ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - July 2001


Issue Highlight — Turnabout Is Fair Play
- Take a look back at one of Peter Block's best columns as he helps bridge the gap between employee and manager and offers his invaluable "Employee Manifesto."

 In This Issue...
Getting Back To Basics
Change Of Space
Banking On Quality
Is Your Quality Process "Running On Empty?"

Recommended By A Friend

Peter Block Column
Views for a Change

Brief Cases

Return to NFC Index

   Brief Cases        Highlights of the Latest Business News

Waiting for the Next Move

As news of massive corporate downsizing continues to dominate many of today’s headlines, a recent study appearing on indicates that many employees, especially those working for companies already going through one round of layoffs, should not yet feel they have dodged the bullet.

   In a study conducted by Unifi Network, a subsidiary of PricewaterhouseCoopers, of 114 companies polled, approximately 50 percent have made personnel cuts in the past 18 months. Another noteworthy finding shows that of those companies already in the process of laying off workers, 50 percent of them plan to make additional cuts over the next 18 months.

   When further broken down the study found the manufacturing industry has been hit hardest and a reported 61 percent have made or plan to make cutbacks in the future. The not-for-profit sector has been the most protected, with only 8 percent considering downsizing.

   Todd McGovern, director of Unifi Network’s compensation practice, offers this piece of advice: “Executives and other employees need to educate themselves about their company’s severance policies so that they are financially prepared if the ball drops and they are let go.”

Beware of Bullies

Most of today’s workers have grown out of their grade school selves into well-mannered adults. These career-minded individuals rarely think back to the days on the school playground when bullies harassed them. They’ll never encounter that childish, intimidating behavior in the workplace—or will they?

   According to, many employees are forced to relive those distant childhood memories on a daily basis. “Bullies may be older, better dressed and craftier now, but they are just as mean and destructive.”

   Although awareness of the trend remains low, a study conducted by Wayne State University shows that 21.5 percent of all employees have been bullied in some way during the past 12 months. Many people aren’t conscious of these actions because they are highly denied and generally misunderstood. These victims are, “easy to manipulate, exploit and control—and bullies are attracted by vulnerable people.”

   The only way to stop a bully is to spot one. According to a survey conducted by the Campaign Against Workplace Bullying, Benicia, Calif., bullies can often be spotted blaming others for errors, criticizing the abilities of others, threatening job loss, yelling, screaming and stealing credit for others’ work.

   Perhaps this sounds familiar to you, but you don’t consider it bullying. “We’ve all been snapped at or ignored by a coworker or boss who is under pressure or in a bad mood. Bullying cuts deeper, however.” If you happen to be one of the unfortunate who work in this unpleasant situation, remember that you have outlets. It is harassment like any other and should be treated accordingly.


Keep Coming Back

While the negative effects of corporate layoffs are countless, many employers have proactively initiated programs to counteract future problems. Having already learned from the economic upswing of the late 1990s that finding valuable, talented employees can sometimes be harder than it seems, many companies have begun offering “stick around initiatives” to avoid running into this situation again.

   According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, these initiatives represent organizations’ attempt to not fully cut ties with valuable employees. Instead, they have offered a variety of alternatives to seeking employment elsewhere. This way valuable workers can be rehired when the economy gets back on its feet.
Among companies participating in these strategies, Cisco Systems Inc., San Jose, Calif., proposes its laid-off employees forgo their severence package and spend a year working for one of the nonprofit organizations associated with Cisco while receiving one-third of their salary.

   Texas Instruments in Dallas approached the situation with a different solution. They decided to “lend” employees to vendors for up to eight months, after which time the employees will hopefully be hired back. The vendors reimburse Texas Instruments and agree they will not offer any permanent placement for the temporary workers.

   While many laid-off employees are jumping at the chance to take advantage of these new strategies, some are hesitant about the actual benefits. From concerns centered around losing their technological edge to questioning whether this is an easy way for companies to get out of paying severence packages, questions remain. And it’s important to remember employment is not guaranteed when these “sabbaticals” end. Bob Atkins, a vice president at Mercer Management Consulting, Lexington, Mass., notes, “The skill sets you may need when the recession is over could be quite different than the ones you are letting go of now.”

An Investment in Training

In these current, troubling economic times, many organizations are pulling back the reins on spending. Even purchasing an extra paper clip or two can be a catastrophic financial error. Although that may be an exaggeration, the truth is clear—many of today’s corporations are penny-pinching, and that behavior can lead nowhere.

   One of the most prevalent victims in this money battle is training. According to an article published on, Dr. Donald Wetmore contends that many companies see training as a cost they cannot afford to pay. However, as Dr. Wetmore says, “Training is not a cost. It’s an investment. What’s relevant is what we get in return.”

   That return is not only great in theory, but is also quantifiable. If a person earning $50,000 per year wastes one hour every day at work on something remediable by training, that hour costs the organization $6,250 per year. “If you can help them re-capture that one hour per day, the training will pay back that $6,250,” says Dr. Wetmore. “Now imagine if 25 people involved in the same training receive similar benefits. Now the return is $156,250 per year.”

   And the time for this training is easier to find than most people think—just look at the big picture. “Three days out of five is 60 percent of the week, and that would be a big expense,” says Dr. Wetmore. “But three days out of 365 is a drop in the bucket. The payback on the investment of three days is over 250 hours just in the next year.”

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