OK, this may be a hard swallow for those of you not in the newspaper business, but for those who are, you must read this Ron Rosenbaum piece on the incursion of evil management consultants into our business:

To me, the pi�ce de r�sistance of the Raines essay�the anecdote that captures the true texture of management-guru culture�is his description of the elite management retreat in which a management-consultant guru painstakingly explains to Times executives the management-guru-approved method for firing people. …At this particular retreat, Mr. Raines tells us, the “coach and facilitator” announced the lesson for the day: “how to fire people.” The poor Times execs were coerced into dividing up into groups to role-play firing scenarios Or, as Mr. Raines puts it, the groups “practiced termination interviews.”

Note: “termination interviews.” Don�tcha love it? It�s hard to decide which is more absurd, the invention and use of that Orwellian euphemism, or the attempt to foist it on people whose business is supposed to be the honest use of words.

Anyway, Mr. Raines tells us, the “main precepts” communicated by the “termination” guru were “to sit directly facing the employee in a posture that indicated openness, receptivity�legs uncrossed, arms resting loosely on the arms of the chair. After saying to the person in a calm tone that he or she was being dismissed, and giving a brief, neutral explanation of the reason, we were to listen patiently while the employee vented freely. If he or she became angry, we were to say we understood the anger. At every turn we were to express personal sympathy but to offer no concessions. Once the soon-to-be-exiled worker realized the hopelessness of his or her situation, we were to collect the person�s identification card, if that could be accomplished without a wrestling match.” In other words: break them down, treat them like children and kick them out while disguising your contempt for them.

Posted at 9:03 am in Uncategorized |

8 responses to “Speechless.”

  1. Paul said on April 28, 2004 at 9:23 am

    Nancy–I do have to ask: Isn’t this better than somebody gruffly announcing “You’re fired, clean out your desk?” And my understanding from browsing business magazines and books is that corporations take the threat of disgruntled employees coming in and shooting up the place very seriously indeed….

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  2. Nance said on April 28, 2004 at 9:44 am

    Rosenbaum goes on to say lots of people think this is better than the old ways. But I guess I’d ask: Isn’t there a middle ground between these cynical, rehearsed scenes — which often follow a months-long campaign of passive aggression designed to produce this very result — and a public disgrace?

    The larger point is in the rest of the piece, which is: What, exactly, does this sort of training accomplish? Not just the how-to-fire-people stuff, but all the rest of it? In the Jack Kelley case, the staff had been questioning his preposterous stories for years, to no avail. If your training spends more time on “branding” than on, oh, “making sure the stories are factually accurate,” then there’s a good case to be made against it.

    I recall a story in my hometown alt-weekly about a management retreat at my old newspaper. This was an ice-breaker: People lined up against the wall and were told to step forward if they’d ever done a series of statements the “facilitator” read. It began with “I have fired someone” and soon spiraled into “I have slept with a co-worker” and “I have peed in the shower.”

    I mean: Ewwwwww.

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  3. Lex said on April 28, 2004 at 10:01 am

    There ain’t no good way to fire somebody. (I’ve tried a couple.)

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  4. John Ritter said on April 28, 2004 at 11:42 am

    Norm, The Terminator, was the best go to guy for firing employees ever!

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  5. ashley said on April 28, 2004 at 1:08 pm

    Norm’s good, but I prefer Dale Dribble of Arlen, Texas.

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  6. Rusty Shackleford said on April 28, 2004 at 1:48 pm

    Dale was too distracted by the roaches to concentrate on human (resources) termination.

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  7. Bob said on April 28, 2004 at 9:27 pm

    I think we should give consultants a special welcome at the airport. Have a couple of big guys in dark suits meet them, help them collect their baggage, and then invite them into the back seat of a black limo, and drive them out to a dark road by a landfill. There, they could have an earnest chat about small-town values like community and commitment and looking after one another’s best interests, and then offer the visitors a ride back to the airport.

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  8. Paul said on April 29, 2004 at 4:25 am

    “If your training spends more time on “branding” than on, oh, “making sure the stories are factually accurate,” then there’s a good case to be made against it.”


    “Ewwww” is normally my response to being asked to do anything team-building-ish, too.

    Just finished reading the whole piece, and in fact the only part I disagree with is the part you excerpted. Ah, well.

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