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UK slang for being made redundant: i.e. losing your job due to there being no work for you to do, or no funding for the job any more.

To be laid off is to mean, "Lay off doing your work", or in other words, "Go away, cause we can't/won't pay you no more."

It used to be that companies would have layoffs with the expectation that they would bring the employees back to work when work was available (ie, car industry slows down, automakers have forced layoffs, two weeks later they call everyone and get them back on the line). Now that is less prevelant in most industries. (and employee loyalty, along with pension plans and the like are out the window as well)

All these companies who were losing money (due to bad business plan, stupid mistakes, bad product, wrong timing, etc) were financed by companies who held them accountable, whether they were stock investors, private investor, investment firms or whatever. These guys wanted results, and the only results they are interested in after the initial kick off is money.

If your company is losing money like a stuck pig, and your quarterly review is coming up, what's a good way to save 5, 10, 50, 100 or 500 thousand in one month? That's right - you lay off people. Now, suddenly, your financial picture doesn't look so shabby. Of course, you don't tell the investors you had layoffs, though you might mention that to save money your organization went through a restructuring phase.

But without your employees you're worse off than you were before. You are essentially killing the golden goose to sell its gold, without realizing that you won't get any more golden eggs.

This is a business practise that has fallen out of favor, but it is still practised.

<sigh>

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