The e-mail message to RadioShack Corp. employees said: "The work force reduction notification is currently in progress. Unfortunately your position is one that has been eliminated."
Get a pink slip at work, and you know you're being laid off.
RadioShack became water cooler talk in recent weeks when it notified
about 400 workers at its headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, by e-mail that
they were being let go as part of planned job cuts. The company said it
told workers in a series of meetings that notices would be delivered
electronically. Employees met with senior managers after receiving the e-mail.
Spokeswoman Wendy Dominguez says company officials thought long and
hard about the best way to notify employees, taking into account the open
cubicle space where conversations could be easily overheard.
"We realize that to some people notification by e-mail may seem cold
and impersonal. To those who feel that way, we are truly sorry and
sincerely regret any impression that we intended to treat anyone with a
lack of respect," she says. "We believed that individual, personal e-mail
notification was the most private means of letting affected employees know
they were to meet with their senior leaders."
But human resources and management experts say to be fired by e-mail
is bad form.
"They're not computers," says Eileen Levitt, president of The HR Team
in Columbia. "If you're going to lay them off, you should have the guts to
sit them down and tell them their services are no longer required."
Does that principle apply even though workers do more business over
e-mail and other mobile devices? Isn't firing someone via e-mail or text
message the next logical step?
"I don't believe it is," says Ruth Haag, a management consultant and
author of Hiring and Firing. "I believe it needs to be a face-to-face
Even in the RadioShack situation where employees were told that they
would receive electronic layoff notices, Haag offers this response: "When
you're doing something rude, it doesn't matter that you told them ahead of
time that you're going to do something rude."
But RadioShack isn't the only company resorting to electronic
A sales worker at Blue Banana, a chain body-piercing studio in
Cardiff, Wales, was told in a cellular telephone text message that she was
fired, according to the Associated Press.
Katy Tanner had a migraine headache and took a sick day last month.
When she turned her phone on, she got this memo: "We've received your sales
figures, and they're not really up to the level we need. As a result, we
will not require your services any more. Thank you for your time with us."
Ian Bisbie, a Blue Banana director, told the South Wales Echo that
the company usually does not fire employees by text message but failed to
reach Tanner by phone, according to the Associated Press.
Bisbie said the company is also keeping up with modern times.
"We are a youth business and our staff are all part of the youth
culture that uses [text] messaging as a major means of communication,"
Bisbie told the newspaper.
Paul Lyons, a management professor at Frostburg State University,
says such electronic firing tactics could be regarded as efficient. It
avoids confrontations and situations where angry employees might try to
sabotage office computers.
In the long run, however, Lyons says there are consequences such as a
"What if you need some of those folks back?" Lyons says. "They're
Is laying off workers by e-mail or text message acceptable? Do you
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