Annals of bad communication: Layoff memo, part 2

After last August’s big layoff, I told the company’s publishers that employees want to see one thing at the very top of a layoff memo: How many of us will lose our jobs?

What they don’t want is a lot of literary throat clearing, or references to news we already know. And, yet! We now have before us one such memo — forwarded by a reader who says they got it today from their TV station’s general manager. (It’s 548 words; I’ve put the real news in boldface type.)

Team —

Sunday on Meet the Press, President-elect Obama talked about the economy getting worse before it gets better. We are making distinct efforts to develop new revenue streams and new clients. Every day we are experiencing wins in those areas and our sales folks are doing impressive things. But it is a big gap to bridge as numerous large and perennial clients cut their spending dramatically. Automotive advertising alone is down by staggering amounts.

Most of you are well aware of the expense cuts we’ve made. Your efforts to do more with less, really get behind the Information Center model and to carefully limit overtime have gone a long way to minimize the need to cut positions. Even so, we have eliminated some positions and will likely need to eliminate some more in coming months.

Obama also mentioned that some Americans will need to “take a haircut,” meaning pay more to help our country get out of this mess. We have a parallel here; it is a station-wide pay cut that we will need to enact January 1st. This step will go a long way to minimize future layoffs, keep more of us employed and maintain as large a workforce as possible. Here is how it will work:

All employees, including department heads and managers, will take percentage cuts in their base pay rate beginning January 1st. There will be no scheduled raises throughout 2009. Pay cuts will be on a graduated scale as follows

  • Employees with base pay less than $25,000 annually — 2% cut
  • Employees with base pay between $25,001 and 50,000 — 3% cut
  • Employees with base pay between $50,001 and 75,000 — 4% cut
  • Employees with base pay more than $75,001 annually — 5% cut

For the group of staff who are contracted talent, individually negotiated cuts will be made at the appropriate anniversary of their contracts in 2009. For commissioned sales account executives, cuts will be incorporated into their base pay, but they will be given incentives to overcome those cuts in the categories of new, online and developed business. I’m sure all of you can see that their success in bringing in new clients is our hope for the future and a return to higher salary levels for all.

We announce these cuts with the full knowledge that some individuals may find it time to move on in their careers. While we hope that does not happen, it is a risk we must assume in these extraordinary times.

This pay cut does not mean we will suspend performance reviews. There are some amazing and appreciated things going on that need to be discussed and celebrated. That individual feedback is more important now than ever.

We are hopeful that these cuts will be reversed in future budget years. For the time being, we can only do our very best to remain vital to our viewers, online users, clients and communities. No matter how hard the times become, we are the best positioned of any Maine media company to do just this.

If you have any questions on this, please don’t hesitate talking to either of us or your department head.

On behalf of your managers, our sincere thanks for all you are doing and will continue to do for our stations’ success. Together we will survive these tough times and thrive in the times that will surely follow.

Got a memo on your mind? Post it in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar.

[Photo: Memo’s Mexican Food restaurant sign, Seattle Weekly]

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