Webconsuls Blog

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Layoff Announcement via Email

This past Monday, March 9, 2009, one of my former employers sent a company wide layoff announcement via email. Sadly some of my friends were impacted by this layoff. Given the state of the US economy we have all grown accustom to layoff news. It is happening everywhere, touching every industry; however, prior to this week Mercury Insurance Services, LLC, founded in 1962, had never resorted to layoffs. I could ask a lot of questions about this business decision, most of which are not answered in their press release. The one question that weighs on my mind is why did they choose to communicate this business decision via email?

Perhaps companies feel this is accepted email etiquette. For some companies, maybe. But you need to know that prior to mid 2002 90% of Mercury employees did not even have personal computers, they worked with dumb green terminals. That's right,no email, no word processing software, no internet access...they spent eight hours a day in their cubicles connecting to a mainframe to perform and produce their work product - underwriting policies or adjusting claims. In 2001 I was named the project manager to bring Mercury employees into the 21st century. One of the biggest project battles was convincing senior management that the employees should have and use email. I won the battle and this week I learned that senior management used email to announce a company wide layoff. What a difference seven years can make!

Generally technology is wonderful for the work environment, but have we technically progressed to the point that it is considered acceptable to deliver life altering news via a cold email? Let's remember that this startling news negatively impacted those who were not laid off, as well as those who were. 

Today I dedicate this blog post to all Mercury employees, those who were fired and those who were retained. In September 2004, when I resigned from Mercury I sent a good-bye letter to those whom I had worked with over my almost seven year tenure. And because I had managed many company wide projects this letter went to many employees. In that letter I shared the following thoughts, which ironically are still pertinent today:

---As I leave you, I tried to think of the best advice I could offer you as individuals and as a group. It came to me that what I have always tried to impart to you is to question each request as if your life depended on it. Do not be afraid to stand your ground for the betterment of your work ethic and the company. In other words, do the right thing. A few years ago, I saw a movie, "The Winslow Boy", and in the closing scene a defense attorney states: "I wept today because right had been done." When questioned by the defendant's sister, "Not justice?" to this the attorney replied, "No, not justice. Right. Easy to do 'justice'. Very hard to do 'right'."

In these difficult times, can we all just try to do right?

Good night and good luck!


March 10, 2009 5:14 PM EDT

In a Form 8-K, Mercury General Corp. (NYSE: MCY) announced that on March 9, 2009, the Company took action to eliminate approximately 360 employee positions or 7% of the Company's workforce in an ongoing effort to improve its cost structure. The Company expects to record a charge, in the first quarter of 2009, of approximately $8 million for severance and other employee termination costs in connection with the reduction in workforce, all of which will result in future cash expenditures. The total annualized pre-tax cost savings that are expected to result from the employee reductions is estimated to be approximately $22 million.March 10, 2009 5:14 PM EDT

1 comment:

  1. E-mail certainly has its bright and dark side when it comes to business correspondence. As opposed to the telephone or face to face communication, it is difficult to interrupt or get off track when using email. On the other hand, there is no guarantee that your ideas or suggestions are read or understood.

    I've gone back to reread business email I've sent when the reply I received seemed to indicate my correspondent had no idea what I had said. Most of the time I find I've been clear, leaving me to wonder how on earth they arrived at the conclusions they did.

    Using email to notify employees of a layoff is simply in poor taste - kind of like sending wending invitations that way.

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