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Susan Mernit

Susan Mernit

Posted: December 8, 2008 03:06 PM

Yahoo Layoffs: Cutting by the Numbers, and Not Making the Same Mistakes Again


Kara Swisher's sharing that this Wednesday is the date for the next round of Yahoo! layoffs. She's predicting 1,500 to 2,000 jobs vaporized, adding lots more out of work in the Bay area, NYC and Santa Monica.

While there's something morbid about companies that do lavish holiday parties and then sever staff, it's more distressing to read that Yahoo's plan is to  eliminate whole projects and move divisions between managers.

As some one who was laid off from Yahoo! 10 months ago, reading this new makes me want to scream, loudly, something along the lines of "Senior managers at Yahoo!, you who have options vested and big salary cushions, when are you going to quit playing hot potato passing groups back and forth, funding and then starving projects every three-six months, and create a coherent strategy that might make a difference?"

Another thing that worries me is that, even with all the executive departures of the past year--the  Microsofties who came, drove people out and left, the  VPs and SVPs who went on to other roles (at Microsoft, venture funds and wherever) enough of the top management remains to suggest that this layoff, like the last big one, is going to be executed by people who don't have a clue how to manage human capital.

Last go round, as whole departments and projects were cut, some of the most skilled staffers in areas like interactive design, product management and program management were let go.  In other words, you could be top talent on a project, but if that project was cut, honey, you were toast.

Why would this go-round be any different?
 
Since Yahoo! is cutting by the numbers, we have to assume they're going to let some of the strongest people go again, perhaps to try to (quietly) later rehire, as also happened last time. So think about it--when those self-satisfied announcements go out, about the "deep cuts and the bright future that lies ahead", those left without jobs in a deepening recession right before Christmas will have the comfort of knowing they weren't let go because they were the bottom 10%, they were let go because their managers fail to convince their bosses that those projects were ones that mattered. (And since the big bosses didn't know most of those people, great talent was let go, while deadwood remained (and remained.)

Is it going to be like that this time (again)? Or it is going to be different? Wanna place some bets?

Layoffs are  always tough, and yes, sometimes you have to slash to the bone.

But I'm hoping that this time Yahoo! is (finally) able to apply some smarts in the human capital area. Maybe this time the huge upheavals and chaos this reduction in force will create actually leaves the best and brightest--not the most plodding and dutiful--on staff at Big Purple.

Either way, I feel for everyone losing their jobs.