Microsoft trots out tired euphemisms for ‘18,000 people are losing their jobs’

071714blog nadella
Reuters file photo

When weighed against the fact that 18,000 human beings are going to lose their Microsoft paychecks – two-thirds of them from Nokia -- the gobbledygook of euphemisms used by CEO Satya Nadella to describe the carnage is of little significance.

And it might have bobbled on by unnoticed were it not for Nadella’s use of use of a single word, “synergy,” which immediately made me recall this 2008 post about a different layoff of 3,000 people headlined: ‘Synergy-related headcount restructuring' and other euphemisms for 'you're fired'

The company being synergy-related headcount restructured back then? Nokia, pre-Microsoft.

So here is the headline on today’s memo from Nadella to his colleagues: “Starting to Evolve Our Organization and Culture.”

Honestly? That’s how we’re characterizing 18,000 layoffs? An evolution?

Why? Toward what end are such abstractions used to describe what is a personal trauma for 18,000 people and their families? If the goal is to make the news somehow more palatable -- to those affected, those not, or the general public – it’s a tone-deaf failure all around. (I suppose Wall Street will approve; it usually does.)

An excerpt from that memo:

“The first step to building the right organization for our ambitions is to realign our workforce. With this in mind, we will begin to reduce the size of our overall workforce by up to 18,000 jobs in the next year. Of that total, our work toward synergies and strategic alignment on Nokia Devices and Services is expected to account for about 12,500 jobs, comprising both professional and factory workers. We are moving now to start reducing the first 13,000 positions, and the vast majority of employees whose jobs will be eliminated will be notified over the next six months.”

Realign … synergies … strategic realignment. And notice that people are not being laid off and, heck, jobs are not even being eliminated, they’re being “reduced.”

Yes, I understand that this isn’t anything unusual and that corporate behavior of this nature is unlikely to change.

I just feel it’s worth noting, at least every five or six years … and especially when they call putting people out of work “synergy.”

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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