IBM: One buzz phrase = 5,000+ layoffs

TalkLikeTheBoss_1_Buzzword_Layoff

4,701 = the number of words in IBM’s (Q4 2014) latest earnings release.

4 = the number of times the business buzz phrase workforce rebalance was used.

5,000 – 10,000 = the estimated number of workers that will get laid-off by a “workforce rebalance.”

In IBM’s latest earnings release, the business buzz phrase workforce rebalancing was used only four times—or less than a tenth of a percent of all words used in the document. And just like that, thousands have/will be kicked to the curb to search for new employment. Some IBM experts claim that this may be the largest layoff in corporate history but most refute that claim and put the number somewhere between five and 15 thousand layoffs of which are still huge numbers! But if you’re anxious to find out the exact number of layoffs, don’t hold your breath. Like many large corporations, IBM is being cryptic on the actual amount of workers they plan to terminate.

Justified? Probably…but it’s all in the way you do it

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that there are valid business reasons why any organization would need to reduce their payroll. However, I find it rather disturbing that this life-altering event is only mentioned four times throughout the entire earnings statement. And worse, this huge round of terminations is referenced inconspicuously behind a generic business buzz phrase called “workforce rebalancing.” And these big companies have the nerve to talk about transparency.

Sure, I get it, it’s an earnings report and therefore the primary focus should be about the company’s financials. But aren’t those workers worthy of more than just a mere 0.08% mention? Why couldn’t the executives use sympathetic and appreciative language to refer to the workers who will be impacted by such an unfortunate event? Or just maybe IBM could have been a little more forward and call this ugly thing exactly what it is—layoffs—and not the more tactful business buzz phrase of “workforce rebalancing” to avoid saying the obvious.

Am I alone in here?
Maybe I am alone in my reasoning but frankly I don’t care. I believe these (soon to be) laid-off workers deserve more from an organization that likely meant so much to these workers’ livelihood. Even if IBM used appreciate language to describe these laid-off workers in their earnings report—will that bring back these jobs? I wouldn’t bet on it…but please don’t miss the point.

Like a funeral, where survivors carefully invoke kind words, and perform thoughtful gestures to properly honor the one they lost—IBM could have used their earnings statement to publicly express sincere gratitude towards these unfortunate folks. At the very least, these workers deserve that small token of dignity.

Because for many of these laid-off workers, this tactfully phrased “workforce rebalance” will feel much like a funeral.

-Steele

 

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