Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Layoffs are strangling those who still have jobs, too

In 2008, US companies laid off more people than they had since the 1940s, and the evidence is everywhere. I didn't have to look, for example to the latest layoff numbers to figure out it was happening, I just kept in touch with my friends.

Last year this time, no one I knew had lost their job; as of now, I know at least a dozen, including personal friends, former co-workers and mentees. I know at least one person who was given the reprieve of keeping a job but had to swallow a pay cut. In New York of all places.

But this post isn't about the unfortunate ones who lost their jobs, it's about the misfortune of those who have kept them -- and by extension why all the layoffs will ultimately come back to cost the companies who are looking for savings from the cuts.

I had the following gchat conversation yesterday with a friend (name withheld for obvious reasons), who works for a very large company that, like many others, laid off several hundred people at the end of last year:

Friend: i feel like my job is pushing me to my limit

me: cuz of the loss of people
Friend: it's just 13 days in to the new year...7 work days in to the new year and i want to jump off my balcony

that is how stressful my job is

i resigned from my part time hustle yesterday because the full time job has become bodily consuming

Friend: i worked sunday 5pm - home and got a nap because i then worked for 8am-8pm straight...and i mean straight...i didn't leave my couch to even get a glass of water

i didn't even turn on the tv and i was at home

me: smh
that's bad
Friend: literally i was busting ass for 12 hours straight yesterday
me: that sucks
i hope it gets better for you
and soon
Friend: it wont

2009 is bound to get a lot worse b4 it gets better

That conversation (edited slightly and used with permission, of course) shows how when major layoffs happen, workloads don't lessen. By cutting workers, companies are trying to get the infamous "more with less" -- that is steady or rising productivity from a smaller, cheaper workforce. But there are limits -- to how much one person can do with eight hours and two hands and to an employee's body, psyche and motivation level. Cut too deep into the bone and you wind up with, at best, a demoralized workforce and at worst, an unhealthy one.

In the best case scenario, angry workers just aren't as given to producing as much or as good as their bosses would like. In the worst, stressed-out, fatigued workers are prone to health problems that could increase sick days and increase employers' insurance premiums. What's worse is that remember, companies laid off more people last time than they have in more than 60 years, leaving, potentially more angry, disaffected and overloaded workers than at any point in time since that period as well. Not a good thing.

Another important point: all the layoffs are hurting not just productivity, but the spending power of even those who still have jobs as well. Look at what my friend says: she quit her part-time job because of the workload she's gotten from her full-time one. Less income, less spending, again multiplied by the millions.


Butterrfly said...

It is getting very disturbing.. businesses are struggling and their constrained workforce is left to carrying the burden. Its hard to imagine that the economic stimulus program(s), soon to be up for vote in congress, will be able to make a real impact for the masses in the near term. :(

J said...

I can feel the pain. I work in a hospital as a CNA. They have no nurses, the patients are sicker, and no one wants to pick up. It is the reverse. The RNs want double time to work, but they won't up our pay to insure care to the patients. I wish that things can get better across the board and to all industries.