Sad tales from dot gones that pinked slipped staff the slimey vway
saundrakae at saundrakaerubel.com
Sun Mar 18 16:49:29 EST 2001
This article from NYTimes.com
No Pink Slip. You're Just Dot-Gone.
By SAM LUBELL
LAYOFFS are difficult to carry out humanely even at the best-run
companies. But in the dot-com world, where many companies are, to
say the least, casually organized, layoffs seem to have achieved
extreme thoughtlessness. Perhaps it's the sheer quantity: more than
65,000 people at Internet- related companies have been laid off
since December 1999, according to an outplacement firm, Challenger,
Gray & Christmas. And that was before the Nasdaq's nose dive last
Some dot-coms bend over backward to help ex- workers, providing
counseling, special stock option plans and outplacement services;
others see layoffs simply as necessary efficiencies in a time of
great pressure from shareholders and venture capitalists.
In any case, a standard of rotten layoffs seems to be emerging.
Many dot-com companies are as quick to copy miserable layoff
methods as they were to adopt successful software stratagems.
Gretchen Wilson, of Wash Tech, a union of tech workers in Seattle,
has identified a "dot-com layoff formula" that includes misleading
company statements; inappropriate notification; impersonal,
en-masse layoffs; and utter disregard for employees' feelings.
Here are some examples.
Divide and Jettison
business listings Web site based in Rolling Meadows, Ill. On Feb.
28, 2000, the company, which no longer exists, laid off 70 of its
120 employees. Those spared the ax were taken down to the basement
in a freight elevator while their less fortunate colleagues were
told to pack and leave the building.
InfoSpace.com, a provider of Internet infrastructure services
based in Bellevue, Wash. On Feb. 5, about 20 percent of the work
force of 250 received e-mail notices telling them to go to a
meeting at a local hotel in 15 minutes. There they were told they
had been laid off. Employees, locked out of the building, had to
make appointments to clean out their desks.
Joni Hanson, a senior vice president for investor and public
relations, said, "The process that we undertook was very similar to
a lot of other companies, to make sure that it was done
successfully and efficiently."
Loud and Cruel
iCopyright.com, a clearinghouse for automated copyright
permissions and reprints based in Renton, Wash. On Jan. 21, its 60
employees met in a large conference room where the names of the 40
who were being laid off were announced. Several prior layoffs
occurred the day after the company Christmas party. "I think the
management at the time were just shellshocked," said Mike
O'Donnell, chief executive of Datadepths, which recently bought
fob Inc., an e-service provider based in Chicago. In December,
staff members went to a meeting where they were told that some of
them would be laid off. They were instructed to return to their
desks and check their e-mail. Forty workers had messages that they
were dismissed. "I think that we did the best that we could in the
circumstances," said the company's president, Greg Buchholz.
"Logistically there wasn't enough time to give everyone 15 minutes.
The worst thing you can do is string out a layoff over a long
period of time."
New York Times Digital, which operates the Times Company's
Internet properties, based in Manhattan. Around 70 employees were
laid off in January; several found out from articles in The New
York Times and on its Web site. Lisa Carparelli, a spokeswoman for
The Times, said: "While it was an awkward and unfortunate
circumstance that some of our employees learned of the news from an
article in The Times before we had a chance to tell them in person,
it demonstrates the editorial independence of our news-gathering
operation and the objectivity with which it goes about covering
After the Fact
eProject.com, a Web-based software development company in Seattle.
In June 2000, Bryan Rogowski, just back from a trip to Europe, came
in for what he thought was his first day on the job to find
scattered boxes and a virtually empty building. After wandering
around confused for a few minutes, he was told he had been laid
off, as had about 60 percent of the staff. "It's hard to get ahold
of someone in Europe and tell him we're not going to offer him a
job," said eProject.com's president, Shane Jones. (The company says
Mr. Rogowski had not actually been an employee, since he had signed
a conditional offer letter with the company, not a contract.)
InfoRocket, a "question and answer marketplace" based in
Manhattan. Roberto Fernandez returned from a vacation in Spain on
Jan. 30, 2000, to find his work team's desks occupied by an
entirely new group of people. Half an hour later, he was told that
he had been laid off, too. Beth Haggerty, the president, said it
was an accident. "The timing didn't work precisely right," she
said. "We didn't want to ruin his vacation. We wanted to tell him
in person. He arrived early to work, and the person who was
supposed to give him the news arrived about 20 minutes later."
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