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Choose one: (a) cut my pay, (b) lay me off

By Osama Bin Laden in MLP
Wed Feb 28, 2001 at 01:23:43 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

FuckedCompany.com, the dotcom deadpool, has posted a memo which is attributed as being from a company called 415.com to its employees. Apparently the company is planning cutbacks, and it wants to find out how much the employees are willing to give up in order to keep it afloat.

Is this an example of how management should treat its employees, getting feedback and involving them in painful decisions? Or is this a simply a Dilbertesque ploy to justify squeezing concessions from workers?

The memo asks questions like:
  • Would you be willing to take an unpaid leave of absence in the near future?
  • Would you stay at the company if your salary is reduced?
  • Are you in favor of enacting the layoffs as soon as possible?

I thought the memo was shocking. Why would anyone answer "yes" to these questions? And shouldn't management be taking care of its employees, not the other way around? That being said, if the company is in dire straits and cutbacks are inevitable, maybe it is considerate of the company to ask for feedback from its workers, in an attempt to minimize the pain. If so, do you think this will be effective at keeping the company afloat or minimizing the pain of retrenchment?

(Please note that I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the memo. It's possible it could be faked. Still, even if it is faked, I think this kind of survey is an unusual but interesting concept that merits discussion.)


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If your employer were having trouble financially, would you appreciate being asked how much you would be willing to give up for your company?
o Yes 67%
o No 32%

Votes: 77
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o FuckedComp any.com
o a memo
o 415.com
o Also by Osama Bin Laden

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Choose one: (a) cut my pay, (b) lay me off | 21 comments (20 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Huh? Feedback? (doom and gloom) (4.00 / 6) (#1)
by Seumas on Wed Feb 28, 2001 at 11:34:56 AM EST

It sounds more like a threat to me.

If they had the ability to keep your pay at the current rate and not alter your employment or compensation, why would they give you the option? They're quite obviously saying "we can't keep running like this. Here are a couple of ways we're cutting your compensation and you can decide if you want to stay or leave."

When review time comes around this year for people in the tech industry, it's going to be pretty amusing. While our CEO's are taking home a couple hundred million dollars each year, we're going to be asked to "understand" why we can't be granted our five to seven percent raise or even a bonus -- and that we should consider ourselves fortunate to at least stay even with the cost of living increases.

And if things keep going the way they are right now, there won't be much of a threat to levy against your employer that you'll find another job. Who's going to hire you when they're all laying their employees off?

Kind of pathetic, actually. Still, I can't wait to see all of us begging for our jobs and considering ourselves lucky to bring home enough bacon to afford our bus tickets to and from work.
I just read K5 for the articles.

No, that's not what they should do (3.85 / 7) (#2)
by DesiredUsername on Wed Feb 28, 2001 at 11:35:02 AM EST

Two reasons:

1) The easy one. Everyone will say whatever they need to to get as much money as they can---while they are looking for another job.

2) The hard one. The managers are supposed to be MANAGING. If they take a vote when a hard decision comes up, they aren't doing their jobs. If I worked there, I'd send a "memo" back saying "do I get a share of your pay if I make the decisions for you"?

Management should be humane...but they should also do the work. It's called a division of labor.

Play 囲碁
Decisions (3.60 / 5) (#4)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Feb 28, 2001 at 11:42:33 AM EST

I doesn't look as if they are looking to their employees to make the decision. They're trying to find out who they can lay off, who they can suspend and whose pay they can cut. Obviously they're close to running out of money and need to reduce their costs. I'd probably prefer that they did it this way rather than just choosing a bunch of people to sack.

This is quite common in manufacturing industry. They look for people to take voluntary redundancy first before enforcing layoffs.


If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Still doesn't make sense (3.66 / 3) (#6)
by DesiredUsername on Wed Feb 28, 2001 at 12:01:43 PM EST

Voluntary reduction is one thing. But what does "They're trying to find out who they can lay off, who they can suspend and whose pay they can cut" mean? They should lay off the least productive (per dollar) people. If they don't know who that is, we're back to management not doing their jobs.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
And how do you tell ? (3.80 / 5) (#7)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Feb 28, 2001 at 12:11:03 PM EST

I'm sure thats what they get taught in business school, but at least in my experience its pretty hard to tell who the most productive people in a development team are, and that probably goes for other professionals too. Sure, you can measure who wrote the most lines of code, or whose name in on most check-ins, or who seems to play a leading role in design discussions, but combining this into a meaningful dollar out per dollar in measure - as you would do with capital equipment, or wage labour - is almost impossible.

In practice, involuntarily breaking up a team by trying to measure "productivity" on an individual basis is likely to have worse consequences - in team morale, and in accidentally losing people you should have kept - than asking for volunteers. I don't know exactly whats going on in this case - you may be right that the management suck, and indeed if they're running an obscure .com the chances are that they do - but asking who will resign or take a pay cut is not necessarily a symptom.


If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
You've obviously never been a manager (4.60 / 5) (#13)
by DesiredUsername on Wed Feb 28, 2001 at 12:46:13 PM EST

I have a couple years (thought admittedly only a couple) at being a manager. And I knew EXACTLY who was most and least productive. Sure, you can't given an exact dollar value of the work--if only because as a mid-level manager you don't KNOW the value of the final output.

How did I know? Because I kept a close eye on things. That's not a euphemism for time-sheets, either. But I gave them all their projects, periodically asked how they were doing and spot-checked their work (the early work for everyone, ongoing work for the lowest performers). When an employee consistently amazes you with speed and quality, you've got a winner. When you have to explain and re-explain and then re-do when it turns out wrong, you've got a lemon.

Clearly there are times when you can't really judge which of two employees is "better" (or when they are both better on different scales). But statistics tells you that you will ALWAYS have people at the low end of the bell curve. These are the people to fire.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Technical knowledge (4.00 / 2) (#17)
by ucblockhead on Wed Feb 28, 2001 at 05:24:12 PM EST

That's mostly because you had a good idea of what sort of job your employees were doing. You knew what their job entails. There are too many managers out there who were trained for managing office-workers and haven't the first clue about software and how to tell if someone is any good at it.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
And thus.... (4.66 / 3) (#19)
by DesiredUsername on Wed Feb 28, 2001 at 09:06:35 PM EST

"There are too many managers out there who were trained for managing office-workers and haven't the first clue about software and how to tell if someone is any good at it."

Which brings us neatly back to my point: Managers who don't know which employees to fire should themselves be fired.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Voluntary reductions (4.20 / 5) (#10)
by interiot on Wed Feb 28, 2001 at 12:30:21 PM EST

My company did a voluntary reduction a few years back. All the good coders left because they knew they had a good chance of getting a better job elsewhere. The company was left with the not-so-marketable (and probably less productive) programmers.

[ Parent ]
True, of course (3.50 / 2) (#12)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Feb 28, 2001 at 12:33:59 PM EST

The best people always leave first, for exactly this reason. They have an easy time getting another job, and see no reason to stick around with a company that is obviously failing.

Just done this, in fact :)


If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Love the UK (none / 0) (#21)
by srichman on Tue Mar 06, 2001 at 06:57:59 AM EST

I'm quite fond of the term "redundancy". We don't really use that term in the states, or at least not as much as British folks do. "Blah blah blah blah blah, so I took my redundancy." That phrase makes me smile. Divertingly. In a way I can't describe. I've heard it several times in my life, and the pleasure I derive isn't at all of the "oh, look, the entertaining Brits" sort. It just warms me up.

Please, everyone say it aloud a few times. For me. "I took my redundancy."

[ Parent ]

Warning (4.33 / 3) (#3)
by tympanic on Wed Feb 28, 2001 at 11:35:09 AM EST

The only good side I see to this situation is that now the employees have warning in writing that they had better start interviewing, if they haven't already.

"I've noticed success tends to mean making sure people's expectations are low and then exceeding them" -David Simpson

Feelings about the company (3.00 / 2) (#5)
by reshippie on Wed Feb 28, 2001 at 11:56:00 AM EST

It all depends on what they've done for me. If the company and the workers are cool, and treat me well, I'd probably be willing to take a small cut to stay with them. I'd also respect having a choice instead of having to worry about being "Downsized".

On the other hand, if I didn't really like the company, or I was feeling blase(sp) about it, I'd probably be insulted by their asking me to decide the lesser of several evils.

It's all about the perspective that the environment create for you, I think.

Those who don't know me, probably shouldn't trust me. Those who do DEFINITELY shouldn't trust me. :-)

A contractor's perspective. (3.33 / 3) (#8)
by broody on Wed Feb 28, 2001 at 12:12:08 PM EST

I may have a skewed perspective as I am a consultant but nothing is certain when it comes to employment. A job/contract can vanish in a second. Unless one has a fixed term contract, job security is an illusion.

I do think the feedback aspect of this is doublespeak. I doubt that "managment" is going to take much stock in the responses they get to this "memo". I suspect the more valuable team members will remain and overhead will be cut. In the end my attitude towards it tends to be "so what?", that's why a professional should have savings. Walking away with grace and tact is part of the job.

* Would you be willing to take an unpaid leave of absence in the near future?

If my company asked me to take "unpaid leave" tommorow, I would likely start packing for a vacation in India. It has happened to several other people in my workgroup, some come back, some don't. It is common enough in my workplace that we use the slang "on the beach" instead of unpaid leave.

If there was not work turning up a few weeks from now then I would find another mid to long term contract and tough luck for my (former) employer.

* Would you stay at the company if your salary is reduced?

Hell no, I could get a much better rate someplace else.

* Are you in favor of enacting the layoffs as soon as possible?

I don't care. There are plenty of other jobs and everything comes to an end. My savings will tide me through to the next contract.

~~ Whatever it takes
See the rats running away (3.66 / 3) (#9)
by weirdling on Wed Feb 28, 2001 at 12:27:28 PM EST

In a small business, the 'we're all in this together' instinct is rather high, and that seems to be where this is coming from, but for me, I'd be off on the interview process, and would vote for starting layoffs as soon as possible. An unhealthy company is bad for everyone. They need to get to where they have a sustainable burn rate or the whole thing will go belly-up, and the job market is still tight, so it isn't much of a problem.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
Depends how intimate the company is... (4.00 / 2) (#14)
by lucas on Wed Feb 28, 2001 at 01:04:24 PM EST

Most likely, it depends on how intimate the company is with one another - if it is about 10 people or something, this might be okay... if it is 1000, I would raise an eyebrow.

The other thing is that the job market is still okay right now, so you can quit and still get another job.

I'd probably quit unless management was honest with me. They must open the entire business plan, the revenue schemes, the accounting. Maybe this would backfire, I don't know. Sometimes when people know too much (e.g., firehosed, particularly with "business-talk"), they don't like it/feel uncomfortable, but if management can convey enough for them to feel justified that sacrificing is worth it, I would think this a positive thing. If anything, it would get some dialogue going and boost morale.

I don't think it is right to make a judgment without some more evidence and/or even questioning the legitimacy of it. Pud has posted some Drudge-like stuff before, so we can't take his stuff too seriously.

Whatever the case is, it looks like we're up for some tough times... and corporations are going to do some ridiculously absurd stuff to stay alive.

depends on your faith in management (3.50 / 2) (#15)
by mckwant on Wed Feb 28, 2001 at 03:09:09 PM EST

I know, I know, "faith in management"? Problem is, these are the guys who bring in dollars to pay salaries.

I was in a similar situation, and had no faith in either the business model nor those allegedly executing it. The company in question is still around, although what form it took, I have no idea.

If you think the company has a chance to make it through, and it's just undergoing some short-term cash problems, it might (MIGHT) be worth sticking with. If you don't, and the problem isn't just cash (getting customers, cash inflow, etc.), cut and run.

Could be worse... (4.00 / 2) (#16)
by spcmanspiff on Wed Feb 28, 2001 at 05:15:43 PM EST

At least their employees know just how bad things are.

At my old job (a consulting firm that specialized in .com stuff) layoffs were done in absolutely horrid fashion... At the super-expensive staff christmas party, managers were pulling people aside and telling them to please, please use vacation time before the end of the year -- then in January there was the 50% off surprise meeting. It was like management was trying to keep the bad news secret. Like we couldn't smell it coming miles away, anyway. Far better to be up-front about this sort of thing than having it sneak over your shoulder.

I'd already told my immediate boss I was leaving, as well as one of the founders of the company, when middle management sat down and had a nice chat with me about leaving the joint for the next semester -- laying me off, in other words. Glad to see that the lines of communication were wiiiiide open.

Pretty sad, too, because for a while it was a really cool place to work. The whole experience left me just a little bit jaded. I'm sure there are 1000s of other stories out there just like mine, and will be thousands more until management becomes transparent & accountable to employees as well as shareholders.

Interesting... (3.50 / 2) (#18)
by joto on Wed Feb 28, 2001 at 07:07:01 PM EST

Well, I hope this doesn't come as a bomb upon the employees. But at least it is better to have been asked. Of course, the only reasonable thing for the company to do, is to start layoffs as soon as possible, so it might not matter that much. I think I would prefer an actual meeting, but of course, if it is a large company, I guess this is the only way.

Anyway, I would love to read the result of the survey, especially if they put in some demographic data, such as sex, age, salary and level of education and grouped the results along them. It should make for some interesting reading in human psychology I guess.

Getting this kind of "feedback" ain't ne (3.66 / 3) (#20)
by Zukov on Thu Mar 01, 2001 at 10:39:15 AM EST

I have gone thru this before, and it is not at all what it seems. Since I'm a bit slow on recognizing slime when I step in it, it took me a while to catch on.

I assume the idea of doing this comes from "Management consultants", and here is how it really works:

The questions are all designed to find out your state of mind on (your own internal feelings on):

  • Your confidence in your ability to find another job, quickly
  • Your financial status, how much cash do you have on hand, are you willing to work for free or sit around waiting to be asked to dance again
  • Your eagerness to be bent over a desk and...
  • Your level of irrational emotional attachment to the company: Will you do it for them because they love you?

    The other twist to this is that you may be promised an amount of money if you stay with the company till some date. This promise will not be in writing, you will not get your money, and later on you will have to take the company to court if you want to get your money.

    Naturally, the more compliant you appear to be, the more you will be complied. The people who say they won't hang around will be terminated, the compliant ones will be taken advantage of till they have outlived their usefullness.

    In the case I was involved in, a mid-level mananger, who went around daily brow-beating his staff to pledge to stay (a matter of honor, he said) till no longer needed, was the first to get another job.

    My suggestion to anyone put into this kind of position is to say "Oh yes please, two bags full sir" and look for another job immediately without the slightest pang of concience. With luck you will start another job just after the non-compliant workers have been let go.

    ȶ H (^

    Yes, I have just bumbled upon Gnome Character Map. Please ! me.

  • Choose one: (a) cut my pay, (b) lay me off | 21 comments (20 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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