Sunday, February 8, 2009

Tomorrow ... is another day

Tobold found this gem. I start to like him almost as much as LarĂ­sa.

In short: the companies are evil for fireing their loyal employees at the first loss, throwing them out to the cold. Those employees worked day and night for the company and the company betrayed them. And on the top of that the company betray them once more by calling them underarchivers although it's obvious that they did nothing wrong and the managers are responsible for all the losses.

Please read it all, I can only give a summary without the style. The selection of words, the capitalized "IMMORAL", the more and more emotional sentences after each other make it easy to imagine as the guy starts to write about something, gets more and more angry, his face turns red, the veins at his neck become visible, he no longer types, he hammers the keyboard with his hands and curses while he does it. Really amusing.

What makes this post funny? Imagine that an adult writes down that "It turned out that the Father Christmas is a LIE and all the people talking about him are just IMMORAL and we are betrayed by them and will feel betrayed when we finally find out that he is just a tale and our parents give us the presents".

Our first question would be: "how on earth can any adult believe in Father Christmas". While he technically is betrayed, we would think that he is a simple idiot who forgot to grow up.

The employees do work for salary. The company pays them as long as their work is needed. Would you keep on buying gas after you sold your car? Would you keep on buying baby food after your child grew old for it? Isn't it the betrayal of the gas station and the baby food manufacturer?

If there is a product to work on today, the employee will have his salary. Tomorrow is another day. If there is no need for so many workers, they will no longer be employed. It's that simple. Obviously if there will be need for some workers, the company tries to keep the better ones, fireing the underperformers. It's obvious self-interest.

If the employee thought of his employer as a friend, his coworkers as a group of friends, he will feel betrayed. But whose fault it is? Actually I've never heard any company's slogan to be "We are here to make our employees feel good". They usually say "we are here to serve our customers" and mean "we are here to serve our customer's money to our owners". No one, ever offered the employee a "freindly helpfull group of peeps".

People have ape subroutines that identify a collection of people as a "group", defined as mutually helpful and supportive clan [of apes]. The ape clan do fight together against predators (usually by throwing their own goo at them). But we are not apes. Our coworkers are not our friends and our boss is not our clan leader. He buys our workforce for money. That's all. If he want no more, he won't buy any more. It's not betrayal, it's just the normal way of life.

If the employee would see the reality instead of his pink visions of "our clan" on the 45th, he would also actively seek other job opportunities where another boss would pay more for his workforce.

Keep in mind: the company owes you nothing but the salary for your work.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think the company could be argued to owe you honesty on the way out the door as well.

If his work is not needed? Fine, let him go. But to insult him as an 'underachiever' if he has been a productive and effective employee who would not have been let go had there still been a market for his products merely makes his life harder, with little to no benefit to the company letting him go.

Kaurismaki said...

Your utter lack of empathy and sympathy is astonishing.

Zach said...

Gevlon sure is lacking sympathy and empathy here... but that really has nothing to do with what he's talking about...

Does it suck to be laid off by a company with no notice? Absolutely. Has it happened to me before? Yes. Is it morally wrong? Not in my opinon.

Business is just that - it's business. When a company can no longer afford to keep their employees, or no longer have need for them (ie closing stores/factories, cutting costs, not enough business) then it makes sense to get rid of them.
I agree completely with Gevlon here.

Part of my problem with people in this country is the idea that you should get more than you are entitled to.

I spent about a year working for Best Buy in the Geek Squad - and working to fix and sell computers. People would buy a computer, we would offer a protection plan in case something went wrong. They would decline the plan, then get angry when we told them we had to charge to fix something that was broken later, stating "But I paid x dollars for this computer - you people need to fix it." -you're right - you did pay that amount - just like everyone else who bought that computer, and for that money - you got a computer, when you break it - it's your responsibility - not ours. It works in reverse too. I know company loyalty is a big deal to some people - and it should be. But - unless you are contracted to be able to work there for a set time - they can let you go when they want at no penalty.
You work for a certain number of hours, you are paid for that work - in this situation you have fulfilled your obligation (you worked the hours) and they have fulfilled theirs (they paid you for said hours)

Is it impersonal? of course - but that's the way business and capitalism work.

As far as saying employees were "underachievers" that makes the company look bad in my opinon - unless they have performance reports or metrics that actually prove that said employee was a poor worker - then bashing former employees is unwarranted.

TL;DR version - does it suck? yes... but that's just the way business works...

Anonymous said...

I agree with the Goblin.

The company pays you for a service. When that service is no longer needed, the employee no longer gets paid.

The sad part is how Americans feel they are owed something. The people around them owe them something, the company they work for owe them something, and most sadly, the government owes them something.

It is a symptom of total lack of responsibility.

And for the record, I am an American.

Cel said...

You totally missed the point which is that companies don't have to be so cold when they lay people off.

Sure the lay off is necessary because the guys at the top made some bad choices repeatedly. Kicking the employees on the way out the door is not necessary and just wrong.

They worked hard for you, doing what you told them to do and still you say it's their fault that the company is doing poorly. Bad executives, no bonus this quarter.

Sydera said...

I think it's pretty clear that the US is suffering bad economic times. Good workers are getting laid off along with the bad. My father had to close his small business, effectively laying off all the workers, but he made sure they were able to get into a government program that would help them gain new job skills before he did so. That's a good example of how to lay off people. I know several people in my field who are extremely qualified who won't have jobs at the end of the year. Why? They got unlucky, and their contracts ran out at the wrong moment. I think that employers should, if they do need to lay people off, do so humanely and without blaming the workers and thus hurting their chances of getting another job.

Leah said...

Actualy - I used to work for a very large company that advertised exactly that when hiring - a friendly enviroment to work in, a company where everyone is friendly supportive team. they sloghan, their aim was specificaly the best company to work for - not just in salary, but rather in working enviroment.

I quit that job, after a while. because like all advertisements - that one turned out to be mostly a lie and the salary was not high enough to put up with the usualy corporate crap.

Did I fell betrayed? somewhat,since you do want to beleive that there's truth in advertisment. mostly I felt dissapointed, becasue what I htought would be an opportunity, ended up being a dead end.

personaly - I have no problem with busnesess acting like, businesses, looking out for their botom line first and foremost. what I have a problem with is "car salesmen" most of the time you know they are lying, but sometimes they are really really good at it.

P.S. Anonimous has a great point. most of the time, when layoffs happen - people that are layed off re not underachevers. they either performed a function that is no longer done by the company (so their skills are obsolete or they are located in an area that company no longer serveces, so they don't need to have workers in said area) or they are not high enough on a totem pole if you will. and only some of the time, people are actualy layed off based on their performance.

Grimmtooth said...

He isn't saying to keep buying gas when you sell the car ... he's saying that you should loose your driving priveleges if you don't take care of your car.

His point is that the so-called leadership of most companies is never held accountable for mistakes such as habitually making bad compromises that look good on paper but fall apart because all the numbers weren't there to review. As an example, when your company experiences lack of sales because the software was released before it was ready, the correct response is probably NOT to lay off software developers and QA techs without replacing them. But that is almost 100% of the time what will happen. Don't agree? Go look at the real numbers and see how many managers and executive VPs get laid off in such situations - even though they had ZERO value, usually.

I've seen at leasst two companies destroyed like this. And I'm not talking about sleazy Web 2.0 outfits, but companies that brought real value to the customer. They got taken over by bottom-liners like you that fail to see the numbers BETWEEN the input and output and understand how the mechanism WORKS. It's lazy. And blaming the only people in the company that BRING VALUE to it is not only lazy, but incompetent. And refusing to take responsibility for those decisions? If you don't like the word "evil", how about "ethically challenged?"

Let's use your car metaphor again: firing the engine for not performing is not the correct response when the gas tank is empty. Only an idiot would do so.

A parting thought: Bill Hewlett and David Packard formed the company that pretty much ESTABLISHED Silicon Valley, and they did it by being your polar opposite. During the last major major financial crisis they faced, they laid off nobody, but redeployed them temporarily. When the crisis passed, they had lost ZERO experience and mindshare and were able to rapidly ramp back up to meet demand.

That company doesn't exist any more. Carly Fiorna destroyed it in the last decade. HP went from one of the most respected marques in the industry to "Acme Ink Cartridges, Inc." A joke. We make fun of them, collectively.

Carly's your kinda gal.

Dave and Bill succeeded in roaring back in the 80s because they regarded the employees as a valued resource, and they were rewarded.

Carly failed because she saw employees as numbers at the bottom of a spreadsheet, nothing more.

(Incidentally, I think we lost at least one space shuttle to that mindset, too.)

So, Gev, I utterly reject your thesis here. Your initial metaphor is flawed, and the argument you build on top of it is therefore flawed, as well.

Cuthbert said...

Stay classy Goblin.

There is no doubt that the post you linked to was ridiculous and silly.

Still.

You talk as though there is no power differential between the people that create the products and the owners and operators of the firms.

Companies certainly do often use layoffs to separate the wheat from the chaff in their ranks, but that usually doesn't apply to management. Mostly because the 3rd assistant regional manager is someone's nephew, and since the owners and the management are not the same people, no one wants to deal with the hassle of firing some business contact's nephew.

Leftists would argue that corporations are entities that are licensed by the state to offer limited liability to their owners. If I have stake in company A and company A goes under, all I lose is the value of my shares. I'm not on the line for any other loses. Leftists would argue that that kind of protection comes with some responsibilities.

We also set up public education to build up the human capital of a region that corporations don't have to pay for.

In turn for those benefits, it can be argued that corporations have specific responsibilities to the communities. When layoffs are under consideration, maybe there should be a reduction in wages of management of some sort to save money as well. We can come up with some sort of system to ease the pain of these decisions.

Unemployed people become poor, and poverty increases the crime rate. This is another externality in a string of them from corporations.

The reason none of this is ever addressed is because those that make the decisions have powerful allies in government though campaign contributions.

Power is the real form of currency in society, not cash.

Rhoanna said...

It's good business to lay off workers you don't need.

It's bad business to insult your former employees after firing them. Customers look at more than just the price (even in a recession). That's why it's good business to offer free-range eggs and not just cheaper battery hen eggs, and why a business makes a big deal of giving to charity - it's good business to be nice (at least, sometimes).

Ryhan said...

People always get upset when there are layoffs and somehow the company is evil and is screwing their employees. Get over yourselves. You don’t hear the same complaints from the company when someone quits their job to go work somewhere else. What about “loyalty” then? The company owes one of two people, the stockholders or the owner. The employee owes one person, themselves. You work and get paid. If you decide you want to go somewhere else for better pay and better work and you quit who would fault you? If my company asked me to take a big pay cut “for the good of the company” I would look for other work. Why should the company lose more money by keeping people they don’t need?

Bristal said...

My wife is VP of marketing at a large company. She has to write those layoff press releases and cover letters to pink slips. She frets and worries and cries about it.

Yes, when 10 members of a corporate team have to cut 10% of their workforce, the employees become simple numbers to save the company. But when the managers have to let them go, they are people with lives that are now unsettled.

When people get laid off, they get angry and may get destructive, thus a company HAS to keep layoffs quiet until the employee can be escorted off the grounds. Does this suck? of course. But would I let pissed-off people have their way with my computer system, databases, customer lists, etc? not if I have a brain.

And the audience for the "underachiever" message is of course stockholders. The company also has to stay on-message that they can survive and not to panic and that the remaining workforce can handle the workload.

We all want to believe that our jobs are our lives and should somehow conform to "family values". But it's a JOB. They give us MONEY to be there and perform some task. If there's not enough money coming in, SOMEONE has to go.

John Marquardt said...

Gevlon, may I ask from what source you're referencing the term "ape subroutine?"

I've studied sociology fairly extensively but have never heard that specific term.

Gevlon said...

@John Marquardt: I made up the word for evolved psychological mechanism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_adaptation) as defined in evolutionary psychology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_psychology)

It's much easier to understand for people with no scientific background on the field.

Anonymous said...

Gevlon,
your point of view is always based on what is/was or can be done, on action. That's cool.

People revolting that the company wasn't loyal to them is pointless. People revolting that *lying* about ex-employees performance (calling them underachievers, even when they were not or you have no metrics to back that up)is pointless/childish. Etc.

I would be very curious to find out why you prefer to lump all those feelings into the 'ape subroutines' category, essentially stating that they have no survival value.

So far it seems to have escaped you that when you make that point, the burden of proof is with you, to prove the theory that you propose (i.e.: x and y emotions are pointless, with low survival value).

My point in brief: the link you provide may be drivel. But unless you base you own beliefs on more solid ground, your point is drivel just as well. I like your 'making-money' argumentation more, so I ask: show us your book-keeping.

Anonymous said...

Frankly this seems like a troll post specifically designed to spark traffic from brokentoys. If it's not I really hope the distopian ideal you seem to desire or perhaps more accurately, expect, never comes to pass.

Employers owe their employee's exactly what was agreed on when they employee was hired. However unless they want morale, and loyalty issues they should seek to cultivate the respect and dedication of those they hire.

Employee's can cause enormous headaches for an employer if they want to. From personal experience I can tell you that a consistant pay check is rarely enough to ensure solid positive behavior from employees.

Kemor said...

80% of so of the world's population believes in a Santa in one form or another (some call it god though).

As for work, you're mixing the random Wallmart/Best buy job with with other career related works.
Sure, nobody's gonna cry "unfair!" if you're fired from a random job but a career work is usually an investment both for the company and for you.

If you never worked somewhere where your work is more than just a service, well then, hopefully you're not too old to try...

IainC said...

This blog post is what you get when someone knows everything that Wikipedia can tell them about economics and nothing at all about real life.

Why are we taking business classes from some illiterate kid in WoW again?

Mark said...

Have to agree with Gevlon. If your company is in the business of building things - it hires/fires according to what it is getting paid to build. The basis of this argument is really capitalism vs. socialism.

Anonymous said...

Gevlin, you're making one simple mistake: You're assuming that the only value system that can or should exist is one based on accumulating wealth tokens (i.e., money) and that no other metric is meaningful.

Taken to its logical conclusion, parents would rent out their children as slave labor to increase their personal wealth - which, of course, has happened, and in some places still does today. We consider that unacceptable in modern Western society because we have placed other values, such as an ideal of the family, higher than the accumulation of wealth. Beyond the basic necessities of life, we accumulate wealth primarily not for its intrinsic value but for the status it brings.

There have been many cultures in which status comes, not from how much wealth you have, but how much of what you have you are willing to give away. The Saxon chieftain who gave gold arm-rings to his followers, the Haida family who held a potlatch, and the widow of the Gospel with her two copper coins, all gained status by generosity (even of a penny) rather than by accumulating wealth. In our own cultural history, there was a time when 'proper' behavior outweighed any amount of wealth, and a rich cad was viewed with contempt despite his money. Yes, for the past few decades it seems that accumulating wealth has become an end in itself, by which any means are justified, but that is just as much of a cultural trait as the potlach, not some kind of law of nature.

Therefore, it is entirely possible to envision a culture in which it is how one treats one's followers (nowadays, employees) which grants status, rather than how much wealth one can obtain from them. The Anglo-Saxon kenning "ring-giver" for king reflects that very concept; a miserly leader was mocked for his stinginess rather than respected for his wealth. It is a choice of people in today's society to treat wealth-gathering as not only a virtue, but as the only virtue, but that choice is neither permanent nor absolute.

So, yes, in terms of the "wealth is everything" mentality, kicking loyal, hardworking to the curb when their immediate usefulness in wealth-generation is done is the right thing to do. It was not so to our ancestors (cultural if not genetic), nor does it necessarily have to be for us. It may not even be the most effective way to generate wealth.

One problem is that we have corporate executives who can barely see past the next quarter, and for whom "long term" means next fiscal year. Their efforts are primarily directed to increasing the company's short-term stock price, rather than to increasing the company's long-term value. So they fire the most experienced sales staff, like Circuit City. They open stores practically on top of each other and cannibalize their own sales, like Linens N Things. They trade genuine value for short-term stock gains, and have their jewel-encrusted platinum parachutes standing by for when the company augers in. They care about nothing that does not serve to increase their stock price in the next quarter, whether it is R&D, or employee loyalty, or even delivering a good product to their customer. Examples from the game industry are left as an exercise for the student.

If the only virtue is the gathering of wealth tokens, then we should admire the bank robber as much as the bank president. The fact that we do not indicates that, all "greed is good" aside, we still believe in some level of ethics. There is a point where the end does not justify the means. I'm certain that you all know the anecdote that ends "We have already established what kind of woman you are; we are now merely dickering over the price." The same is true of ethics: we have already established that they exist (for example, armed robbery as a means of gaining wealth is frowned upon); we are now only determining where the line should be drawn. Whatever your opinion on that might be (and from the look of some of these posts, some of you would draw it just short of stealing employees' wallets!) please recognize that it is an opinion, not a physical absolute.

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Zanathos said...

While certainly no one should expect loyalty from their employer (or employee), your response post doesn't seem to have a lot to do with the blog you linked. Your post is essentially correct. Your reading of the other blog, I think less so. I did not read it as a crybaby article, but rather one that raised relevant issues. Is there a number analysis that can show that "everything is hunky dory" announcements after a round of firings are good business? If anything I suspect the opposite. Neither workers nor shareholders not potential investors are going to buy it, and it will serve to further lower their opinion of the company. Such transparent dishonest discourages investors and demoralizes workers. Net loss, no gain.

And while the company certain has the right to fire employees whenever, you haven't considered whether it's good for the business to do so. Are firings necessary to keep the company healthy? Or will rehiring and retraining costs destroy these gains? Are the worker drones the ones costing the company money? Or are the morons and slackers the ones making the decisions?

A numerical analysis is only as good as the assumptions you make and the variables you account for.

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