I haven’t seen Skyfall yet, but James Bond came to mind when I read about the latest round of redundancies at UBS. Employees at the troubled Swiss investment bank got a rude awakening on Tuesday when they found their security passes wouldn’t let them into the office. Instead, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph, “the traders were whisked to offices on the fourth floor where they were handed an envelope containing details of the redundancy process”. I love the way that is written – “whisked” to the fourth floor, no doubt to meet a villainous-looking HR “Business Partner” perhaps sitting by a large water feature, stroking a long haired white cat – “ahh, Mr … we’ve been expecting you”. Having been handed an envelope telling them they were on “special leave” and if they escaped an early bath with the piranhas as they left the fourth floor they went out and got drunk in a nearby pub. And why not?
It got me thinking about a number of things though. Firstly, just what is “special leave”? A copy of the letter handed to the unlucky employees is printed in the Telegraph article and it states specifically that the recipient hasn’t been placed at risk of redundancy, nor given notice and their employment has not been terminated. So, is it “garden leave”? Sounds like it. Secondly, why have they been handed a letter telling them to keep away from the office while the restructuring plans are finalised during the collective consultation process? That’s not that uncommon, but surely by virtue of the fact that they have been asked to stay away from the office rather tends to suggest that they are at risk of redundancy?
Of rather more importance to many will be how do you detect early signs that your future may lie elsewhere? Revoking your access to the building is a pretty strong hint that you are surplus to requirements, as is being cut-off from your work email account and finding your Blackberry no longer works. Other tell tale signs include;
- a line of black cabs waiting outside the office – count them up to see how many people are going to be canned
- your boss no longer talking to you or making eye contact
- one to one meetings get cancelled
- short term projects get pushed back indefinitely or get scrapped
- the number of HR Business Partners seems to increase
Rather poignantly, one of the excluded UBS bankers said;
“I expect we’ll just get a call from human resources or lawyers telling us how much we are worth.”
That may be the second shock they will receive.
Update: In today’s copy of The Times this theme is continued with a brief article called 13 ways to tell that you’ve been fired which is worth reading, although it is behind the paywall sadly. In case you can’t access it my favourites are
“7. Your company isn’t moving, but an empty cardboard box has appeared on your desk”
“8. Your company is moving but an empty plastic crate hasn’t appeared on your desk”
If you have any more examples of tell-tale signs of impending redundancy please write in.