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Layoffs: enough with the corporate spiel. Be honest. Please.

Ah, it must be that time of year again. Another set of layoffs and another corporate-speak "statement" that utterly ignores the fact that your (now-ex) employees are being treated with zero respect and care. So I'm going to rant about it.

Alan Wilson, Blogger

February 12, 2015

4 Min Read

Here we go again... utter corporate bollocks around layoffs. Daybreak Games, recently sold off as SOE by Sony to Columbus Nova, an investment firm I freely admit to knowing nothing about, is laying PEOPLE off, as reported a short time ago. I'm going to be slightly childish and capitalize one word throughout this rant.

And rant it is, because the desperately sad thing is that we can actually play corporate-gibberish bingo on this one. I'll copy-and-paste directly from the statement issued by Daybreak. I'll demonstrate the corporate bingo and run a small translation into something that PEOPLE can actually understand.

As part of a strategic decision to rationalize the business, Daybreak Game Company announced today that it will eliminate positions in both its San Diego and Austin studios.

Look - there is a straight 3-pointer. "Strategic decision"... "rationalize the business"... "eliminate positions".

Let me suggest a possible translation: "As it stands the new Daybreak Game Company is carrying too much cost for the revenue we can see it generating and, much as we may regret it, we're having to lay some staff off". Note that "we" are making that decision. Some PEOPLE somewhere have made that decision - and I do understand it can be a very hard one to make. But it isn't being made by some nebulous corporation. That decision is made and executed by PEOPLE.

"This alignment of resources better positions the newly independent studio for future growth opportunities"

And another 3-pointer. "Alighment of resources"... "rationalize the business"... "eliminate positions". I'm sorry, but they aren't "resources being aligned" - they are PEOPLE being made redundant.

Lets have another translation: "These redundancies and the associated cost reductions, while regrettable, will give us, as a newly-independent studio, our best shot at creating a sustainable future for the company and all those employees still here." Not that difficult, really, is it?

"These reductions will not affect the operation of current games and the company will continue on its mission".

And a final 3-pointer. I'm so glad that this "will not affect the operation" and that the "company will continue on its mission". Because guess what? A whole bunch of PEOPLE will be affected, along with their families. And they will NOT get to continue on their mission in that job. But that's just me getting mad at the gibberish.

How about: "We will still be able to support our current games fully and will contine to produce great games, although with reduced staffing. Inevitably this is likely to affect work on projects as yet unnanounced."

I really do get so tired of this utter unwillingness of the PEOPLE that run companies to recognize that they are busily dumping on PEOPLE. Not to mention the fact that the decision is actually taken by PEOPLE. Someone in there needs to take responsibility, own up to the fact that YOU made that decision. I would like to think it was a hard, painful decision and that you will genuinely miss the people getting laid off, but it is really hard to get even the slightest sense of that from the statement.

Here is a line that I would like to have seen in there, but was sadly missing:

"I, (CEO-state-your-name-here), really do regret having to make this decision. It is always a hard and hateful step to have to take, but sometimes financial needs force us into these situations. The move from a fully-funder subsidiary to an independent development shop is not an easy transition and I feel that this will give us the best chance at a sustainable future for the rest of the company. I sincerely wish all those we are making redundant the best. In order to help them (insert useful actions here)..."

I have unsubtly and perhaps childishly highlighted "PEOPLE" throughout. I had a rant about exactly that last year, after a bout of layoffs for similar reasons. This industry is based around the creativity and hard work of all the PEOPLE in it, within companies run and managed by PEOPLE. It is about time that some of us in this industry finally got their heads around both parts of that.

So, the morals of this rant:

  1. To the executives making these decisions: please take personal responsibility for those decisions, however hard and unpalatable they are. They aren't being made by some unknown entity you can hide behind. And we'll actually respect you more for it. Really.

  2. To those writing these wonderful statements: please just ackowledge that people you have worked with, who have given their all for you, are going to get hurt in doing this. You can't make the decision change, but you can at least treat them with some respect, dignity and a measure of care.

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