Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Bad Guys Always Win

It was with a deep pang of bitterness that I read that Thomson Newspapers is bidding to take over Reuters plc. I have worked for both companies. In the 1980s I worked for a Toronto company called IP Sharp Associates. Reuters purchased IPSA and I continued to be a Reuters employee until I was laid off in the early 90s. Later on in my career I had a contract as a business analyst in the IT department of Thomson's head office, then in Toronto. I left for a job opportunity in Africa, but my boss at Thomson nearly wooed me to stay as a permanent employee. Luckily I didn't, as Thomson moved its headquarters to the US a few months later and laid off most of the Toronto staff.

Both Reuters and Thomson are layoff-happy organizations. Layoffs are seemingly part of regular annual plans. They don't just get rid of deadwood. In fact, at least at Reuters my impression was that internal politics were so ferocious that layoffs had little to do with merit.

When Reuters took over IPSA they sent over an HR manager from their UK headquarters who was obviously chosen for her vicious ruthlessness. Layoffs began with tearful employees being escorted from the building by two big beefy security guards. We all knew that layoffs were coming when we saw those guys enter the lobby. By the time I got the axe, a year or more into the purge, the system was a little more humane, but still pretty brutal.

At the time I was laid off I was in a management team of more than half a dozen extremely bright, extremely dedicated people. Most of our careers never recovered. Some went into sales, some took jobs with much lower responsibility. Only a couple eventually worked their way back up to lesser management positions.

If Thomson is successful in taking over Reuters, life does not look good for employees at either company. Lives will be uprooted, people will be traumatized... all for what? Layoffs are inefficient, a quick jolt to the balance sheet with heavy long-term costs. It's bad business and it's a completely unacceptable way to treat a workforce that has given a company loyalty and dedication.

It's insane that as voters we don't demand that there be regulations protecting employees from layoffs, along with regulations curtailing the outrageous compensation of senior managers. France has such rules and still manages to maintain a vibrant capitalist system.



Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean. I am a former Reuters employee, victim of Tom Glocer's fast forward plan. I was rated 1 (the highest mark in Reuters's appraisal process) for the eight consecutive years I worked for the company. I was a high achiever. I made my way from the lowest ranks to a middle manager position.
Then, I was put in a dog-eat-dog kind of scheme where two so-called colleagues tried to shred me to pieces.
I finally was offered moving to a third world country on a third world salary or moving down three positions, essentially to start over.
I was very lucky I was in a financial position that allowed me to tell them to shove it, and I left.
But you are right. It took me a while to recuperate (mentally, especially). Now I have a lower position in another company, but I consider that leaving Reuters was the best decision I have EVER made. I left merely bruised, but they could have destroyed me as a professional and as a person.
I am sorry for all the good people that I know are still working for Reuters; but I can't help to think that maybe for some of them this will be a chance to salvage whatever is left and start over.
For the rabid dogs, I wish they continue working for the new Thomson-Reuters. I'm sure they will finally manage to bite each other's heads off until there's nothing left.

Anonymous said...

I briefly worked at Reuters right after layoffs. My paychecks started disappearing the first week. Then mistakes appeared in my work overnight. What is especially scary is that most of the people on my team were the ones who couldn't leave, because they had been there so long, their skills were a decade out of date. Some of them didn't know how to use the Internet. The place felt like a retirement home. And by ruining the company's reputation--I saw young people interview, take one look around, and come up with excuses on the spot--they just speeded up the process. The company was being kind by giving them advanced notice for the inevitable, and they wasted their time in a dogfight over moldy scraps. With their salaries, they could have earned MBAs in the time they spent practicing the Art of War on kids who would just move to the web anyway.

Anonymous said...


I want you to know that I've been gang stalked ever since I posted on your website last spring.

I have no idea who you are. But if you are a real whistleblower, you have got to be careful.

Anonymous said...

Still being gang stalked, one year after posting on your website. My family couldn't afford a lawyer, then spent a chunk of their life savings to keep me from being homeless. I recently took three part time jobs to pay the bills, giving up ten years in journalism, and am still surprised every day at how differently normal people behave. Maybe sometimes people spend so long justifying their behavior as being tough and businesslike, they don't realize nobody else behaves like them, and they have become the evil they went into business to battle.

I paid a very high price for free speech. It was worth it. Don't be evil.

Yappa said...

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