Reenergizing Employees After a Downsizing
(This case study was developed by J. Colquitt, J. Lepine, and M. Wesson)
Andrea Zuckerman is the editor in chief of the Blaze, a small, college-town newspaper owned by a large
national conglomerate. After the latest round of downsizing at the Blaze, Andrea is going to hold briefings today to reenergize the remaining employees and inform them about the new changes. In fact, she had been aware of the impending downsizing for some time. However, she had to hold her tongue while the corporate wheels turned. She did not agree with how the corporate consultants had determined who would go, which was largely determined by who had the highest salaries. Moreover, she did not agree with how the news was being delivered—not by her, but by a consultant who would be a complete stranger to all involved. “They are taking away our wisest,” she noted, “and they are taking away those folks’ dignity for good measure.”
Andrea was aware of the reasons behind the downsizing. She was, after all, working in a dying industry. Every newspaper, from the New York Times and Washington Post down to the smallest rag in the smallest town, had a sliver of the readership of a decade ago. First it was 24-hour cable news, then the Internet, then smartphones. Each made newspapers less central to the current events consumption of the folks in a given town. Corporate had tried to stay ahead of these trends when they bought the Blaze, an event that had been marked by a smaller round of downsizing as costs were cut, the paper was scaled back, and Tuesday and Wednesday deliveries were ended. However, there had been hope associated with those changes, with everyone assuming that corporate resources could help the Blaze reinvent itself and leverage new technologies to stay relevant.
This time around, the Blaze is confronting a “new normal.” Its function moving forward will be to serve as a local portal to the broader news resources offered by corporate. When folks in town log on to the Blaze using either their web browser or their smartphone or tablet app, they will see a combination of local stories written by Blaze staff and national and world stories authored by staff at other papers under the corporate umbrella. Eventually the print version of the paper will be a weekend-only phenomenon, and even that will almost certainly end at some point. All these changes mean that the paper will need fewer reporters, photographers, artists, and section editors, not to mention fewer assistants. There may also need to be some restructuring and merging of assignments and duties.
Andrea is worried about what to say to the staff at the morning briefing. As the survivors of a poorly handled layoff, it will be on her to restore some semblance of morale. After all, the last thing the paper needs is its remaining staff giving two weeks’ notice. In fact, they are going to need to be more committed than ever, because more is going to be asked of them than when they were hired. She will have to be somewhat careful with this speech, of course, as the HR person installed by corporate—Jessie Vasquez—will no doubt remind her. Jessie is good at his job in many ways, even if Andrea complains about his general level of risk aversion.