Our very first post was about RadioShack's submoronic firing of 400 employees last year by email (see "Radio Shack Deletes 400 Workers, Common Sense"). Now, the blogosphere is abuzz with CompUsa's decision to close its remaining stores (see CNNMoney article) and its soulless form letter notifying its employees. The excellent tech blog Engadget included what it describes as a copy of the form letter sent to employees in a biting post, "CompUSA sends out layoff letters: bad service extends to employees, too." Here is the letter, taken from the Engadget post (the store number and location were previously redacted, which is lawyerspeak for blotted out):
Now I can't personally vouch for the authenticity of the letter, and Engadget describes its source as an anonymous CompUSA employee. Nor could I confirm the identity of CompUSA's HR director, although there is an HR person with that name in the DFW metropolitan area. It certainly looks like an authentic WARN Act letter, which the government requires.
But what a letter. I appreciate that CompUSA had a lot of employees to fire, but couldn't they have bothered to insert the unlucky recipient's name in each letter? (You know, guys, they have computers that can do that now.) Did they need to keep reminding the fired worker that CompUSA is incorporated (at least for now) — four times in a three-paragraph letter? Couldn't they get a human being to actually sign the letter? Repeating the name in boldfaced italics doesn't count.
You're firing people. Have the decency to act like it means something to you. It certainly means something to the employees. A personalized letter — or even a seemingly personalized mail-merged special — with a real human being's signature makes a difference. It might not seem like a lot — it might even seem like a waste of time — but people notice these things.
Getting fired sucks. But getting fired suckily (by email, by form letter, during the holidays) sucks even more. Worse, it makes the fired employees more disgruntled, and thus more likely to sue. You've already messed up the big things (running your company into the ground); at least try not to mess up the little things.
Bonus irony note: Check out CompUSA's tagline:
Obviously they didn't get it. They didn't get it at all.
Here are some other voices on the topic:
- Tampa Bay's Channel 10 News has a story on the company's remarkable retention-bonus scheme: if you work the next two months until the store closes, you get — wait for it — a whole week's pay! (Woo.) The station has posted a PDF of the "Separation Bonus Plan"; the story is here: "Employees cry foul over CompUSA closings"
- The incomparable New York Times technology columnist David Pogue had this explanation for the company's failure back when they began their store closings last March: "The Gutting of CompUSA."
- The always excellent HR Capitalist has this great post on how another stumbling company, Circuit City, tried to lure back some of their previously fired, higher-paid workers at a lower wage: "Circuit City - We Fired You, Please Present This Coupon to Get Your Old Job Back for Less Pay..."
- That particular move garnered Circuit City a spot on the Fortune "Top 101 Dumbest Moments in Business 2007."
[Updated 20 December 2007 to clarify the Circuit City references, and to add more on what CompUSA could have done right. Big shout out to Martin Ebel, the top Commonwealth of Massachusetts civil-rights lawyer and frequent Gruntled commenter (which is different from a commentator). Another big shout out to Christopher Mirabile, world-class general counsel, for pointing out the Engadget post.]