Thursday, September 21, 2006


Pink Slip By E-mail

Brace yourself for a new trend called "cyber-firing", in which you receive your pink slip via e-mail. According to a survey conducted by the International Association of Business Communicators, 37 percent of the respondents still fire their underlings in person, but 29 percent do it with the Send button. "It's disrespectful of the employee," says the association president, Julie Freeman. "Losing one's job is a very difficult circumstance in almost every case. The very least you can do for the individual you're laying off is have the courage to meet face to face."

The main rationale for e-mail firings is, of course, their extreme expedience. One wonders, however, whether or not the reliance on impersonality in performing corporate dirty work reflects something else as well. Cowardice might be a factor, but I believe the larger motivation for using such tactics is so managers can minimize the accountability for their actions - or at least their own perception of that accountability. It is easier psychologically to cleanse yourself of your sins if you commit them through the intermediary of technology rather than through messy "personal interaction". Sort of like the difference between pressing the button on a bombsight and cutting the enemy's throat up close and personal. Depriving the fired employee of the opportunity to confront the firer is also much easier on the latter. After all, we don't want those who fire us to come down with PTSD, now do we?

Ironically, while the "pain of firing" may decrease for those at the top, the pain of being fired will only increase as this trend continues. So will the anger. Receiving the sudden news that one's livelihood just bit the dust through e-mail or even through a cellphone text message is far ruder than the classic primal scene of getting called into the lair of the boss and being told that one is no longer needed. One may no longer experience the terrifying moments of anticipation leading up to the inevitable, but the new way is ruder nonetheless. As the article at the link below reports, "that kind of cyber-approach leaves workplace specialists aghast". One such expert, himself a veteran terminator, claims, "There's no reason you can't do it with class."

"You've got mail: 'We're letting you go'" from the Christian Science Monitor

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