Thursday, September 4, 2008

Can we please ban the word "right-sizing"?

Maybe I'm not known for my empathy on this blog, but I feel so sorry for chief people officer Rose Zory at Carat, who apparently hit the uber-send key yesterday and sent documents outlining the communications plan for layoffs there to the whole company instead of just the management people who were supposed to get it. The memos and PowerPoint, in all of their awkward attempts to communicate the painful truth, were posted at Advertising Age, and reading them made me cringe, on a number of levels.
For one, it was like a bad acid flashback. My last act while at Organic in late 2000 was to manage the internal communications, and some of the external, for a layoff of 25 percent of the staff. Twenty-five percent! (Lucky me, I wasn't part of the "reduction in force", but had been hired by Ad Age anyway, and was leaving the company in a couple of weeks.) Just writing the talking points for those who would deliver the news to both the saved and the unsaved was enough to make one want to run for the nearest psychiatrist, and I had the good fortune not to send the entire communications plan to the whole company beforehand. Can you imagine what it must have felt like for Zory at the excruciating moment when she discovered she had sent the email to the whole company? And the further horror of having it posted on adage.com? This is the stuff of which nightmares are made, people.
Another thing that made reading these documents so cringe-worthy has nothing to do with the fact they leaked; it was their use of corporate jargon to explain an extremely unfortunate human event. Like most reporters, I have a disdain for jargon, and have always found the word "right-sizing" particularly offensive. True, companies sometimes have to readjust staffing to get it in line with reduced revenue, but to describe this as "right-sizing"? That's a term designed to distance whomever is saying it from the cruel realities involved. It's not "right" for employees who lose their jobs in a touch economy, nor is it "right" for the lucky people who keep their jobs, but are probably saddened by the departures of some good people and working harder than ever. Carat isn't the first company to deploy this term instead of the more accurate "down-sizing," but if I had my way, Carat would be the last to use it. Ever.

1 comment:

polly anna said...

The most hideous euphemism of the 21st Century.