HR Strange But True!
December 19, 2008

If you must face the prospect of laying off workers, better dig out that old Roget's Thesaurus from college--you may need it. Everyone is finding ways to obfuscate the dreaded word “layoff.”

BusinessWeek writer Jena McGregor reports in the December 22 issue that employers ready to shed workers are coming up with quite creative euphemisms--beyond “downsizing” and “rightsizing”--to spin and soften the bad news.

Here are some of her linguistic findings, which she calls “rosy words for pink slips,” with some of their origins:

  • “Synergy-related headcount adjustment goal” (Siemans)
  • “Action to simplify our organization” (eBay)
  • “De-verticalization”
  • “Offboarding,” “Rationalizing,” and “Surplusing” (these all sound cold and cruel to us)
  • “Result of a strategic review of strategies” (Ha!)
  • “RIF-ing”
  • “Chao youyu” (from Hong Kong : it means to have one's squid cooked)

“Companies think if [they're] not so bald and straight about the term, it will ease the impact … ease the pain a little,” says Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John Challenger in the article.

Note: HR Strange but True! won't be published next week because of the Christmas holiday. We wish everyone happy holidays.

Source: BusinessWeek

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