If you currently have a job, congratulations: you’re in a “go ahead” role. If you lose your job, I’m sorry: you’re no longer in a position to move forward.
It’s not you. This is the structure of moving forward.
This summer, a term sometimes used in the world of mergers and acquisitions to describe the fates of employees following a deal has entered the mainstream vocabulary of layoffs.
“Today we shared the difficult news with 54 of our team members (representing 15 percent of our team) that they are no longer in senior positions with the company,” Mom Project, a digital talent marketplace, wrote in a LinkedIn post. in July.
After two months, Compass, a real estate brokerage, used the term in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, saying, “The company believes it is in a position to reduce its future technology investments given the maturity of the company’s technology platform.” As a result, the company wrote, it will lay off workers in its product and engineering groups.
Layoff euphemisms—including “right-sizing” and “downsizing”—abstract the painfully human process, said Roger Lee, creator of Layoffs.fyi, a site that tracks layoffs in the tech industry. Employers often refer to downsizing roles Not the employees, he said, and such language could “dehumanize the whole process.”
While a strong labor market has been one of the bright spots in this troubled economy, some industries, including banking and technology, have planned or completed layoff cycles.
Layoffs.fyi estimates that more than 90,000 workers have been laid off at about 700 tech companies this year.
“We should have clearly said and used the word ‘layoff,'” Saana Hunt, president of the Mom Project, said in an interview, reflecting on her company’s LinkedIn message. “It was a poor decision in an attempt to soften the blow for the injured team members.” (A spokeswoman for Compass declined to comment.)
Mark Herndon, chairman of the M&A Leadership Council, agreed that talking about layoffs is difficult. “It makes even the most fearless leaders buckle at the knees,” he said, adding, “I think it makes most leaders tap dance and be too opaque for their own good when talking about this topic.”
The language surrounding layoffs becomes even more complicated in the current economy as companies balance labor shortages with warnings of an imminent recession. Most companies “don’t know if they’re firing or hiring,” said Peter Cappelli, professor and director of the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
“They don’t want to say ‘layoff,'” Cappelli added, “because it’s associated with a company in trouble.” In this way, they are trying to convey that they are simply becoming more efficient.
“You can tell a believable story about anything,” he said.