Unanswered questions: The manager in the firing line

Pink slip or P-45. Redundancy. Job loss. Head-count reduction. Downsizing. Right-sizing. Many words, the same meaning. 

While much attention is paid to the laid-off, not much sympathy or attention is reserved for the manager, the person, who hands out these pink slips or P-45 to his or her team-members, subordinates, employees. This person’s experience is different from survivor guilt. Yet it remains deeply upsetting and painful, and it is hard not to feel emotionally drained. Sooner than later, work is bound to suffer.

I was 24, when I first made several people redundant. The business logic was quite simple. There was a central business plan, in which no regional input had been taken. So regions hired according to the central projections.  However market realities required that plans be reconsidered and we had to let people go. Not all were undeserving, mind you. We were selling a new product category and brand, in a new retail format. So there was rather a lot of selling to do. Some weren’t really doing that well. Some were doing well and resented having to carry any deadweight with them. So the business case was clear and several had to go. However there was an interesting side-show. Whilst handing out the redundancies, I lost so much weight that at one point, I weighed a mere 32 kilos. I found it hard to eat and I worked longer and longer hours. Since my business unit was intrapreneurial and a new venture, I worked quite independently and with little direct supervision. 

Back to the present time in London. Several friends in senior corporate roles, mainly in the City, are firing people at work. During the week, they spend long hours at work. Then on weekends, they spend inordinate amounts of time playing golf or cycling – basically doing anything to stay away from more emotional engagement at home. For some, this is affecting their relationships, their family, where “head-count reduction”, “redundancy” , “right-sizing” etc are not available options.

Remembering what happened to me then and seeing the emotional trauma these friends are experiencing now makes me ask this question.

Who is looking after the welfare of the manager, who makes his/ her team-members redundant for a business case, but is retained to keep the business going, even to lead the business on its growth trajectory in the future? 

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