Microsoft yesterday said it could take as long as a year to lay off the 18,000 workers who will be eventually shown the door, a drawn-out process that was criticised by both labour experts and industry analysts.
According to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Microsoft said it would “substantially complete” the layoffs by the end of this year, and that they would be “fully completed” by 30 June, 2015.
In the previous biggest layoff of 2009, when Microsoft cut a total of 5,800 jobs, the company took up to 18 months to finish the dismissals.
“[The 2009 layoff] was implemented so poorly, with constant worries and concerns and doubts about engaging in new ideas due to expectations those would be the easiest to trim during ongoing cut-backs,” blogger Mini-Microsoft – purportedly a Microsoft employee – wrote Thursday. “When was it over? When was the ‘all clear’ signal given?
“So if this truly drags on for a year: we need a new leader. This needs to be wrapped up by the end of July 2014,” Mini-Microsoft added.
Comments on the blog echoed the hope that the ax would fall quickly. “When you take a Band-Aid off, you just grab hold and rip,” wrote one of dozens of anonymous commenters.
Other comments on the blog suggested that some layoffs had taken place immediately. It was impossible to verify the authenticity of those comments, however.
“Most of the follow-up emails I’ve seen suggest that it will be a quick process (C+E, OSG, Devices, etc.) for those in Redmond who should find out today if they are about to be axed,” wrote another unidentified commenter. At Microsoft, “C+E” stands for the Cloud and Enterprise Group, headed by Scott Guthrie; OSG for the Operating Systems Group, led by Terry Myerson; the chief of the Devices Group is Stephen Elop, former CEO of Nokia.
According to the state of Washington, Microsoft said it would eliminate 1,351 jobs in the state.
“I don’t think it’s a good thing to do,” Wayne Cascio, a professor at the University of Colorado, Denver and an expert in human resource management – specifically downsizing – said in an interview about long layoffs. “It creates massive uncertainty and a big drop in productivity. People spend their work time on social networking and getting a resume up to date. And there’s the very real risk that the company might lose the most valuable, and marketable, employees.”
Anything company executives and managers can do to reduce uncertainty, which is the root of the disruption, is all to the good, Cascio added, for both those destined to receive a pink slip and those who will remain.
That uncertainty often leads to an often-overlooked phenomenon, said Cascio. “There’s empirical research that has shown that a year after layoffs, the unanticipated turnover rate goes up,” he said, of people who, although spared the hatchet, took initiative and left on their own for other jobs. “The larger the layoff, the more that rate goes up.”