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There’s unorthodox… and then there’s inhuman

Blair Mcpherson

A global company is thrown into crisis after losing a major contract. The board demand drastic action telling the CEO that mass redundancies will have to be made at their biggest factory.  Industrial action and any disruption  to production must be avoided at all costs if the share price is not fall through the floor.

The CEO has  four very able Directors but which one has the strength of character to deliver mass redundancies, the resilience to deal with the subsequent personal hostility and whose commitment to the company is greater than any scruples they may have about the methods required to save the company. To add to the pressure the board have told the CEO they have only six month to turn things round other wise another CEO will be found who can get the job done.

The CEO approaches a specialist recruitment organisation with a reputation for effective if unorthodox methods. The head recruiter suggest that what they need is an experience HR professional to head up the redundancy project.

Four HR specialist will “interrogate” each Director with a brief to identify which Director would be best suited for the post. The most impressive interrogator will be appointed as the new head of HR for project Down Size. Other than the use of the word,  “ interrogate” rather than , interview , this doesn’t sound that radical or ethically questionable that is until the head recruiter makes one further suggestion. A little role play to stress the Directors and find out who would really put the company first when personal safe is at risk!

When armed terrorists burst in no one else will know it’s a role play.

At which point did you suspect this was the script for a t.v. thriller rather than an article from the Financial Times, business section ?
At which stage did you think what was being proposed was unethical?

This corporate thriller is set in France where labour laws have in the past made it difficult to bring about major changes in working practices and very expensive to make long serving employees redundant. Recently a company CEO and head of HR were taken to court accused of being responsible for the suicides of a number of employees due to the way they were treated whilst the company was downsizing.

Some times it’s groups of employees ,sometimes it’s individuals but is it so
uncommon for HR to be asked to find ways round the legislation to deliver the downsizing/reorganisation/merger?

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