Knowing bad news is coming doesn’t make it any easier to accept.
Early on Tuesday morning, based on social media and the chat rooms, it became clear that Target Corp. of Minneapolis was getting on with the hard work of laying off hundreds of rank-and-file employees at its headquarters.
Some early posts were filled with obscure acronyms related to Target’s bureaucracy, so it was difficult to understand who was actually affected. But it became clear that whole teams of people were being let go.
That’s the way this layoff was going to go. When the company indicated last week that “several thousand” of its 13,000 or so headquarters employees in and around Minneapolis were going to lose their jobs, it was obvious this wasn’t going to be a case of cherry picking poor performers and sending them home. It wasn’t going to be any 5 percent reduction across the board.
To eliminate several thousand jobs, whole departments were going to be eliminated. With them would go jobs that last week were important enough to be staffed by high achievers recruited from the best business schools. This week, these jobs are simply no longer necessary.
And for the people affected, while there may be other good opportunities out there, there’s also no such thing as a good layoff. They may have cash in their checking accounts and great prospects before them, but the loss of the job is still a tragedy. It is to be grieved.
The first confirmation from the company indicated 1,700 people were let go. No company, however efficient and helped by a platoon of human resources consultants, can lay off that many people in one morning unless it lays people off in groups. And already word has come out that that’s exactly what has happened.
It’s difficult not to see a mass layoff at the head office of Target, the bluest of the blue chips in Minneapolis, as marking the end of an era. This wasn’t being done to “make Wall Street happy,” or because the company could no longer afford to pay that many people.
It was being done to make the work of the headquarters simpler and faster, in part letting managers in the regions and in stores make more of their own decisions.
That means these jobs are going, and they’re not coming back.