Friday, June 01, 2007

No sweeter way to say "You're Fired!"

If you’re up to date on the latest business news, there’s a good chance that you’ve read that some company somewhere is laying off a sizeable portion of it workforce. Motorola just announced that its pink slipping 4,000 employees into the corporate trash bin.

Thank you for coming, folks; we appreciate all that you’ve done for the Company, is likely the message that each and every one of those employees heard as they learned that their future no longer included Motorola.

It’s always difficult to fire people. I speak with experience on this topic. It’s a nasty business. The air is tense and the person doing the firing is usually very nervous; they’re required to keep to a script prepared by the executives in human resources, which was reviewed and rewritten by an attorney. As I see it, the whole experience is akin to an execution, sans violence.

If you’re a half-decent human being, charged with firing someone, it’s one of those moments in your career that you would prefer to have never experienced. Even if I intensely disliked the person I was dismissing, and they had it coming to them, firing them never left me feeling proud. I always felt like a heap of crap.

I’m sure other managers have felt the same way, presuming they did the firing, as I always did, in person.

You have to wonder how Motorola’s employees learned they were leaving the company. Were they text messaged on their cell phone? Or, if they were younger, say in their 20s, did the folks at human resources “im” them – you know, send them an instant message.

I’m not trying to be facetious, but there was a company that actually sent e-mails to the employees it was firing. How impersonal is that?

These days, our society, through its communication, softens reality’s sharp edges. If you’re fired or laid off, it’s perfectly acceptable to say you’re “career transitioned.” That’s hardly an exact description of what occurred.

So I have a modest proposal for making layoffs softer, kinder, gentler, and, yes, even sweeter: Instead of the manager and the employee having a tense, difficult talk, the boss should just give the “condemned” a package of M&Ms candy.

M&Ms, through their Web site,, will sell you a customized version of their candy. Not only can you pick the candy’s color but you can also write a message that appears on the candy.

Companies anticipating dismissing their employees could order pink M&Ms by the bundle that say “You’re fired.” Yes, I’ve tried this myself on their Web site. There are a few messages and words that M&Ms will not allow on their candy, but they have no problem printing the phrase “You’re fired” on those tasty little nuggets of chocolate.

I see a whole new line of business for M&Ms that they completely unanticipated. They could start selling human resources executives on the concept that handing out pink M&Ms to people that are being fired is kinder and gentler than the pink slip.

Think if Donald Trump had used pink M&Ms on his recently dropped television show, “The Apprentice.” Instead of shooting off his trademark phrase, “You’re fired!”, The Donald could have tossed packages of pink M&Ms across the conference table to the deposed contestants, saying “Catch” instead. It would have been so much nicer.

NBC would have benefited too. Not only would they have a new sponsor for the show but they would also be offering M&Ms a complete merchandising program – something that would certainly make their advertising agency proud.

For the soon-to-be-dismissed in corporate America, receiving a package of pink M&Ms would almost be like having a last meal on the company and, hey, it’s chocolate. What better way to learn the news that your days with the firm are over?

Think about what people who are part of a mass lay off will be saying to one another? “Did you get the M&Ms, too?” Or, “Uh-oh, I’ve been M&Med!”

This is so ingenious that it makes me wonder if the folks in marketing at M&Ms were planning a whole new use for their candy when they created this customization opportunity. Talk about a way to extend the M&Ms brand while, at the same time, improving its brand awareness. If this doesn’t make some marketing professor proud, what will? Way to go guys! You’re the best!

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