Red Cards


I walked into my office building on Thursday morning and caught a colleague out of the corner of my eye. He was in the café getting his coffee. I sometimes have a quick chat with this colleague when I was also having a coffee myself. He was a regular guy. Outside work he was ok to deal with. At work, he was driven, talked a lot and often stuck to a task doggedly and picked out issues everyone thought had been settled. He had, to an extent, good attention for details. He was a leader too – had to be, as he was senior management in charged of operations. I’m sure his ancestry had nothing to do with it (he’s Dutch) but he also drove vendors hard for pricing. He worked hard, and he drove his team hard.

Later that morning I saw him again, this time he was coming out of the CEO’s meeting room. It looked like a normal BAU meeting.

On late Wednesday afternoon, I had a meeting on some procurement matters. It was with another member of the senior management team. We talked shop together with a few other colleagues for about an hour, I came back to my desk, sent her an email and it looked like a normal BAU end to the day.

Earlier on Wednesday I spoke to a project manager from the IT team. He wanted a service agreement reviewed and we discussed, again talking shop. He then sent me an email – a normal BAU email.

On Wednesday night I sent a sales guy an email. I copied that email to a back office manager – sort of keeping her in the loop on the matter. She is a bubbly livewire – a nasal loud presence who would have been mistaken for that nanny on television but for her size. Her presence is often well felt, sort of a normal BAU presence.

Yesterday, for reasons best known (the real reason that is) to the decision makers, all four of the above colleagues were given the boot. De-layering, it was called. Not cost cutting, not retrenchment, but de-layering with a resultant redundancy. No one saw any of those sackings coming. Not least the victims.

The irony is we have been repeatedly told the company is doing really well – going gang busters. Record profits in recent years which have continuously trended up. GOE has been trending down. Market share has been growing and we’re inching up to be the number one player in the industry.

So it is especially difficult to understand why we have gone on a sacking spree. It almost look like a selective de-layering with the possibilities for a common denominator whittled down to just two prime suspects –they have crossed sword with either the regional office or the CEO (when the CEO was a divisional General Manager). So it is either regional office getting rid of people who don’t just shut up and do as they are told, or the CEO assembling his own team with no hint of past clashes. Either way it leaves a sour taste. Working relationships, morale and individual livelihoods are sacrificed for the sake of narrow interests.

HR is presently trying to leverage the World Cup in South Africa to build some team camaraderie. Different floors have been designated different pools for decoration with team colours. My area has Greece and Argentina. It feels however that the common theme running through the decorations isn’t the World Cup but the red cards that have been dished out. The inexplicable red cards which are increasingly a BAU feature in this place.

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