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Monday, December 15, 2008

Yahoo!'s leaked layoff memo

Check out this leaked copy of the instructions Yahoo! sent to managers for conducting their 1,500 layoffs last week (courtesy of Valleywag).

There's much to cringe at here, but I think the worst is this: "Yahoo! will not ask for reimbursement from the employee on any repayment obligations (relocation, sign-on bonus), provided the employee signs the Supplemental Release."

So apparently if someone chooses not to sign the release (which, for those who haven't had the lovely experience of dealing with layoffs, is a form releasing the company from any legal claims, generally required to be signed before severance pay is released), they'd need to repay relocation expenses? After getting laid off. Lovely.

I'm (sometimes) sympathetic to businesses that need to conduct layoffs. It sucks, and sometimes it's unavoidable. But it's probably the most important time to go out of your way not to be an ass. Yahoo! forgot.


Evil HR Lady said...

I agree that relo, tuition, sign on's etc should not be subject to a release, but otherwise I don't think Yahoo did a bad job.

Things like the length of the meeting, not owning the employee's feelings, saying the decision is final are all things I would say as well.

There is no way to do a layoff that won't invoke criticism.

HR Maven said...

Unless the employee is here on a H1b visa, in which the employer is responsible for providing transportation to the country of origin ... which Yahoo probably knows.

I believe that you see the true quality of leadership in situations like these. It gets an ok grade from me.

There is no good way to do this.

Rebecca said...

Holding bonuses and benefits hostage to the release is pretty shady, but I'm actually pretty impressed by some of the memo, particularly the Dos and Don'ts list. However, "Right Management" is a very scary name. I'm not sure I'd feel very good being introduced to Right Management. Is it an effort to convince me that getting laid off is the Right Thing, or is it just Yahoo telling me that I've been under the Wrong Management this whole time?

Anonymous said...

Right Management is a career counseling and placement company that works with people on updating their resume, interview skills, and can even do testing to help people determine their best career choice. We've had to conduct layoffs and we used Right Management and were very impressed. No one wants to go through a layoff, but I think it's great that companies try to help the affected employees find new jobs.

Rebecca said...

Oh okay -- I was under the impression that Right Management was the name Yahoo had given to some kind of internal team.

Still a creepy name though.

Anonymous said...

the release is a standard Silicon Valley layoff practice, don't see what the big deal is there

still, Yahoo has been a mismanaged POS company since Terry Semel was hired 8 yrs ago, and Jerry Yang embarrassed the company a lot worse than the Valleywag leak with his public negotiations with MSFT

Wally Bock said...

If I understand the Yahoo situation correctly, they brought in Bain to help them figure out what to do and Right to handle the layoffs. But they've still got Jerry Yang playing CEO and no discernable strategy.

Ask a Manager said...

Okay, you guys are right; it's pretty standard (aside from implying they're willing to make laid-off people repay relocation and bonuses). But there's something about it that rubs me the wrong way -- the almost upbeat tone maybe? I'm not sure.

Wally Bock said...

Yes, it's true that what's there is pretty standard. But that doesn't mean that there isn't something wrong with it. My thought is that it's more than a little distressing that people who were valued team members yesterday now are treated as potential litigants and nothing else. Note that everyone is described as a "valued member of our team" but there are no specifics. This is happening at a company that has pretty consistently managed itself into a hole and is being run by a person who may be the single least-qualified CEO on planet Earth. Then you bring in two consulting firms, one to decide about whether to lay people off and another to help them out the door with a promise not to sue. I don't know about you, but that strikes me as truly crappy, whether it's standard or not.

Just another HR lady... said...

I think it's just a sign of being a very large company doing layoffs, I didn't see anything out of the ordinary there, pretty standard. Unfortunately, the larger you get, the more impersonal it gets. I've planned and managed layoffs with 750 employees nationally, and I can't imagine the logistics of 1500 or more. In a situation that large, it's almost impossible to personally counsel every single manager on how to handle the situation and to ensure that the legal issues are kept to a minimum, so you would have to put together a "layoff guide".

Everyone's emotions are high during this type of situation, including the managers, and it's easy to get off track if you don't have some kind of prepared script. I don't think that there is any point in pretending that this or any company would not try to protect itself from litigation, regardless of how many people are being laid-off. It just looks stark and impersonal seeing it written down.

I do have to admit however that I'm not partial to sending someone over to a stranger right away (i.e. career counsellor) and then telling them to pack their things and leave immediately. After all, they're not getting fired, it's a layoff. I realize they are trying to minimize the disruption to employees who are not being laid off and protect their assets, but there are going to be issues no matter what you do...not everyone is going to stick around for the whole process of the day, and not everyone is going to just sit there calmly and listen to your speech or go to the career counsellor when you ask, sorry, we're all human.

A couple of things they did leave out in my opinion:
-who to talk to about benefits, package, last pay, record of employment, applying for unemployment insurance, etc. after you leave the building. We only got a few pages of the memo, so perhaps it was on another page, or in the package.
-I can't imagine that they don't have an Employee Assistance Program? I would think people might need this more than a career counsellor immediately after being told they are laid off
-Nothing on how to manage the employees who are left behind, they are going to be hugely affected as well. Again, perhaps this was in the rest of the memo that we did not see.