– JET AIRWAYS - THE ULTIMATE FIASCO !
October 15 was a normal day for most Indians, but for 1,100 Jet Airways employees it was going to be
an unforgettable day for all the wrong reasons as they were asked to leave the company immediately as
the company was performing badly. The media went to town, breaking news and giving different counts
of the number of employees who had been asked to leave. The unwanted employees seem to be ‘last in’
into the company and are probably feeling the brunt of the global downturn and have been ‘first out’ of
the company’s rolls.
However, one must give credit to the beleaguered employees who did not take all this lying down and
took to the streets, albeit in an orderly way, and demonstrated in front of every television camera and
media reporter in the country shouting slogans and asking for their jobs back. The obliging media
recorded every slogan and every interview, had a field day and ensured that the agitation was in the
news for the entire 24 hours of the day. To add fuel to the fire every politician got into the act, every
political party in the country (and we know the acute shortage of them at present) joined its voice in
support, trade unions found one more cause to rally around all, adding to the overall media mayhem.
Sacked staff's tears force Jet Airways boss into U-turn
"I could not sleep at night. I was mentally disturbed when I saw tears in their eyes. I apologise for all the
agony you went through," Jet chairman Naresh Goyal told a news conference in Mumbai late Thursday.
He said he had made a "personal decision... without any external pressure."
However, on Friday Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel claimed credit for Jet's U-turn.
Speaking in New Delhi, Patel said he had told Goyal that "in 24 hours, we must find a resolution to this
problem otherwise we in the ministry would certainly not be very happy with the approach of Jet Airways."
The "hire and fire" culture of the West is deeply frowned upon in India and many Indian companies are
reluctant to add new workers because of the difficulty in getting rid of them during financial downturns.
"I am happy that people have got back their jobs," said Patel who had earlier dismissed the job cuts as a
matter for the airline to decide.
The layoff announcement had come days after Jet announced a tie-up with its fierce rival Kingfisher
Airlines for an "operational alliance" including joint fuel management and ground handling.
PLIGHT OF EMPLOYEES IN JET AIRWAYS LAY OFF CASE
Many of those initially laid off were flight attendants and ground crew in their early 20s. Some
expressed worry about repaying bank loans they had taken to pay flight-training and cabin crew
One man, Jet purser Salim Suleiman, was on leave and heard he was to lose his job on his
wedding day. He had to return after the ceremony to hand in his uniform, badge and security
Those earlier dismissed took to the streets this week, many weeping at the unexpected sackings
two weeks ahead of the major Hindu festival Diwali -- a time when many in India spend heavily
PINK SLIP PHASE – SOON BECOMING A REALITY IN INDIA
The dreaded pink slip is becoming commonplace even in India, where, traditionally, people
were safe in their jobs. Rightsizing, downsizing, sacking, job cuts or layoffs are happening
Job cuts may be necessary but given the weak laws and absence of social security, it’s important for
firms to talk to employees, even help them find Jobs. The global financial meltdown is taking its toll on
Indian companies. Many are resorting to layoffs to cut costs and sustain business.
The largest domestic private air carrier Jet Airways (India) Ltd, for instance, laid off 27 expatriate pilots
recently. In October, the carrier had announced it would cut 1,900 jobs but had to reverse its decision
following employee protests and government concerns over the mass layoff.
New York-based credit cards and travel services firm American Express Co., or AmEx, has begun
downsizing its workforce in India as part of its worldwide effort to cut costs. Around 120 to 150
employees are likely to lose their jobs as a result. A day after the news of layoffs at American Express
India on 3 November, mobile handsets maker Motorola Inc. announced its India operations would face
job cuts as part of a plan to shed 3,000 jobs, or about 5% of its global workforce. There are several such
instances where companies have announced job cuts.
Why layoffs are a complicated and delicate issue India ???
Make no mistake: downsizing is extremely difficult. It taxes all of a management team's
resources, including both business acumen and humanity. No one looks forward to downsizing.
Perhaps this is why so many otherwise first-rate executives downsize so poorly. They ignore all
the signs pointing to a layoff until it's too late to plan adequately; then action must be taken
immediately to reduce the financial drain of excess staff.
The extremely difficult decisions of who must be laid off, how much notice they will be given,
the amount of severance pay, and how far the company will go to help the laid-off employee find
another job are given less than adequate attention. These are critical decisions that have as much
to do with the future of the organization as they do with the future of the laid-off employees.
To be sure, retrenchment is an immediate and effective way of reining in costs and providing financial
succour in difficult times and companies are well within their right to discharge employees if they need
to do so. But in the process, most employers tend to forget the sensitivities involved. “Letting people go
for the larger interest of business is only fair,” says Sanjay Bali, vice-president, human resources,
Samsung India Electronics Pvt. Ltd. “But one has to deal with it delicately.”
The employer-employee relationship in India is very different from that in the rest of the world, say
most human resource experts. Not only is there an emotional element involved, but our intricate social
structure and the lack of a legal framework that could protect both employer and employee in such
situations makes the process extremely complex.
“Here, retrenchment is not viewed the way it is in the West. There is a social taboo attached to job loss,”
says K. Raghavendra, vice-president and head, human resources, Infosys BPO Ltd. The company has
identified around 440 surplus employees in the last three months but hasn’t let them go because of
several such reasons.
Though gigantic global corporations, like Citigroup, have announced massive job cuts, Indians still view
lay-off as an unethical practice. Neither the political system nor the social ethos accepts lay-offs easily.
Fearing the global trend of job cuts spilling over to India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had, early this
month, urged industry leaders to refrain from large-scale lay-offs.
However, layoffs are still a comparatively tough job in India; employees get anxious and reactive, which
is not the case in the US, where employees digest and assimilate the news before taking any further
decision. But this could be because, in India, a support system for the retrenched individuals is totally
WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF LAY OFFS ON LAID OFF EMPLOYEES?
The laid off and non-renewed employee
Of course, the person most affected by a lay off is the person being let go. The trauma goes beyond
the concerns raised above. There is a loss of status, of belonging to the organization. Work provides
meaning for one’s life, connections to others, respect, affirmation.
Suddenly, the LO/NR person does not belong to the group, is an outsider. This person is angry, hurt,
engulfed in feelings of helplessness, rage, sadness, and loss. This person is uncertain about how to
behave in this new status. The temptation to fight or flight is apparent, frustration at feeling
vulnerable and angry at becoming the “other.”
There are stages or processes this person will need to go through in order to regain his or her
equilibrium. Ideally, this person will be recognized for their contributions to the organization and
will have their relationships celebrated. Those remaining in the workplace will express their regret
at the loss and offer support at this time of crisis.
WHAT SHOULD HR MANGER BEAR IN MIND WHILE DEALING WITH LAID
OFF EMPLOYEES ???
According to Srivastava of Datamatics, the message should never be abrupt or a bolt from the blue.
Neither should the HR team stoke rumours. The HR managers should tread with utmost sensitivity;
counsel the individual, understand and lend an ear to his or her problems, try their best to assist in
dealing with the situation. Like all bad news, breaking it is the worst part. The individual who is being
retrenched because of an economic downturn should be convinced that all options were exhausted
before the management resorted to this measure.
Experts believe constant communication by HR managers is vital in such times. And the best managers
are those whose employees are not completely taken by surprise by such an announcement.
“It is absolutely important for the HR person to be convinced of the scenario. He should not
just be parroting the companies‟ decision when doing the „bad‟ job,” says Arun Rao, Vice-
President, HR, AppLabs, a software testing firm. An employee‟s skills may prove useful
elsewhere in the company, the HR person should spot that.
Open communication with employees over a period of time, rather than abrupt termination,
works better. “Had the company sounded me off a month or so before laying me off, it
would have been much easier to find another job,” says Gupta, who now works as a
consultant to a PR agency.
“Employees should know the facts and should be engaged in finding solutions to reduce
costs,” says R Shankar, Executive Director, PricewaterhouseCoopers. The cost-cutting
should ideally begin only with slashing discretionary spends such as bonuses.
The job cuts at Jet could have been handled better. “It was the perceived anger that blew up
the entire episode. The management was caught napping,” says an HR consultant. Corporate
image may also suffer if employees are not treated with sensitivity. “The backlash from the
media, especially via social networking websites, makes it imperative that companies
manage such situations well,” says Anita Belani, Country Head, Right Management.
A common mistake committed by almost all managements is to start lay-offs or salary cuts
from the lowest rung. It should, in fact, be the reverse. If the CEO takes the first pay-cut,
he sets an example that would be less painful for others to follow.
The message should be that the laid-off employees were valuable and would be taken back
once the situation improves. “They should not feel unwanted or carry a feeling of being bad
workers. Since the talent pool will still be the same when good times return, it may not be
easy to attract top talent then,” Shankar of PwC says.
Sweetening the sour soup
SOFTENING THE BLOW
• Share the company’s plans with
employees. Layoffs should not come
as a surprise
• Extend departure dates. This gives
employees time to scout for alternate
jobs while on the rolls
• Be generous in notice pay. Go
beyond the stipulated payouts
• Tie up with outplacement
companies. They can help employees
find alternate jobs
• Provide company references to
employees to assist them in their
LAYOFF ALSO MEANS TAKING CARE OF SURVIVORS
The surviving employees :
The employees remaining in the workplace also experience considerable trauma during this time. First
of all, their security is seriously shaken. If this can happen to someone else, it can happen to me. Also,
there is a major disruption in the status quo; relationships are severed, work is redistributed with a
probable increase in everyone’s workload.
A great sense of disease sets in; people do not know how to behave. Surviving employees fear their own
lay off or non-renewal and are relieved to have a job, which produces confusion as to how to relate to
others in the workplace.
Helplessness is the enemy of high achievement. It produces a work environment of withdrawal,
risk-averse decisions, severely impaired morale, and excessive blaming. All of these put a
stranglehold upon an organization that now desperately needs to excel.
Demonstrate That You Value the Layoff Survivors After a Downsizing
If you are a manager, it is most important to reassure the people who report to you of their value
to you and the organization. You need to talk with each of them individually to let them know
why and how they are valued; tell them what you feel they contribute to your effective,
continuously improving work environment.
No matter how reassuring you or your executive leadership have been, believe me, on some
level, after layoffs, trust has been injured. Employees need reassurance about their security. They
need reassurance about why the people who were let go in the downsizing were chosen. They
need reassurance about their future.
You don’t want your layoff survivors feeling as if they are the victims. Because in many ways,
they may feel like victims. They may have more work to do; they may have different jobs to
learn; you may ask them to step up and take on higher level and broader responsibilities.
For some, this is exciting and career expanding. For others, depending on their life
circumstances, this may prove difficult. In a client university human resource department, one
person is now working at a staff assistance counter that was staffed by five just a couple of years
ago. You can bet she is feeling overworked and under-appreciated.
LAY OFF ENDS WITH STREAMLINING OF THE ENTIRE WORK
Look for ways to streamline current work. With fewer people, after layoffs, work with your customer to
identify the work processes that add the least value to the customer experience. Eliminate them.
Don’t Forget Trust and Emotions After Downsizing
You will need to work to restore trust. It is damaged. Whether it is the larger picture from the
company or losing a valued colleague during the layoffs, regardless of the relationship, trust is
injured. First, recognize that people are experiencing a loss. People will grieve even if they
recognize the changes are good for them and the organization for the long term.
When people have worked together, regardless of the relationship or perceived contribution, they
will experience the loss of their coworkers. You must allow them time and space to deal with
anger, loss and denial. You will even have some people who feel guilty that they were chosen to
remain after the layoffs. Recognize the gamut of emotions people, including yourself, will
experience. Cut yourself and the people you support some slack as you all say good-bye to the
past, and commit to the future.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION : FURTHER REFERENCE MATERIAL
How India's Dealing out The Pink Slips
The economic reality of the current financial crisis is starting to get
personal for working Indians. As little as three months ago working
Indians were under the impression that their jobs were safe and that
they were somehow insulated from the crisis. There was a general
perception that whatever was happening was happening in the US and
the UK and the only effect of the crisis on India was the drastic fall of its
benchmark stock market indices. That was until of course they too
started to lose their jobs.
Words like ‘layoffs’, ‘retrenchment’ and ‘cost cutting measures’ have
started doing the rounds in Indian firms. As we all know they’re
technical terms to indicate that many personnel will soon be out of a job.
Pink slips are being handed out to interns and entry level graduates as we speak. For companies this
isn’t going to be a major concern as these people have very little work experience.
The biggest challenges that companies are facing in India when it comes to laying off experienced and
skilled workers is the obvious backlash it can cause. As many know, jobs in India are understood from a
strict social sense and the economics of it is almost irrelevant.
When this starts to happen it also becomes a strict political issue. Just last month Jet
Airways made a major blunder by announcing that it was laying off 2,000 flight crew
and management. This created a perfect opportunity for every single national and
regional political party to make a huge roar about this. Things were about to get
violent when Naresh Goyal, the chairman of Jet Airways was forced to make an
apology and re-hire everyone he had just fired bang in the middle of the night.
The Jet fiasco has taught Indian companies to handle layoffs carefully. Many are playing safe and letting
people go in small numbers instead of firing all in a single swipe.
The above is slowly becoming a trend and is expected to be practiced
From a further political viewpoint, the official stance on layoffs has
been reflected in the statements of government officials including
the Finance Minister. They continue to maintain that jobs are going to decline but at a very small rate.
In order to enforce this perception the government even went ahead and pulled up a report from
ASSOCHAM (Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India) which had forecasted a near
25% of Industrial jobs being lost due to the crisis.
Under pressure ASSOCHAM quickly termed the report as ‘incorrect’ and buried it.
The way forward at least for Indian companies will be to cut salaries and expenditure. This has begun to
happen despite pressure from workers. Managements have made it clear that if somebody wants to
continue working for them, they’ll have to do it for lower salaries or risk losing their jobs.
Multinationals which have set up in India on the other hand continue to follow the traditional method of
firing people but as said earlier they’re doing it in small numbers over a period of time because they too
are facing government pressures to not layoff their workers.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Workplace Violence – Will we see more of it as the
Layoffs become Widespread?
Emotions are at its worst within the first few hours of receiving the news of a
layoff or on the news of being fired. It is at this point that some violent or
self-destructive emotions can arise in a person.
Many people are highly stressed in the current economic turmoil; financial
tensions, losing their houses already puts enough mental pressure on many
in the world these days and when the brutal strike comes if this person loses
his/her job - there is a high probability that such tremendous mental and
financial tension could result in a negative outburst and violence. Not that
most of us react in similar way but sure enough the instances are increasing.
In September this year fired Indian workers lynched CEO. Corporate India is
in shock after a mob of workers bludgeoned to death the chief executive who
sacked them from a factory in a suburb of Delhi.
Another recent tragic and shocking killing at SiPort by an employee fired the
same day of the killing brings forth some frightful workplace scenarios,
especially when the world economy takes on a nosedive every other week
and the layoffs are on the rise.
In April 2007, a gunman shot a hostage and himself at NASA's Johnson
Space Center, the reason was stated to be a bad performance review that
may have sparked the shooting.
Some serious training must go in for the HR and upper management personnel to carefully
analyze how employees must be notified of layoffs and firing. The financial tensions are high
everywhere and the best bet would be to use your best people’s skills to empathize with those
being terminated from the company and also do their best to protect those in such a decision-
Management must display emotional intelligence in handling such situations (layoffs,
downsizing, firing) which they are facing and would be facing over the next year or more. It
could be a tough year for most companies who have to layoff the workforce due to the
economic downturn and in their list of things to do to maintain stability of their shares and
meeting expectations, another item must be added: how to handle emotional situations at the
workplace and pay special attention in managing those in the layoff – paying more emphasis
being compassionate and coming up with a well-managed post-layoff package/assistance.
The end .