The New Rules of Layoffs | Kanebridge News
Kanebridge News
Share Button

The New Rules of Layoffs

Executives weigh the best way to let people go

Wed, Apr 5, 2023 8:34amGrey Clock 3 min

When McDonald’s Corp. said it would temporarily close its U.S. offices as it conducts layoffs at the burger chain, it brought renewed attention to a debate swirling inside HR departments: What is the best way to let people go?

The question is taking on urgency as more U.S. companies, from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to Inc., move to shed staff in a wave of layoffs that is heavily concentrated on white-collar jobs.

When it comes to carrying out those cuts, companies employ a range of approaches designed to minimise the pain and disruption of a difficult process.

Here are six of the questions employers face.

All at once or a little at a time?

Many companies grapple with whether to make one sweeping layoff or do a series of smaller cuts. Both carry risks.

At a time when employers still face challenges filling positions, large job cuts can lead companies to inadvertently cut key units or people, executives say.

Yet, taking it slowly to give a company time to assess its financial situation can take a human toll, creating a prolonged period of anxiety and instability inside an organisation. has enacted more job cuts than expected in recent weeks, announcing last month that it would cut 9,000 more corporate jobs following earlier layoffs.

Face time or FaceTime?

Bosses long believed delivering the bad news face-to-face was the more humane approach. Covid-19 changed the equation. While many workers are being called back to the office, at least part time, full office attendance remains rare. Some executives are now asking themselves whether it is actually easier—and more humane—for employees to learn about a layoff on Zoom versus in-person.

“It almost seems cruel to ask someone to commute into the office just to let them go,” said Andy Challenger, senior vice president at outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Midweek or Friday?

Just as with in-person firings, the conventional wisdom was Friday was the best day to carry out a layoff. That gave employees the weekend to process the news and plan their next steps.

That thinking has shifted. Many employers now see a midweek announcement as more humane, according to Lorna Hagen, a longtime chief people officer. A layoff on a Wednesday, Ms. Hagen said, can give employees time to talk to HR representatives or benefits providers during business hours in the ensuing days.

It’s not you—it’s me

One mistake managers continue to make, HR professionals say, is to tell employees how hard it is to let them go. “That just hits people the wrong way,” said Mr. Challenger. “It’s not about you.” The latest wave of layoffs often has felt like a competition among CEOs over who could craft the best apology.

Many executives have turned to lengthy memos to explain why they resorted to layoffs. Some of those notes look “suspiciously similar” across different companies, said Paul A. Argenti, professor of corporate communication at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. He recommends that managers be as transparent as possible with employees about the health of a business so that no one is surprised when layoffs are announced.

Multiple months of pay, or less?

The size of exit packages is also up for debate. At the very least, companies should give laid-off employees a month of severance pay, corporate advisers say, though a number of employers have offered more. When Salesforce Inc. said in January that it would lay off employees, Marc Benioff, the company’s co-founder and chief executive, told workers that those in the U.S. would receive a minimum of nearly five months of pay, health insurance and other benefits.

Some smaller companies have received pushback from employees for not accelerating stock-vesting dates or for issuing severance packages that some saw as underwhelming. HR advisers recommend that companies be as generous as possible with exit packages. In an era when employees can easily sound off on a company even when they are being fired, it is also a best practice to develop a severance policy that can be defended.

OK, now who goes?

One of the last, toughest parts of any downsizing: determining who should be let go. The process of developing a layoff list is complicated and can stretch for weeks, with department heads and managers often debating which employees to eliminate. Seniority once guided layoffs, though it is now far more common for companies to assess skills over tenure, and to heavily consider someone’s recent performance.

HR officials will then often scrub a list, wanting to ensure that a company isn’t disproportionately laying off workers over the age of 40, or unfairly targeting minorities and others. Even with much preparation, many veteran HR leaders say layoffs can be messy. “There is no good way to do this,” said Gregory DeLapp, who spent much of his career in HR at the steel and materials manufacturer Carpenter Technology Corp.


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

Related Stories
Italy, Land of Uncollected Garbage, Combines Running With Trash Pickup
By ERIC SYLVERS 04/10/2023
Jean Arnault Has New Goals for Louis Vuitton Watches. Profit Isn’t One of Them.
By NICK KOSTOV 03/10/2023
Love Patterns? Try This Design Trick to Pull Any Room Together
By KATE MORGAN 02/10/2023
Italy, Land of Uncollected Garbage, Combines Running With Trash Pickup

At the World Plogging Championship, contestants have lugged in tires, TVs and at least one Neapolitan coffee maker

Wed, Oct 4, 2023 4 min

GENOA, Italy—Renato Zanelli crossed the finish line with a rusty iron hanging from his neck while pulling 140 pounds of trash on an improvised sled fashioned from a slab of plastic waste.

Zanelli, a retired IT specialist, flashed a tired smile, but he suspected his garbage haul wouldn’t be enough to defend his title as world champion of plogging—a sport that combines running with trash collecting.

A rival had just finished the race with a chair around his neck and dragging three tires, a television and four sacks of trash. Another crossed the line with muscles bulging, towing a large refrigerator. But the strongest challenger was Manuel Jesus Ortega Garcia, a Spanish plumber who arrived at the finish pulling a fridge, a dishwasher, a propane gas tank, a fire extinguisher and a host of other odds and ends.

“The competition is intense this year,” said Zanelli. Now 71, he used his fitness and knack for finding trash to compete against athletes half his age. “I’m here to help the environment, but I also want to win.”

Italy, a land of beauty, is also a land of uncollected trash. The country struggles with chronic littering, inefficient garbage collection in many cities, and illegal dumping in the countryside of everything from washing machines to construction waste. Rome has become an emblem of Italy’s inability to fix its trash problem.

So it was fitting that at the recent World Plogging Championship more than 70 athletes from 16 countries tested their talents in this northern Italian city. During the six hours of the race, contestants collect points by racking up miles and vertical distance, and by carrying as much trash across the finish line as they can. Trash gets scored based on its weight and environmental impact. Batteries and electronic equipment earn the most points.

A mobile app ensures runners stay within the race’s permitted area, approximately 12 square miles. Athletes have to pass through checkpoints in the rugged, hilly park. They are issued gloves and four plastic bags to fill with garbage, and are also allowed to carry up to three bulky finds, such as tires or TVs.

Genoa, a gritty industrial port city in the country’s mountainous northwest, has a trash problem that gets worse the further one gets away from its relatively clean historic core. The park that hosted the plogging championship has long been plagued by garbage big and small.

“It’s ironic to have the World Plogging Championship in a country that’s not always as clean as it could be. But maybe it will help bring awareness and things will improve,” said Francesco Carcioffo, chief executive of Acea Pinerolese Industriale, an energy and recycling company that’s been involved in sponsoring and organizing the race since its first edition in 2021. All three world championships so far have been held in Italy.

Events that combine running and trash-collecting go back to at least 2010. The sport gained traction about seven years ago when a Swede, Erik Ahlström, coined the name plogging, a mashup of plocka upp, Swedish for “pick up,” and jogging.

“If you don’t have a catchy name you might as well not exist,” said Roberto Cavallo, an Italian environmental consultant and longtime plogger, who is on the world championship organizing committee together with Ahlström.

Saturday’s event brought together a mix of wiry trail runners and environmental activists, some of whom looked less like elite athletes.

“We like plogging because it makes us feel a little less guilty about the way things are going with the environment,” said Elena Canuto, 29, as she warmed up before the start. She came in first in the women’s ranking two years ago. “This year I’m taking it a bit easier because I’m three months pregnant.”

Around two-thirds of the contestants were Italians. The rest came from other European countries, as well as Japan, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Algeria, Ghana and Senegal.

“I hope to win so people in Senegal get enthusiastic about plogging,” said Issa Ba, a 30-year-old Senegalese-born factory worker who has lived in Italy for eight years.

“Three, two, one, go,” Cavallo shouted over a loudspeaker, and the athletes sprinted off in different directions. Some stopped 20 yards from the starting line to collect their first trash. Others took off to be the first to exploit richer pickings on wooded hilltops, where batteries and home appliances lay waiting.

As the hours went by, the athletes crisscrossed trails and roads, their bags became heavier. They tagged their bulky items and left them at roadsides for later collection. Contestants gathered at refreshment points, discussing what they had found as they fueled up on cookies and juice. Some contestants had brought their own reusable cups.

With 30 minutes left in the race, athletes were gathering so much trash that the organisers decided to tweak the rules: in addition to their four plastic bags, contestants could carry six bulky objects over the finish line rather than three.

“I know it’s like changing the rules halfway through a game of Monopoly, but I know I can rely on your comprehension,” Cavallo announced over the PA as the athletes braced for their final push to the finish line.

The rule change meant some contestants could almost double the weight of their trash, but others smelled a rat.

“That’s fantastic that people found so much stuff, but it’s not really fair to change the rules at the last minute,” said Paul Waye, a Dutch plogging evangelist who had passed up on some bulky trash because of the three-item rule.

Senegal will have to wait at least a year to have a plogging champion. Two hours after the end of Saturday’s race, Ba still hadn’t arrived at the finish line.

“My phone ran out of battery and I got lost,” Ba said later at the awards ceremony. “I’ll be back next year, but with a better phone.”

The race went better for Canuto. She used an abandoned shopping cart to wheel in her loot. It included a baby stroller, which the mother-to-be took as a good omen. Her total haul weighed a relatively modest 100 pounds, but was heavy on electronic equipment, which was enough for her to score her second triumph.

“I don’t know if I’ll be back next year to defend my title. The baby will be six or seven months old,” she said.

In the men’s ranking, Ortega, the Spanish plumber, brought in 310 pounds of waste, racked up more than 16 miles and climbed 7,300 feet to run away with the title.

Zanelli, the defending champion, didn’t make it onto the podium. He said he would take solace from the nearly new Neapolitan coffee maker he found during the first championship two years ago. “I’ll always have my victory and the coffee maker, which I polished and now display in my home,” he said.

Contestants collected more than 6,600 pounds of trash. The haul included fridges, bikes, dozens of tires, baby seats, mattresses, lead pipes, stoves, chairs, TVs, 1980s-era boomboxes with cassettes still inside, motorcycle helmets, electric fans, traffic cones, air rifles, a toilet and a soccer goal.

“This park hasn’t been this clean since the 15 century,” said Genoa’s ambassador for sport, Roberto Giordano.


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

Related Stories
Americans Are Still Spending Like There’s No Tomorrow
By RACHEL WOLFE 03/10/2023
Interest rates stay on hold – for now
Friday on my mind: The workers avoiding the CBD
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop