STAFFING: Mass layoffs and redundancies are not the only way for companies to reduce their staff numbers. A technique called “managing out” is becoming more and more widespread.
“Managing out” refers to the practice of making an employee’s working life difficult, or offering them a payout, so that they leave on their own. In the US, the method is known as “counselling out”.
US career coach Cynthia Shapiro says that one form of managing out involves performance improvement plans (PIPs). Companies send employees on PIP training programmes when they are not meeting the demands of their jobs. But many companies set demands unrealistically high, according to Shapiro.
“They’ll give you huge deadlines that you couldn’t possibly achieve,” she told the Financial Times. “Then they’ll write in a file that you’re not hitting your targets, and make it look like you’re not doing your job.” Shapiro says that employers may also try to make an unwanted staffer’s work life miserable by leaving them out of social events or not informing them of workplace developments. “They do a celebratory dinner but you’re not invited, or you’re not invited to meetings,” she explains.
"They'll give you huge deadlines and then say you're not hitting your targets." Cynthia Shapiro
Another way of getting rid of an employee is via a headhunter, who offers the employee another job, says Mike Phipps of the consultancy Politics at Work. “It’s very flattering for the individual, but the bait could have been set by their manager,” Phipps comments.
In Britain, workers are protected against unfair dismissal. But since 2013, employment legislation allows companies to have so-called “protected conversations” with their employees. “Those conversations are increasingly used as a convenient and informal mechanism of managing people out,” says Karen Seward, employment partner at the international law firm Allen & Overy. “Managers will say things like, ‘We could adopt a formal process, but we’d rather treat you with a bit more respect’.” Such conversations are often followed by a payout to encourage the employee to resign.