Shortsightedness Comes Back to Bite Layoff-Happy Employers

Don Tennant

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.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jun 29, 2010 8:50 AM Dave Dave  says:

How many times do we have to go through this cycle?  When times are good, employees take advantage of the fact and when times are bad employers take the advantage.  Are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes forever?

Jun 30, 2010 9:29 AM David Homrighouse David Homrighouse  says:

I learned that a particular department store has a "no questions asked" policy when merchandise is returned.  They've accepted items such as used and washed clothes, ripped-by-hand jeans, and the most extreme was accepting used underwear one year after the sale date.

Yet if times were tough, you bet their employees are the first to feel the pain.  What happened to all these "business analysts" that are supposed to be saving their companies' cost sinks?  Or is it now the norm to allow such policies to continue because it's some corporate officer's "baby"?

Jul 4, 2010 5:00 PM ron ron  says:

Yay, about time.

It's "(mis)management" by accountant. Too many directors and executives (an politicians, but that is a different story) have been entirely focused on short term, typically the next quarterly report or their next annual bonus, rather than truly MANAGING the company for long term success.

You missed another reason why people are leaving after the layoff cycle ends. They are leaving because they have been overworked, expected to take over responsibility for work previously done by 2 or more people. They feel "used and abused" and already have proof that the corporation has no loyalty, so they could be next at any time. Now that remaining employees have the option, they appropriately reward the company for it's display of loyalty.

I've seen people moved (lateral transfer or even "demoted") to phone jobs formerly held by friends who had just been escorted out the door by security (laid off), and expected to take over even while the former occupant's personal belongings were still on the desk and phone caller ID had not been updated.

Jul 4, 2010 6:21 PM Drunken Economist Drunken Economist  says:

Companies got GREEDY and cut too deeply..

There. Fixed that for you. Oh, and Catherine, nice to make your acquaintance. I guess Donny Boy needs help shilling for the globalists. I guess he'll see his 20 pageviews a day blog to your book with zero reviews on Amazon.

We'll have our one good eye on you as well.

My story: I'm a 12 year vet of the software industry. I left when they started this 'India iz genius' nonsense.

Every time I hear about a Windows or Flash exploit, I just ROLL MY EYES wondering if their offshore peons are up to the task. Because, as we all know, most of Microsoft and Adobe are based in India and Eastern Europe.

Even Apple says 'No' to this nonsense, as well as to Intel. And is siding with the Chinese & Koreans, who seem to make a better chip (the A4) than peons in India.

Jul 5, 2010 7:50 PM David Homrighouse David Homrighouse  says:

Shareholders (I would stick my neck out to say Americans more than the world but just an opinion with no facts) want to increase their personal worth more, and do it now, rather than wait for a 5- to 10-year long solid plan to take effect, and make the company much stronger.

Funny how if officers say to shareholders "My goals are to do X, Y, and Z", but when they fail they stay on and keep getting richer, while those below them have to try harder with less people and working more hours.  Even if they do this, or even exceed expectations, it does not guarantee they'll keep their jobs.

Doesn't this sound backwards to you?  As Lee Iacocca said, "Where have all the leaders gone?"


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