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Persistent economic pressures in today’s business landscape require organizations to be constantly vigilant about managing costs. Reducing headcount is one common but often controversial form of cost cutting. Recently Hewlett-Packard announced that it would be cutting an additional 11,000— 16,000 jobs on top of an original plan to let as many as 34,000 workers go as part of a business restructuring and turnaround strategy. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Meg Whitman said major shifts that are transforming how technology is paid for and consumed pose major challenges for HP, along with its competitors. To be successful in this new reality, she emphasized that HP needs to be lower-cost and more nimble. This is just one of a long list of examples of significant corporate workforce reductions in the face of mounting financial and competitive challenges faced by businesses across many industries. Involuntary turnover is usually a painful subject for all parties involved — notably the terminated employees, their managers, and remaining coworkers. The prevailing view is thatinvoluntary turnoveris a negative experience for employees, imposing on them financial hardship, stress, stunted career progression, and diminished self-esteem. Mass reductions in force (RIFs) are also disruptive for organizations because they lose talentto competitors, damage theirreputations with employees and communities, and experience reduced productivity by surviving employees from the associated stress. Trust and loyalty in the employee—employer relationship are often severely compromised. Unfortunately, sometimes organizations have little choice. They either must reduce their workforce or watch the entire enterprise fail and take all of the company’s jobs along with it.
NCLUSIONS AND CAUTIONARY REMARKS
In this article, we offered a more positive view regarding the often necessary and difficult challenges associated with involuntary turnover. We provided some practical guidance to help executives and managers achieve Positive Involuntary Turnover. These include both important PIT Enablers to emphasize and PIT Falls to avoid. Both are increasingly relevant, given the greater frequency of ‘‘involuntary stayers’’ who may become stagnant, experience undue stress, and feel imprisoned in a job that no longer fits, due to job and career challenges caused by persistent economic and competitive pressures. We end with an important caution and point of clarification. Positive Involuntary Turnover (PIT) does not include creating an illusion of caring for employees during layoffs. PIT instead provides employers practical guidance based on the approaches of key organizational role models (best practice companies) for effectively instilling compassion in one of the most difficult and common organizational activities–— terminating employees. Openness, authentic communication, and a willingness to make a significant investment in PIT is essential for establishing the trust and potential mutually beneficial effects that result from a well-managed positive involuntary turnover process.