When I first launched myself into the job market, managers believed they had a foolproof method of keeping the rank and file in line and increasing productivity. It was the omnipresent threat of the falling axe.

The axe has been dropping with increasing frequency lately. Only now it isn't called "getting fired"; it's called "re-engineering". And you don't have to do anything wrong to get re-engineered. All it requires is that you be around minding your own business when you're supplanted by a new piece of technology, or when sales nose-dive, or when prices fall in the face of growing competition. Or when all three factors combine to make you redundant.

Maybe your business has just emerged from a bloodletting spree of corporate re-engineering. You've fired, retrenched, trimmed and downsized. Your workforce is about as mean and lean as it can get. You've also closed loss-making departments, marginally profitable branches and redundant plants. The bleeding has stopped, but the pain lingers on ...

So let's get back to work and destroy the business completely. It shouldn't be that difficult. The re-engineering fundis have already done most of the damage. Those who escaped the hatchet man are still pale, shaky and bewildered. They're suffering from a relatively new disease called "survivor sickness".

There's no known cure.

If you want to see the business fade away, make it your business to see that no one finds a cure. Do whatever you cant to aggravate the symptoms. These are easily recognisable and include:


an all-pervasive sense of insecurity;

open displays of distrust and betrayal;

a lack of direction;

a breakdown in channels of communication between top management and every other level of business, and

chronic depression, fatigue and stress.

These symptoms usually lead to a significant drop in productivity and product or service quality.

You can rub salt in the still raw wounds by making it known to all surviving employees that you'll turn a deaf ear to all complaints. Lists of grievances will be filed in the circular bin.

Take heart from American surveys which show that most re-engineered companies turn themselves inside out and upside down without achieving the stated objectives. And, in addition, many see the prices of the shares plummet.

Don't be tactful when you need to downsize a guy. One of the most tactful men I've ever met was the guy who fired me from one of my early jobs. He called me in and said: "Peter, I honestly don't know how we're going to get along with out you. But from Monday we're going to try."

I thought he was doing me a favour by giving me the heave-ho. And none of the survivors appeared to suffer from survivor sickness.

Don't be a gentleman. Go out of your way to heighten the negative effects of re-engineering by demonstrating little or no compassion when you wield the lay-off axe. Tell the news to those who you're about to chuck out in coldly worded business rhetoric. David Noer, an American training and education consultant, suggests the following blurb: "Our return on investment has eroded to the point where security analysts have expressed concern over the value of our stock. Our gross margins have been declining over the past six quarters. Last quarter we suffered a pre-tax loss. We are losing market share.

"Quality indicators show we are not making the gains we had planned. Revenue per employee has declined. We have no alternative but to implement downsizing if this organisation is to remain a viable economic entity."

It's all god meaningless execu-speak designed to make both the victims and the survivors thoroughly pissed off.

Here are 10 suggestions that you can use to re-engineer the company out of business:


Firmly discourage employees from upgrading their skills to meet the demands of the new work environment.

Make promises of secure, long-term employment, particularly to workers who you know will shortly be laid off. This should send morale and productivity plunging to record new lows.

Build up a strong culture of old-fashioned corporate paternalism to create a dependent, compliant workforce.

Exercise iron-fisted control over staff members and shun any form of empowerment.

Overload re-engineering survivors with additional duties without compensation or recognition.

Make a point of running down the company, its products and its management in front of employees at every opportunity.

Use cost-cutting as the only criterion for retrenching employees - to hell with quality and customer service.

Promote a feeling of paranoid uncertainty among re-engineering survivors by painting glowing visions of competitors' activities.

Take no steps to intervene compassionately in settling post traumas.

Regularly emphasis that management refused to consider possible alternatives to retrenchments.

1. I thought I made it clear
2. Let's not rock the boat
3. We tried that once before
4. Who cares? It's the company time after all
5. I'm the boss. Do as I say
6. I can't stand change
7. We made the cuts, now lets get back to work
8. I'll do it as soon as possible
9. I prefer to work alone
10. Speaking as a Nestlé man
11. Get him on the line!
12. I've got 20 years experience
13. Let's keep it confidential
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