through the “process” several times, I’d urge folks to EXPECT to be abused the minute that the whim of the hierarchy.

    What are the defenses?

    * A contract if you can get it.

    * Have alternate sources of income (i.e., ten ½ day part-time jobs; investment portfolio income; a low burn rate; one or more side businesses; a blue collar skill).

    * Realization that the “gold watch era” is long gone and always be in search mode for your next “job”.

    Argh! Folks don’t understand that when the “rules of engagement change”, there is no general announcement (“NOW HEAR THIS” over the PA!)

    You’re only as secure as the last paycheck you cashed.

    The minute you forget that, you’re burned toast!

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