I knew the news was bad if it needed to be delivered by a specialist. The terminal prognosis for “strategic misalignment” wasn’t what upset me most. It was the fact that I was being laid off and that honesty is obviously not human resources policy. I’m not suggesting these professionals lie but their euphemistic-heavy language, meant to minimize the risk of lawsuits by angry, laid-off employees, reduces us to mere resources, takes the humanity out of the work place – and leaves me dazed and wondering what the hell just happened.
Having been in the workforce for over 15 years and having survived two previous lay-offs, I’m still amazed at how de-humanizing human resources really is. I was laid-off for the first time in the late 1990s. I was “downsized.” I wondered if that was the reverse of a menu item at McDonald’s being super-sized. Was I the unpopular McPizza choice, being shrunk due to lack of demand or, worse, eliminated from the menu? I guess it really meant that the company went on a diet to emerge leaner and I was excess weight to be shed.
The second time was in 2003 and I was “re-organized” – like a cluttered sock drawer? Was I the matchless and useless sock that was being tossed? I guess it meant that as the company straightened itself out, de-cluttered and got organized, I was excess that would screw up the order and system.
This most recent time was the most creative: my position no longer met the strategic business objectives of the company and was therefore eliminated. Funny, I hadn’t felt strategically misaligned, hadn’t lurched along the hallways like a hunchback. In fact, I’d functioned pretty well under a heavier workload. However, the company had a new vision and new needs that I didn’t serve so, good bye.
Downsized, reorganized or strategically misaligned, I know it’s all the same. I’m an adult, I know that “misspeaking” is lying, “pre-owned” is used, so just give it to me straight and tell me I’ve been laid off – hold the doublespeak meant to conceal (i.e., cover the company’s ass) and confuse (i.e., daze me so much that I don’t realize what’s happened until I’ve signed the severance agreement and it’s too late to sue).
This wouldn’t fly in the real world outside of corporate America where an ordinary human such as myself has to tell the truth, has to speak plainly in order to get things done, be understood and make connections with other people. How about I tell the bus driver that his objective of collecting a fare is misaligned with my strategic need of getting to the mall, therefore I’m eliminating the need to pay? Nothing personal, it’s a business decision. I’d likely find myself out on the curb again.