… By any name

Lay off, retrenchment and restructuring are now familiar terms that are part of the vocabulary in today’s work environment. They carry a common definition, which basically reads “unemployment”.

These three words when communicated by management to staff members come like the preverbal death sentence which is handed down by a judge. Workers are often left dumb founded, traumatised and bewildered when the news is communicated to them of management plans to lay off or retrench workers, or to embark on a restructuring programme. The message that they should prepare themselves to join the ranks of the unemployed sooner or later is clearly signalled to them.

Some will argue that restructuring does not necessarily mean that employees will be laid off. Whilst this is true, there is no denying that the likelihood exists. The assurance by management that the restructuring will take the form of a phase approach, does offer a measure of comfort to some; especially those employees whose departments will not be immediately affected.

Regardless of how management communicates its intention, and whatever packages it offers to employees, none of this removes the sudden jolt that impacts on employees, particularly when there are no indicators, and the company continues to boast of favourable end of year profits.

This usually leads the loyal, committed and productive employees to feel hard done. Can management be accused of failing its employees, or can it reasonably hold the position that it is has taken a business decision?

The fact that the decision sometimes appears out of the blue, tends to raise some questions of the sincerity of management and to what extend it has the welfare of its employees at heart. Can management be accused of acting irresponsibly? Is it possible that poor management and poor planning leads to businesses having to move to a position of laying off or retrenching workers?

What is the possibility that management uses the existing circumstances, whether it is the prevailing poor economic climate or depressed market conditions, as an excuse to justify their actions?

It is not unexpected that on learning of their pending fate, most workers are unlikely to sustain their level of productivity. It is rather unfortunate that some companies do little to minimise the impact of the loss of employment by their employees, some of whom would have given years of yeomen service. As a matter of fact, some employees would have only worked with ���!Q)

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