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Hey, Management Guy! My Staff Is Getting Cut; Do I Need to Be Around When It Happens?

October 23, 2009
Hey, Management Guy! My company has been doing big layoffs. This has been a huge trauma for everyone because the company is known for coddling and indulging its workforce, and layoffs were never, ever something you had to worry about. Well, now it’s time for the cuts to hit my staff, and frankly, I’m just not into having to be the bearer of bad news, especially since some of those getting let go are senior members of my staff. Can I avoid this bad scene altogether, perhaps by just conveniently going on vacation when the dirty deed is done?     --Don in Detroit Don: Doing tough stuff is part of the drill when you accept a management gig, pure and simple. And nothing is tougher than having to fire people or lay off members of your staff. No manager in their right mind enjoys this process (unless you’re in the senior management ranks at Tribune Co., of course, but that’s a different story), but it is part and parcel of what ALL managers do. And any manager who crows about never having had to fire anyone--as a bald-headed baboon of a manager that your Management Guy used to work for frequently did--is just not much of a manager at all. I’ve seen a lot of tricks pulled to get around this process, including firing people via e-mail (a cowardly stunt, of course) or bringing in an outside consultant to handle the dirty work (as Jerry Yang at Yahoo once famously did). But, all stuff like that does is further demoralize workers who are left after the layoffs because it dehumanizes what is already a pretty inhuman process, anyway. If you get paid the big bucks to be a manager, you gotta be able to handle both good and bad. That means having the huevos grandes to let people on your staff go, if and when it ever comes to that. In other words, buck up and don’t be a wimp--unless you’re Graydon Carter, of course. He’s the longtime editor of Condé Nast’s Vanity Fair magazine, and he decided to go on vacation when the companywide cutbacks finally hit his staff, according to the New York Post. “Vanity Fair … took some of the deepest staff cuts at Condé Nast, but Editor Graydon Carter didn’t deliver the bad news himself,” the Post reported. “Although Carter was said to have been at his restaurant, The Monkey Bar (Note from The Management Guy: How can some schlub editor afford to own a restaurant?), Wednesday night, he was a no-show in the office yesterday because he had jetted off on a vacation.” The Post also added this little tidbit: “Vanity Fair’s layoffs were said to be in the double-digit range, and hit as high as senior editors and as low as fact checkers, and were deep, in part, because Carter largely ignored the edict to chop 5 percent late last year.” So, Graydon Carter first ignores a corporate edict to cut costs, then runs out on vacation when his staff is getting whacked? Here’s a piece of advice for Condé Nast senior execs from The Management Guy: You would do well to let Mr. Carter permanently retire to managing his Monkey Bar when he returns from vacation, because he’s completely worthless as a manager, especially one you can count on when things get rough. And that, Don, is what you should always remember: If you can’t handle the tough work of being a manager--like layoffs and staff cuts--you have no business being a manager at all. Yes, you may work in management or flatter yourself with a management title, but if you can’t look your co-workers in the eye and do the dirty deed when it needs to be done, you’re just a manager wanna-be. And in these tough economic times, those are the very first people who should be shown the door. --The Management Guy Get my latest blog updates on human resource, HR and workforce management news by following me on Twitter.