The Washington Post had an article this weekend on Kim Hall of the Five O’Clock Club, who makes her living on layoffs. She advises companies on how to fire employees en masse and also offers guidance to the newly unemployed workers. At $2,000 per severanced head.
The article describes a “day in the life” of Kim Hall and discusses how her business is booming in the recession. Her company has doubled in size in the past two years. Scavenger, much?
The article caught our attention because during the day that the journalist trailed and interviewed Hall, she got a call from a Manhattan firm planning layoffs later this year.
The article contains a prediction of layoffs coming at a New York firm in August, with more to come in the fall:
It is 9:03 a.m. on a Wednesday, and another day of economic collapse has begun.
“Five O’Clock Club, this is Kim,” she says. “How are you this morning?”
She rocks in her chair as she listens and scribbles notes: A law firm in Manhattan. Downsizing. Their third one this year. Twelve employees. Probably in August. More to come in October and November.
Unclear which firm this is, and whether attorneys or staff will be on the chopping block. But perhaps they will be relieved to know that the firm is likely paying $24,000 for the layoff advice that Hall will impart.
Hall has guided more than 200 companies and 1,500 laid-off workers through downsizings in the past six months. The Club, as it is sometimes called, charges each company about $2,000 per fired employee in exchange for providing layoff victims with a year of career coaching.
Why wouldn’t they pay her $2,000 per person? She’s got Dalai Lama quotes!
For fear of lawsuits, some outplacement firms advocate downsizings that avoid any impulsive or personal conversations. Instead, they tell companies to use what is known as the surgical method: terminations that last about 15 seconds each, after which former employees are ushered off company property.
“Doing that scars people for the rest of their lives,” Wendleton says. “There’s a better way.”
She opens the confidential folder and pulls out a Five O’Clock Club booklet titled “How to Terminate Employees While Respecting Human Dignity,” which includes inspirational quotes about compassion from Theodore Roosevelt, George Lucas and the Dalai Lama. The introductory chapter asks managers to approach layoffs with the understanding that, “unlike facilities and equipment, humans have an intrinsic worth beyond their contribution to the organization.” Wendleton flips to a section called “Say a Kind Word,” in which a lawyer offers phrases that managers can use during a “compassionate downsizing.”
We hope she also gives practical advice about layoffs, like not booking every conference room in the office to the managing partner or the head of human resources on the day of mass firings.
Layoff etiquette aside, which New York law firm do you think is making a third round of layoffs in the next month, with a possible fourth round in the fall? We invite rampant speculation in the comments.
The Art of Letting Employees Go [Washington Post]