When a company decides to close due to declining revenue or other factors, hourly employees are often kept in the dark. Employees may be told that the company is “reviewing revenue flow,” “studying possible closures, or “changing the business model.”
These company buzz words may mean impending doom to those in management positions and mean nothing to the hourly workers. Hourly workers often don’t realize that “study” means, “We’ve already decided what we’re going to do and now are figuring out how to make it happen.”
What does management know and when?
Upper management is usually aware of exactly what will happen and when; however, it’s normal practice in some companies to provide little of this information to hourly employees.
Instructions flow downstream to mid- and lower-level managers who are given only the information they need to carry out their part in the closure.
What are employees told?
Managers at various levels may be instructed to answer employees with the company line, “study,” “review,” “business model,” and “no decision has been made” when questions are asked. Because they aren’t given complete and honest answers, hourly employees may assume that all will be okay in the end.
The employees continue going about their jobs, coming to work daily, and performing their normal tasks. They know the rules of their company and whether they are protected from layoffs but may blindly assume the company they have served well will do the right thing.
How do managers use employees?
Managers may use hourly employees’ knowledge in a specific field to aid in the process of closing the business. The employees realize that they are providing data but may not know how it will be used.
Employees are often blindsided
Even if the employees realize that company finances are tight, they may not be able to see the writing on the wall. They are not privy to the emails, conferences, meetings, and other management level information.
Employees may be unable to recognize with the limited information provided to them that their location and job may be affected.
What happens at the end?
The hourly employees are often given very short notice that the study has come to fruition and that the company will push forward with the closure.
Is there a more moral solution?
It seems that it would be kinder and more reasonable for upper management to share all known details with employees from the start and keep them informed along the way.
This would empower the employees to review options, search for new jobs, and rewrite their futures. Spouses and children could be made aware that there are pending changes. Future family plans could be made to accomodate the changes.
However, this isn’t how most companies operate. For whatever reason, it seems that most companies prefer to keep hourly employees in the dark when there are major change on the horizon.
Who is laying off or closing?
Some companies that have recently announced layoffs, closures, or possible closures include:
- US Postal Service
- Bank of America
- US Military
- Borders Bookstores
- Lockheed Martin Corporation
- JPMorgan Chase
- Many state and local governments
- Many school systems
If there is one lasting lesson we can all learn from the current economy, it’s that no job is safe from the axe. Jobs that were once considered untouchable have become just another way to balance the books for cash-strapped companies.