Thirteen

19 02 2010

The following is an undeveloped theory, but in the name of Pundit’s Privilege (I’d rather be heard than correct) I am releasing it into the wild for scrutiny and ridicule.

The impetus for this action comes from a featured post on the wordpress.com home page called The Trouble With Layoffs by Erik Van Slyke. Choice quote, concerning an executive meeting to plot out short term strategy:

“As all of you can see, we are only slightly behind our projections this year. All things considered we have weathered the storm reasonably well. The challenge we have for the remaining six months of the fiscal year is that if we want to make sure we get full bonuses, we’ll need to make a 5% headcount reduction. A 2.5% reduction will get us to 80% payout, but a 5% reduction should get us to 100%.”

Having been party to a corporate layoff planning session, I give one of the participants full marks for prefacing the proceedings with a stern warning that any decision to commit to layoff was going to affect lives. What irritates me about the session to this day is that some goofball in an executive capacity “told Wall Street” that our company was going to cut headcount by 10%. That was never the plan, but thanks to “Wall Street” claiming our stock price rested on making good on this claim, lives were affected.

What annoyed me most about that exercise is that the company was completely paranoid about the “little people” talking to the media lest they say something that could damage the business.

Now: I have to say, the quoted article above is rather… direct in detailing the “why” for the layoffs. Normally some other smoke and mirrors reason would be cited such as reducing costs, providing shareholder value, or plain belt tightening. “We want our executive bonuses” isn’t a rallying cry for the rank and file.

Which brings me to the title of this post: I assert that in the US business community there are up to thirteen “real” jobs in any given business. Meaning no matter how big or successful the company gets, or conversely how small and how beleaguered the company becomes, thirteen people will come out on top.

They are the CEO and the Board of Directors.

Yes, this excludes other C-level folk like the CTO and CFO, but really the bone is reached at the CEO and Board.

In my contemplation of hierarchical business structures, I asked who would walk away reasonably unscathed if the business were to fail.

Thirteen people. Maybe more, but no less.

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