How Not to Manage Layoffs

By Matt Van Hoven 

Update: We’re told the final number of lay offs totaled some 100 people.

While following the Campbell Ewald’s layoffs, which are said to affect anywhere from 50 to 200 employees before its over, we’ve been increasingly surprised by the techniques being employed by management to get through this sensitive time. And by surprised, we mean flabbergasted.


It’s a rare thing, to be flabbergasted, and that feeling cannot begin to hint at how CE employees, current or otherwise, must be feeling in light of all that’s happened. CEers say they have been humiliated in ways that cannot be invented.

You may recall that after being laid off, CE employees were told they could return the following Friday (now last Friday) to collect their things. In the mean time, we’re told their managers took a class on how to collect recently laid off employees’ belonging.

Why? Because after being told their job no longer exists, CEers were escorted from the building. As in, immediately after. No goodbyes, no stuff getting, no phone number exchanging.

They did however, receive a notification of when they could return to collect their things, along with a procedure for doing so. We’re told it went as follows.

&#151 Former employees were to go to the Campbell-Ewald HR building during a 20-minute time slot. If they arrived before or after, their boxes would not be available.
&#151 Pull up to a designated point with their paperwork.
&#151 An HR representative was to get the paperwork.
&#151 The former employee was to pop their trunk.
&#151 Another HR representative brought out their boxes.
&#151 The former employee was to drive away.

Way to stay classy, management. But look, we understand it’s hard to “manage” returning desk stuff to 50-200 people. It’s just that the only logical explanation for the procedural method CE used is that there was some calculated risk to just letting people come back and get their things.

Had this gone the right way, and folks were allowed to return and get their things (or just take them when they were let go), things might have been messy. But a bunch of people just lost their jobs, it should be messy. Put down “The Idiot’s Guide to Ruining People’s Lives in the Most Convenient Way Possible” and take a lesson in humanity. This process is going to hurt. So let it be what it is, and stop pretending that there’s any chance of saving face. You’re just going to make it worse. Wait, you’ve already made it as bad as possible. Is there a Cannes Lion for that?

More: “The Morning After: CE Layoffs Said to Continue