September 27, 2006
Terminated workers deserve better than
RadioShack laid off 400 employees by e-mail in Fort Worth,
Texas, in August. Is that leadership with integrity?
Treating human beings like inventory to be hired, used
and insensitively dismissed when no longer needed is
unprofessional and demonstrates a lack of leadership
How can e-mailed job terminations be justified? If there
were an award for being totally insensitive, RadioShack's
recent human resources actions would put them near
the top. Making decisions about profit objectives and
personnel needs is the responsibility of those in charge.
How those actions are carried out communicates the
quality and integrity of leadership. Such callousness
about people is an image that will stick with RadioShack
for a long time, probably discouraging all but the
most desperate from applying to work there.
What is even more fascinating
than the hideous decision to terminate 400 jobs electronically
is the pathetic implementation process provided by those
in human resources. After calling the employees to an
all-hands meeting and alerting attendees that lay-offs
would be announced online, those in human resources suggested
that any questions be communicated on RadioShack's intranet
site. Just a few days later, those in HR sent the following
e-mail message: "The workforce reduction
notification is currently in progress. Unfortunately, your position is one that
has been eliminated."
For those who behave like time is more important than
people, such methods appear appropriate. RadioShack
senior management has disconnected trust with communication.
Three minutes per person might not be sufficient for
an exit announcement, but basic decency should suggest
that the human touch is essential. The report about
the tenure of some who were laid-off suggests many were
Lessons to be learned:
- Downturns in income often reflect poor leadership,
including failed strategies and inadequate contingency
planning. Yes, emergencies and catastrophes do occur,
but even then, proper, prior planning prevents pathetically
- Wise leaders find ways of spreading the pain throughout
the organization, top to bottom, retaining valued employees.
- Valued employees will appreciate these constructive,
supportive and alternative efforts by management to
protect everyone. They will have been informed about
all of the issues that caused the crisis. Such candidness
and fairness can increase loyalty and commitment to
the organization and its mission.
- Challenges are opportunities to galvanize individuals
and teams - when integrity-centered organizational
attributes are perceived in how leaders operate with
character, honesty, openness, authority, partnership,
performance, charity and graciousness.
- Leadership with integrity relies on continually open,
forthright, personalized communication. Hiding behind
impersonal e-mails does not qualify.
Doing what is right (integrity) can lead to doing well.