Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Story: Downsized

When international competition cut the profits of The Soft Flower Company, the CEO knew it was time to be mean and for someone else to be lean. None of the long time employees knew exactly what was planned for them. Theirs had been a pleasant company to work for.

It was still kind of pleasant after thirty percent of the workers were laid off, even though production increased ten percent. After overtime pay was eliminated and sick time was reduced, however, it turned grim. The remaining employees did not complain, glad to keep their jobs.

Profits rose. The remaining employees, who were stockholders, were happy. The managers were happy with their bonuses. For his own bonus, the CEO bought a third house and the airplane to fly there.

He could have stopped, but by now the CEO was enjoying himself. He decided that the natural progression of his new management plan was to not just make the employees feel smaller, but to actually make them smaller as people. So the next week he introduced random drug testing, then he placed video cameras in employee washrooms, and by the end of the month had all the employees in cubicles.

The changes eventually had the desired effect.

Soon each employee shrank psychologically until they were in a unique way downsized. Even their immediate families shrank morally and then ethically, in a trickle down effect. It was not all bad, however, as new employment opportunities opened up for the morally stunted employees. For example, an HMO needed people of a certain stature for its Board of Directors, and several Soft Flower employees made the short list.

Victor Schwartzman

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