Saturday 12 March 2016

On redundancy

From my regular correspondent, a retired English publisher living in Vancouver: 

Some years ago I was living in Hong Kong and a private Indian magazine-publisher asked me if I would consent to be an "expert witness" on his behalf in the High Court there. He was being sued by a magazine in relation to the licence it had granted him.

The magazine had cancelled the licence, so that he could no longer publish a Hong Kong edition of their magazine. He had immediately started his own women's magazine, under his own choice of name.  

"Why did you do this?" he was asked.  "This was a improper act!"

"Not at all," he answered. "I had been employing wonderful editors, circulation and advertising people, to put out the magazine.  When you cancelled the licence, I had an obligation to these men and women!  I had to find some way to keep them employed, after they had done so much for me - and you!"

The magazine's lawyer found this unanswerable, as did the judge.

When was this last said in England, or the US (which sanctified "downsizing" as an economic and commercial virtue in about 1975, though up to that time it had been considered a failure of management)?  Around the same time, the US dropped resignation as the proper act of failed manager.  Now the bugger says "I'm going to tough it out!" (after losing a huge amount of the company's money and firing half the staff).  

I, along with 4,000 colleagues, am about to be made redundant. This is (for me at any rate) no particular cause for concern as I have alternative (and, I hope, more congenial and challenging) employment lined up. My Vancouver friend's memory of the Hong Kong publisher made me reflect that, yes indeed - things have changed over that past forty years. How could they not?

Circulating my CV to agencies I was struck (not for the first time) by the standard email response: Thank you for submission.


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