Happy Holidays! And One More Thing, Your Position Has Been Eliminated

I was replying to an email from someone in my network and I received the following response:

Thank you for your e-mail. I am very sorry to tell you that (insert name here) is no longer working with us. Her position was eliminated on Tuesday of this week as part of a reduction in force in response to the economy. If you would like to contact her, please let me know and we will forward your request to her directly. 

She was let go eight days before Christmas. Religious ideologies aside, this couldn’t have waited until after the first of the year? I know someone will say "but we have to factor in the budget, and process payroll, and blah blah blah." Eight days. Ridiculous!!!  If she was let go for cause, than all bets are off. But to hide behind the economy as the reason why she was let go in the middle of the holiday season seems like a cop out—especially when, at this point, we’re at least 18 months into the current economic downturn.

But employers giving the holiday gift of unemployment are becoming all too common. Another organization let an employee with more than 15 years of experience in that role go less than a week before Thanksgiving. Oh, and that’s not the kicker. The local newspaper included the names of those who were let go on the front page. Front page. You’d think the organization could have asked the newspaper not to include their names and that the newspaper could have some class and not print them, but that didn’t happen and just added insult to injury. Again, just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. I’m sure the employees who were let go were thankful for working for such a thoughtful company. Oh, and did I mention they sent some of the employees who were let go to extensive training weeks before they were terminated? That seems like a curious thing to do if money was the real issue, wouldn’t you agree?

I know headcount reductions are never easy and I’m sure there is more of a back story in both of the cases above, but I would ask anyone who is making decisions about getting rid of people to really think through what that will mean to those effected. If you’ve never been laid off, understand the decision you’re about to make could not only cost them their livelihood, but they could lose their homes, their personal and professional relationships, and their self esteem.

If you have to let people go and you’re going to use the economic meltdown as an excuse, at least wait until after the holidays. In the grand scheme of things, a few weeks probably won’t mean much for your company’s financial wellbeing, but it can be huge to those who are about to be unemployed. I know there’s never a great time to lose your job, but shouldn’t there be a 30-day waiting period around Christmas and Thanksgiving?

Happy Holidays?

Shawn Graham is Director of MBA Career Services at the University of Pittsburgh and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (www.courtingyourcareer.com).

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