Shortsightedness Comes Back to Bite Layoff-Happy Employers

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They say what goes around, comes around. That's certainly the case for employers who made layoffs a first reaction rather than a last resort when the recession hit, because now that the economy is improving, workers are quitting their jobs in droves.


According to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics earlier this month, as of February, the number of workers who quit their jobs was higher than the number who were laid off or fired. That was the first month that's been the case since November 2008. In April, for example, roughly 2 million people quit their jobs, while 1.7 million were laid off or fired.


That development comes in the wake of a Right Management survey conducted last November, which found that 60 percent of employees intended to quit their jobs when the economy improved, and that plenty of others were considering it and preparing accordingly. Only 13 percent said they planned to stay where they were.


Catherine Jewell, a career coach and author of the book, "New Resume, New Career," isn't surprised. I spoke with Jewell last week, and she said people are starting to quit because they can, and because they're fed up:

Companies got scared and cut too deeply, and many of the employees who are left are charged with the responsibility of outsourcing and offshoring. What I'm seeing is a huge unrest, even among people who have good positions. They want to leave the companies they're with, because they're angry. The long-term effect is that [employers are] losing their company brain trust. So many loyal employees with tenure of more than 10 years are fed up, and ready to bail out as soon as an opportunity presents itself.

Jewell went on to say that employers' shortsightedness is now starting to hit them where it hurts-in the wallet:

I think there was a shortsightedness in letting core staff go, who were performing important business functions. Some companies have found that after cutting headcount, they've had to go back and hire some of those same people on a contract basis -- and some of them at a much higher hourly rate -- just to finish what they were working on.

Finally, Jewell had some sage advice for companies that blew it with their overzealousness:

I think we're going to have to come back to a concept of the friendly corporate environment. The corporate environment has been so brutalized, and there's so much hostility about company policies towards employees, and the way employees feel toward management, that it's going to take companies going back to a different mission-a mission that includes the welfare of their employees.

It's about time. The shame is that what it took for that lesson to be learned upended the lives and livelihoods of a lot of good people. May that inexcusable shortsightedness never be repeated.