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'Synergy-related headcount restructuring' and other euphemisms

By jkameleon ·

'Synergy-related headcount restructuring' and other euphemisms for 'you're fired'

By Paul McNamara on Tue, 11/11/2008 - 12:01pm.

JoblessEven the word layoff is a euphemism, when you think about it. Yes, it can serve to draw a distinction between budget-based and performance-based termination, but not many laid-off workers get recalled to their old jobs these days; "laid off" pretty much means you're fired.

And while certainly nothing new, the art of dodging plain English when it comes to describing mass firings continues to advance, so to speak, as the ongoing economic crisis piles mass firings one on top of another. For example, here's a headline on a press release forwarded to me this morning: "Nokia Siemens Networks enters final stage of synergy-related headcount restructuring."

"Hi, honey, I'm afraid I have bad news: I've been synergy-related headcount restructured."

A tone-deaf Nokia Siemens public relations department even goes so far as to put the mealy-mouthed words on the lips of company CEO Simon Beresford-Wylie: "With the successful completion of these plans, we will have the vast majority of the synergy-related headcount reductions completed and we can then start to put this chapter of our history behind us and focus on creating a world-class company."

A world-class company might start by referring to 3,000 individuals about to become jobless as people instead of "headcount," and their company-imposed trauma as a business decision instead of an inalienable force of nature.

After reading the Nokia Siemens release, I set off searching for other recent examples of companies resorting to euphemism (itself a euphemism for BS here) instead of calling layoffs layoffs. That didn't take long because the first item I found on Google News was this story posted today in Fortune by Yi-Wyn Yen, who had the same idea only sooner.

Among the examples noted in that story are American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault's use of "reengineering plan" (7,000 layoffs) and Fidelity Investment's Rodger Lawson resorting to "cost improvement plans" (1,300 fired).

The Fortune story also features business management experts unabashedly defending the practice.

"When you're doing something bad to someone, it helps to use vague language to distance yourself," says one expert.

And then this: "Companies have to reassure the people who are left that there's a plan in place. ... People see through what executives say, but what unnerves people the most is believing that nobody has control over anything."

So let me get this straight: Seeing your CEO spew obvious BS -- insulting BS, no less -- creates a sense that he wasn't personally responsible and that someone is in charge?

Actually, it tells me that someone doesn't care all that much ... and thinks I'm an idiot.

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Companies trade value = confidence

by road-dog In reply to 'Synergy-related headcoun ...

These guys spew terms like this because potential stockholders often don't get it. Better to hide behind a euphemism than to tell potential stock value inflating buyers that the company is in trouble.

I don't think that they think riffed employees are fooled by it, but a little obfuscation goes a long way on a heavy news day.

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Does it help though

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Companies trade value = c ...

I mean you'd have to be a total moron or a self deluded fool, not to see through something like this. Let's face it heavy investors don't usually fall in to these two categories.
This is management face saving pure and simple.

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Ameteur day traders and journalists

by road-dog In reply to Does it help though

fall for this stuff. The cynical, the alert, and the wary can detect BS by the stirring in the force.

It's like detective Frank Drebin telling the crowd "nothing to see here, move along" whilst the fireworks factory explodes behind him.

If a CEO can get the press conference over with before the audience figures out what he just said, then he doesn't have to answer 50 more questions like "how many of those jobs could be saved if not for your 7 figure bonus"?

Baffle them with BS and get your *** in the limo before they realize they've been snookered. That way you're not a sound byte on the morning news while the reporters are waiting for the markets to open.

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We have a very good reason

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to 'Synergy-related headcoun ...

for letting you go, and I'm sure once you moved on you'll join us in wishing our every success, especially for your remaining colleague and the forty strong management team who have to cope with sharing him.

"When you're doing something bad to someone, it helps to use vague language to distance yourself," says one expert.


When down sizing became right sizing the trend was set.

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Scott Adams was wrong

by Ed Woychowsky In reply to We have a very good reaso ...

"Happy-sizing" was suppose to be next on the list.

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