Friday Rant — Whom to Axe

Earlier today, I suggested some techniques for avoiding the axe in this economic downturn. In this post, I thought I'd make some suggestions on whom to axe. Now, for some, this might be a deeply personal subject. After all, making a decision about someone's livelihood is never easy. But maybe it doesn't have to be as difficult as you think. Especially after a few drinks. And even less so if you consider the need to save your own hide. After that second double of single malt scotch, things get easier. Trust us. So we'll dispense with grammatical correctness (e.g., 'who' rather than 'whom') and launch straight into hunting season. After all, even though organic turkeys cost 100 bucks, a good arrow still only costs 10. So let's align our sites.

First, go against the grain when it comes to looking at compensation as the first element in who gets shown the door. True, it's economical to select a few well-paid employees for the corporate guillotine over the rest. But these are the well-compensated team members who have often produced the best results (and pick up the bar tab). And even if they're not the best producers, at least they excel at self-promotion. This is key. After all, self-promotion trickles up as much as it trickles down. Just make sure they'll hold their own when the lackeys are gone.

Second, look for a few good bloodhounds. Younger grads are often willing to work that much harder in a downturn. Especially if they catch the scent of success for when the uptake begins -- and who wants to sleep all night anyway? They also serve other purposes as well. Like when it's a perfect time to kick the dog and dispel your frustrations. Middle managers, in contrast, often have those things called families to come home to at night and they don't take well to verbal floggings. They actually have the nerve to leave the office by 6:00 PM. So give 'em what they want -- more family time. And crack the whip on the young bloods you can keep awake past the Letterman hour.

Third, and I'm serious this time around, take advantage of the downturn to rid yourself of impending litigious deadweight magnets. You know, those serial sexual harassment types who are always looking to build a case against the company to save their pretty little derrières (aka chum). I'm not just picking on women here -- men are at least as culpable. But you get the point. In a layoff situation where dozens or hundreds of people are involved, you'll lessen the risk of expensive civil action. And don't forget to have Legal review the severance packages (I suppose they're good for something after all). But the good news is they'll be less likely to hold out on signing. They know that fluffy jobs are harder to come by in a recession and lawyers are less likely to take their case.

Fourth, retain the trust fund baby Ivy League types who couldn't cut it in the family business. They'll hang on no matter how many times you reduce their salaries and benefits. Besides, you won't be able to afford a vacation this summer and they'll be happy to take you to grandfather's compound on the lake. Heck, they'll be so glad you saved them the embarrassment of job hunting that they'll always pick up the tab on Friday afternoon.

Fifth, remember why you really saved those self-promoting types. Get down in the trenches and do the work that got you promoted to management in the first place, then task the smileys with writing perpetual reports to the CPO about how diligently everyone is pulling their weight in these tough times. Oh -- and this is good one -- if your office requires individual access and egress ID cards, get two replacement cards for yourself and give one to your designated early arriver and one to the person who stays the latest.

When the staff questions your integrity, respond with: "Don't axe me, I'm just trying to save your jobs." And then let them buy you a round once they realize how thankful they should really be.

- Jason Busch

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