Roger had just finished describing how 20% of the marketing firm was to be laid off. That wasn’t the shock. After all, despite federal and state celebrations of a upswing in the economy, the impacts at the local level were still heading in the opposite direction. What was surprising was that this formerly top employer appeared more driven in the decisions of who to lay off by the goal of simply reducing payroll. That they were summarily ejecting much of their top talent was simply shrugged off as the “price of layoffs.”
As floored I was by this approach, Roger’s next statement took my breath away.
“I know,” he smiled. “But that was a deliberate decision, to not worry about the talent. We just need to cut payroll.”
Okay, so here’s a disclaimer. I’m prejudiced. I actively discriminate. I categorize people and treat different groups differently. Mind you, it’s not any particular race, creed, gender, religion, or someone’s sexual orientation that triggers my prejudice. My prejudice? It’s stupid people. I simply can’t stand them!
You see, stupidity is unforgivable, in my opinion. Now, we’re not talking about naïveté. Being naive is completely understandable and, in many cases, unavoidable. People who legitimately simply don’t know better can’t be held particularly culpable for their actions. In fact, when faced with naïveté, I’m a firm believer in reaching out a helping hand and educating the offending person with the knowledge to make future decisions from a more informed standpoint.
No, stupidity is different. My use of this descriptor acknowledges that the actor knows, but pays no attention to what they are doing (or the consequences of their actions). To understand the frivolity of one’s actions, yet proceed with them is pure stupidity.
The marketing firm’s executives know better. They know they are raping the long-term success of the firm for a short-term, relative pain-killer. In reality, they are abdicating their given responsibility as leaders, opting for “fair” actions to avoid having to have difficult conversations about what really matters – performance. They’ve taken the coward’s way out….embracing stupidity as the lesser of two presumed evils.
Unfortunately, the “evil” of having to overcome the loss of real talent will likely sink the organization. Already, according to Roger, the firm has lost nearly 10% of its top clients, accounting for 14% of their previous year’s receivables. Some clients followed the talent they respected to competitor firms. And for other clients, simply watching the firm’s top talent walked out was handwriting enough on the wall. They can read the tea leaves, not-so-subtly warning of a quick decline in the ability of the firm to support their ever critical business needs.
Roger is also heading out the door. He’s not being laid off. He was one of the “lucky” ones, he stated. Three days after layoffs were announced, a major competitor contacted him. In the end, he’s taking 14 years of experience somewhere that values not only his contributions, but his value as an individual.
How’s that for stupidity? My prejudice continues……