So many ways to say goodbye

January 29, 2009

It takes a delicate touch to make job cuts sound more palatable. As U.S. companies reduce payrolls by the thousands, the press releases seem to be getting more and more creative.

Check out today’s announcement from The Reader’s Digest Association, which is eliminating 8 percent of its global workforce and suspending matching contributions to employees’ 401(k) retirement accounts. Somehow it stings a bit less when you tell employees that it’s all part of a “Recession Plan” right?

“We have announced a comprehensive ‘Recession Plan’, which is our internal roadmap for dealing with the extraordinary effects of this recession on consumer spending,” Mary Berner, president and CEO, said in a statement.

Then there was Caterpillar, which said earlier this week that it would “remove” 20,000 workers as it executes “strategic ‘trough’ plans”.

Reader’s Digest spokesman William Adler said the language wasn’t intended to try to soften the blow of something as traumatic as losing a job.

“We’re calling it the recession plan internally to encourage not only understanding of it by the employees, but for their interactive participation,” he said, adding that the company was encouraging employees to think of ways to cut costs and save money, which was all part of the “recession plan.”

“It’s not like ‘rightsizing,'” Adler said, referring to an infamous U.S. euphemism that many companies in recent years have adopted to describe firing and laying off their employees.

Have we missed any gems? Share your best examples/worst and maybe we’ll gather enough for a special 50 Ways to Leave Your (Loving) Employer blog!

(Additional reporting by Robert MacMillan)


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The Air Force a few years ago used “Force Shaping” to refer to its brand of “layoffs”.

Posted by Ben | Report as abusive

We’ve been sacrificed to “voluntary employee reduction in force.” That’s where they force you to voluntarily leave by bribing you with a pitance.

Posted by will | Report as abusive

recession – when your neighbor loses a job,
depression – when you loose yours

Posted by whoknew | Report as abusive

My company is calling it “sorting” as in to sort out the right people. In other words, fire the worst performers.

Posted by Eric | Report as abusive

This creative use of the language is for the benefit of those wielding the axe, not for those losing their jobs. Its very 1984.

Posted by Michael Rhian Driscoll | Report as abusive


Posted by Brian | Report as abusive