NG blogger: “How about time-off instead of lay-offs?”

In the wake of the last week’s layoffs at NGM, we found this item — and found ourselves wondering: Who is Cameron? And where is he when we need him?

My Wonderful World blog
is part of a National Geographic-led initiative

to expand geographic learning in school, at home, and in communities.

How about time-off instead of lay-offs?

By Cameron on March 31, 2009 6:38 PM

… So that is the American way, I suppose: to let the unlucky few take the lay-off while the rest of the employees–and the company–prosper. Bewley seems to agree when he says that, “Businesspeople tend to believe that the best way to handle a business downturn is to maintain a core group of key employees, encourage its morale by giving raises and laying-off so many employees that those who remain have a little too much to do.”

But this is my question for you: Would you rather keep your job, get paid a little less and have some more free time? Or would you prefer to be laid off with the chance of finding a job that pays the same, if not more… but possibly less.

Personally, I would enjoy the shorter workweek and the smaller paycheck. I can learn to live frugally… and at least I would still have a job. Right?

Cameron’s “time off” idea might work – but only if NGM managers believed the Magazine’s current downturn was a temporary one. Put lots of folks on a 35-hour work week… slog through the downturn… weather the storm together… and then emerge to grow and prosper.

But if growth is no longer part of your game plan — and if down is the only direction you’re heading — then dumping a small group of people every year or so becomes your standard operating procedure.

(It’s also savvy management: Culling too many members of the herd at one time can cause a panic — or a stampede.)

Our prediction: Without a coherent plan for NGM (and we’re still waiting to hear one from you, Chris Johns), there will be more layoffs to come — sooner rather than later.

The only question is: Who’s next?

  • Theresa

    I would prefer to see executives at NG (including the magazine) take smaller paychecks, and delete bonuses and perks so that hard working, dedicated employees don’t have to be laid off (especially in this economy). The culling over the years has left some very lean divisions with employees working longer hours, a heavier work load, and sadly, outsourcing.

    With respect to “to let the unlucky few take the lay-off while the rest of the employees–and the company–prosper.” The Society and executives may prosper but the employees certainly do not.

    As far as “Businesspeople tend to believe that the best way to handle a business downturn is to maintain a core group of key employees, encourage its morale by giving raises and laying-off so many employees that those who remain have a little too much to do.” Raising morale by giving raises certainly is not the case at NG but giving those who remain a little too much work is a definite yes.

    As far as your question “Who’s next?” Only time will tell.

  • Concerned

    And who's getting raises (besides the elite few)? Theresa understates if anything.

  • Realtalk

    A changing media landscape demands a changing workforce, and as is routinely pointed out on this blog, a changing business model. If anything the Society may need to look more closely at its current employees and determine whether or not they have the necessary skills in order to compete in this new environment. Unfortunately the reality may be that many of these hard-working and loyal individuals might not be the right fit for where the organization needs to go in order to survive.

  • @Theresa: I'm with you. But I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for the pattern to change. It's about survival, especially in a media ecosystem that's not especially friendly to the Society's current business model.

    @Concerned: Theresa may understate, but that's okay. Society Matters is all about measured & constructive criticism, not overheated finger-pointing. We're here to help. … Then again, we're all ears about the nature & scope of Theresa's understatement. 🙂

    @Realtalk: I know that voice… but I just can't place it. In any case, thanks for stopping by. You bring up some great points — chilling, but worth considering nonetheless. For instance, your observation that “the Society may need to look more closely at its current employees and determine whether they have the necessary skills in order to compete in this new environment.” Please be more specific. But I encourage you to stay away from “digital journalism skills… multi-platform capabilities… changing media landscape….” argument. Because if you take that approach, then you'll have to deliver the impossible: a plausible explanation how a staff with those skills will make you any money.

    Then you say: “Unfortunately the reality may be that many of these hard-working and loyal individuals might not be the right fit for where the organization needs to go in order to survive.” Let's assume I buy the first part. Please explain the second part: Where is this place “where the organization needs to go in order to survive”? We'd love to hear the details.

    We *do* agree that “a changing media landscape demands… a changing business model.” Society Matters has offered a vision of what that model might be. What's your vision?

    We look forward to hearing more from you.

    Thanks to all…

  • Theresa

    To Concerned: Oh, I know I understated my above message. But I think you and others who read it got the point.

    To Realtalk: I totally agree that a changing media landscape demands a changing workforce. As well, NG has to diversify into other markets in order to survive. However, I have seen people with the necessary skills shown the door while others who don’t have the skills remain. It doesn’t matter if problems stem from bad management decisions in your immediate division or from the executive staff, the employees always seem to be the ones who suffer.

    (Additionally, I’ve seen many a good person leave because they are fed up with poor management.)

    I agree with Alan's questions to you about further explanations of your thoughts.

    The business model as I see it and to put it bluntly, is that money is all that matters. Quality used to be first and foremost, not anymore. Quality means time and time is money. If your division doesn’t make money, employees run the risk of being laid off.

    Outsourcing and licensing/branding — two issues of which I have very strong feelings and will bring up in future postings.

    To Alan: You are so right, I am not holding my breath.

NO NEW POSTS will be published here after February 6, 2014. THIS IS WHY.