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My boss is asking me to consider eliminating one of my directs. A bunch of people in other departments were let go last Friday, but I wasn't here last week. The reason is that one our clients suddenly went out of business, so he is trying to slash enough payroll to cover the deficit.

What criteria would you use? Seniority? Pay? They both do their work well. One has a slightly more snarky attitude than the other, doesn't hide his frustration as well.

I really hate to lose either of them. They both keep plenty busy. But, I wouldn't be the only one losing directs I don't want to do without.

p.s. I'm a longtime forum member in a new disguise. :wink:

tlhausmann's picture

[quote="transmogrified"]My boss is asking me to consider eliminating one of my directs. [...] so he is trying to slash enough payroll to cover the deficit.

What criteria would you use? Seniority? Pay? [/quote]

Hmmm. Of the two, who brings more value to the company and delivers results? In your department can you cut capital expenditures instead?

William Manchester’s biography of Douglas MacArthur, “American Caesar” cites budget decisions by General Douglas MacArthur shortly following the stock market crash. When forced to make budget reductions during The Great Depression MacArthur opted to withdraw funding for tanks and instead retain the full complement of army officers at 12,000 rather than accept the reduction to 10,000.

(The following is from Manchester’s “American Caesar” pp146-148)

Because the War Department accounted for the largest chunk in the national budget, Congress was determined to cut it after the stock-market crash. MacArthur couldn’t do much to stop that; the best he could do was assign priorities. In general, he tried to avoid favoritism among the services and spent what he was given on personnel rather than materiel, reasoning that equipment becomes obsolete but leadership does not.

kklogic's picture

I'm a big fan of the ole +/- list for decisions that are unclear. I usually assign a weight to the different categories. Perhaps this attitude thing isn't a big deal to you, so weight that at 5% of the total score or whatever makes sense.

Another method I like is a "gut check." I think of how I would feel if the choice were one over the other. Often, I know in my heart and gut what the right decision is.

Good luck. I imagine this isn't an easy time for you. Hang in there.

transmogrified's picture

I soft-pedaled the attitude thing... there have been several complaints about the one guy. getting in arguments, "throwing things" (although I'm pretty sure that was an exaggeration)

Yesterday I thought I had talked my boss into letting me keep both people. Today he's back on laying one off, and he came up with a plan for getting the tasks covered.

I think he is giving me the broadest of hints and only giving me slack because I've been going through a rough patch. I had better just get on board, I think. That's what my "gut check" says. :wink:

And coach the other one on the things he might have gotten laid off over. (needs to be more proactive in certain areas, yes of course I'd be much more specific with him)

thaGUma's picture

Horrible decision. In addition to the advice above is to consider how the remaining DR will react to the departure of the other? Will they cope/improve, can they work on their own to the same efficiency?

Are both DR’s aware of the situation? Sounds crazy but you never know if your DR has already been looking for another position and surprise you with a resignation allowing you to keep the other.

In five years time who would you rather have working there?

Chris

jhack's picture

[quote="transmogrified"]... there have been several complaints about the one guy. getting in arguments, "throwing things" (although I'm pretty sure that was an exaggeration)[/quote]

If you have reason to believe this is true, there's your answer.

If things were equal, you could use the "who has the highest billings?" technique - a venerable professional services firm criteria.

John

transmogrified's picture

[quote="donnachie"]Horrible decision. In addition to the advice above is to consider how the remaining DR will react to the departure of the other? Will they cope/improve, can they work on their own to the same efficiency?

Are both DR’s aware of the situation? Sounds crazy but you never know if your DR has already been looking for another position and surprise you with a resignation allowing you to keep the other.

In five years time who would you rather have working there?[/quote]

Are you saying I'm making a horrible decision, or that it's horrible to have to make this decision? ;-)

It's all over now... I think it went OK. The one I laid off said he'd been expecting it and a buddy at another company thought he could get him a job there. I don't think he would have stuck around five years anyway, once he finishes his degree he'll be looking to his chosen career.

The person I kept is the one who mostly trained the one I let go. We'll make do. (That's exactly what I told the HR director... he said, "Good answer! Most of the managers are crying and moaning."

thaGUma's picture

Sorry for not being clear . Horrible decision to make. :oops:

US41's picture

[quote="transmogrified"]My boss is asking me to consider eliminating one of my directs. A bunch of people in other departments were let go last Friday, but I wasn't here last week. The reason is that one our clients suddenly went out of business, so he is trying to slash enough payroll to cover the deficit.

What criteria would you use? Seniority? Pay? They both do their work well. One has a slightly more snarky attitude than the other, doesn't hide his frustration as well.
[/quote]

Hopefully you have some objective performance measurements on your folks and can rank them 1, 2, 3 at any given time. On my team, I score projects when we review them. I keep the scores in excel, and I can sort by the average score and see who scores highest. This influences but does not make our decisions. But it helps.

As far as the rest of the decision, who is best for the company to keep? Decide and then remove the excess people no matter their benefits. Who does best with relationships, problem solving, representing you elsewhere? Who is most reliable?

Whatever you do, make a decision before you boss makes it for you. If I am your boss, and I ask you to cut a headcount from your department as part of layoffs and reductions in force, and you can't do it and I have to decide for you, guess who I am going to cut?

You.

...

Looks like you already made the right decision. You followed my recommendation before I even made it! Are there any like you in my area that I could hire I wonder? LOL :D

stephenbooth_uk's picture

The only question really left is, did you follow the [url=http://www.manager-tools.com/2005/10/compassionate-layoffs/]compassionate layoffs[/url] podcast?

Stephen

transmogrified's picture

[quote="stephenbooth_uk"]The only question really left is, did you follow the [url=http://www.manager-tools.com/2005/10/compassionate-layoffs/]compassionate layoffs[/url] podcast?[/quote]

Yes indeed. :) Luckily for me, HR had already prepared a nice packet, including a brochure from the state on how to apply for unemployment, job search resources, an FAQ, all the HR phone numbers, etc. So I just had to prepare my bullet points. Glad I had 'em too.

Here's a wrinkle; I promised a letter of recommendation. Then I did a search on this site and discovered that Mark and Wendii both say they're useless. Now what?

And thank you all for your help.

US41's picture

For someone that I had to lay off and not fire that I thought highly of, I have authored up a letter recommending them to others and explaining the situation. I have sealed them inside envelopes, and I have signed across the seal and given them to the victim to take with him and hand across the table if asked. Inside is my full contact information.

Perhaps clunky and unsophisticated on my part, but I think they walked taller carrying those letters out of the office. I did get calls from people on the letters validating them, and they said, "Wow. You really care about your people!" They were hired quickly.

Maybe my letters made it worse, maybe they didn't. I don't know.

I think another kindness is to see if the company will pay for them to hook up with a recruiter, or at least partially fund putting them in touch with an agency or career counselor of some kind as part of their package. I believe the manager should fight for their people, even if their employment is doomed, and ensure they are covered to the end.

jhack's picture

US41 hits an important point: whether or not the letter is [i]actually[/i] used, it gives a boost to the laid-off person. That's a worthy act of kindness.

I like the "sealed and signed" idea.

John

thaGUma's picture

I have to disagree, the sealed and signed letter on my desk would go in the bin and the applicant on the 'no' pile. The best recommendation is verbal. Pick up the phone.

Any reference given will be bias. Entering into a dialogue gives greater depth (still bias).

US41's picture

I don't see how verbal recommendations are less biased than written ones or in any way superior. Besides, the point of the letter is to initiate verbal communication - that's why it has contact information at the bottom.

wendii's picture

The reason we do not like letters of reference which the candidates have written beforehand, is that we can't verify their authenticity.

If I speak to a staff member via a company switchboard, I can be reasonably confident that the staff member is providing a genuine reference. It's not foolproof, but it's more certain.

For Transmogrified: be their referee when they get an offer. It's the same supportive action and is more useful to the candidate.

The idea of having a letter where the envelope is sealed is fine, but I still don't know where it came from. And.. if the candidate has more than one offer, who does he give it to? We don't make formal offers until references have been checked, so he'd be a bit stuck.

Wendii

AManagerTool's picture

I have been told at least 20 times by corporate HR not to ever give a reference. They tell me to refer the caller to them. All that they can do is confirm employment. I guess that the reference system is wrought with legal dangers for most US based employers and as US41 points out are probably not worth it anyway. I understand though that this rule is broken all the time.

[b]Question for discussion:

How do you as a manager reconcile US based corporate HR regulations against giving references with the obvious value of them to your directs and peers? [/b]

wendii - This injunction probably doesn't exist in the UK. Correct?

Frankly, I'm having a bit of a problem with this myself.

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="AManagerTool"]This injunction probably doesn't exist in the UK. Correct?[/quote]

I've worked at 7 different companies in the UK (in all three sectors) and all but one barred managers from providing references. All reference requests had to be forwarded to HR who would respond with a standard form letter that confirmed dates of employment and job title(s). One company would also include how many sick days you'd had in the past 2 years and if you were at that time subject to disciplinary sanction or under disciplinary investigation. Even the one that did let managers write references required that the letter be checked by the personnel officer (there were only 80 people in the company, we'd only had a personnel officer for a year when I left) before being sent.

When a reason was given it was that to allow managers to write references could put the company in legal jeopardy. Interestingly all 7 would ask for references and would ask questions well beyond the confirmation of employment (e.g. time keeping, quality of work, sickness, disciplinary record &c).

Stephen

wendii's picture

[quote]wendii - This injunction probably doesn't exist in the UK. Correct? [/quote]

It does exist, in that there are company policies which dictate only HR or other authorised people can give employment references. There is however, no obligation on the part of the company to give a reference, but if they do, it must be factual and fair. If the ex-employee suffers harm because of a reference, he can take the company to court. Interestingly, if the the reference is over hyped and the receiving company suffers as the employee is not as good as they had thought, they can also take the company to court. You can understand why companies are cautious.

However, there is a difference between an employment reference and a personal reference. Potentially, you can give a personal reference, even if you are bound by company policy not to give an employment reference. You need to be cognizant of the risk however, since the above remedies would apply to you personally, not the company.

Since the original poster was willing to give written references, I had assumed his company policy allowed him to give employment references.

Does that help, or just make things more confusing :-)

Wendii

transmogrified's picture

Hmmm... I didn't ask HR's permission. :shock: I am unaware of any published policy one way or the other here. I do think they keep meaning to write these things down...

Having already promised, I have put several copies of a letter in the mail to him.

And one of my notes to myself in the post-layoff analysis will be "DON'T offer a letter of recommendation."

AManagerTool's picture

OK so you can go out on a limb by yourself but the company won't follow you. I wonder how many of these suits are actually brought against companies? Individuals? I mean don't these things come with a [i]caveat emptor[/i] embeded in them?

I won't be writing recommendations for anyone soon. That said, we do it all the time on LinkedIn but there it's definitly a personal favor. Is that covered under this liability as well?

Now I'm paraniod. :roll:

US41's picture

The real risk is if you provide a negative opinion of the person. If you have nothing nice to say, all you have to do is say, "Start date, End date, Title, and that ought to cover my input. So, what's your name again? What company are you with? How long have you been there? What got you into this line of work? Interesting. Interesting. Tell me about that. Very interesting... Sure, I'd love to meet sometime."

Sorry. I segued into the "How to handle recruiters" topic.

I'm not supposed to do it either, but I'm not going to let a good person go out the door laid off without knowing that they can count on me to say something nice about them and give them my support after they leave. In this case, my my risk aversion is lower than my own sense of humanitarianism.