Firing employees over email is becoming a bit too common.
A long opinion piece in the New York Times points the finger at a regrettable but increasingly common practice in large US companies.
When Google elected to lay off 6% of its workforce earlier this month in one fell swoop, tens of thousands of employees received the dire news by email. Almost none of them had been contacted by their manager, let alone by human resources — a decidedly human practice, which until a few years ago was taken for granted even in large US companies.
According to an article published by the New York Times, many of the laid-off employees had been with Google for more than 10 years. As a sign of thanks for their years of seniority, the company they worked for chose to give them the news of their dismissal with an impersonal email with fake cordial tones.
“It is a practice that is becoming, in a disturbing way, increasingly common among large American corporations, even those that love to tell and tell themselves that they have created a human community, even before a workplace”, continues the article in the New York Times. Google isn’t the only company to fire thousands of employees with one email. Amazon , Twitter , Meta and Vox have followed suit.
Informing dismissed employees individually is now perceived as too long and complicated, as well as potentially dangerous.
More and more HR experts are advising their managers to do this. Informing dismissed employees individually is now perceived as too long and complicated, as well as potentially dangerous . Managers are terrified that employees who are notified of their termination might decide to hack into systems to sabotage the company before being ushered out. A risk that is almost eliminated when employees are fired simultaneously with a single impersonal email: their company accounts are deactivated before they can even read the message. Even just writing a rant (or a greeting to colleagues) on Slack becomes impossible.
Elizabeth Spiers, who is a New York Times columnist and founder of Gawker, says she has had to hire and fire hundreds of people over more than 21 years, but she finds this approach extremely cruel and unnecessary. “Suspending the worker’s accounts may be justified, but warning him by email and not in person only serves to free the managers from any responsibility,” she explains. “It’s a reassurance that only white-collar workers need, that they won’t have to put up with the shocked faces or tears of their now former employees.”
We expect an employee to give at least two weeks notice before leaving and also help the company make the transition as easy as possible, this is because there is a growing belief that the employee owes the company more than just their time and of his work: stability, continuity and perhaps even gratitude for the salary he receives. Yet, when the company chooses to terminate the employment relationship, this expectation does not exist. The same people who helped grow your company through their work suddenly become potential criminals suspected of sabotaging or stealing something writes Spiers.
According to the author of the article, it would be precisely this increasingly cynical and dehumanizing side of the large American tech companies that has brought trade union membership to an all-time high. An unusual fact in the history of the United States.