There are few universally shared experiences these days. The ability to indulge our varied interests makes points of intersection increasingly rare. One of the few exceptions is layoffs. Whether you have direct experience with the swinging axe or just near misses, we are all familiar with the type of “right-sizing” recently announced at Dow in mid-Michigan.
Layoffs are never pleasant. Some are reasonable (sales are down, costs are up, something has to give). Some are anything but reasonable (the CEO pooped his pants and the company needs to create a distraction, stockholders want to build indoor pools at their beach houses, somebody said we might save tens of dollars if we move the whole works to Uzbekistan). I’m not ready to judge the Dow layoffs. (Oh, I will most definitely judge; I’m just not ready.)
What I am ready to do is propose a challenge: I would like somebody to quantify the psychological cost of things like layoffs at Dow, Flint’s water crisis, and our lousy infrastructure. We hear all the time from economists about the positive effects of companies streamlining. What about the negative effects?
My unit of measurement would be a gut-punch. A gut-punch by itself is not inherently bad. It might wake you up — make you take stock and plan ahead. But continuous gut-punches wear people down and make us desperate: You’re laid-off your good-paying job. Ooof. You retrain, get a new job, and someone else is laid off, leaving you with five times the responsibility but at the same pay. Ooof. You work hard, develop new efficiencies, but then you’re laid-off. Ooof.
So what’s the collective number of gut-punches that tip the scales toward desperation? If we knew that, maybe we could avoid the recklessness of having Donald Trump as a viable candidate for President. Ooof.