RadioShack Fires Workers Electronically

Discussion
Sep 01, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Last Tuesday, 400 workers at RadioShack’s headquarters were fired. But, instead of it being done face-to-face they got the message via email.


RadioShack said it had informed workers in July that layoffs were coming and they would be notified “electronically.” Being a consumer electronics retailer, it does make sense in a perverse sort of way.


The reaction to RadioShack’s method of terminating employees has drawn widespread criticism.


Bruce Raynor, of the labor union Unite Here, told Forbes, “It’s an outrageous way to treat human beings. What’s next? Eulogies? People don’t need to come to a funeral; we’ll do it by e-mail.”


Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University, said, “That they’re (RadioShack management) not willing to look them in the eye is true disrespect.”


As to whether RadioShack needed to let go so many people is hardly in dispute. The company has performed miserably for years and needs to bring costs in line with sales. The method RadioShack management chose to pare its workforce, however, not only showed a lack of respect for ex-employees but destroyed any illusion it values its remaining workers.


Discussion Question: What do you see as the consequences (if any) for RadioShack arising from its decision to fired people by email?

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29 Comments on "RadioShack Fires Workers Electronically"


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larry crist
Guest
larry crist
14 years 5 months ago
As a management leader, I am bewildered as to why any company would do such a thing to its employees. It’s as though we in management don’t want to get our hands dirty or face the reality of the disappointment on the faces of the employees. They are the backbone of all companies and corporations. All executives need to remember where they came from. All of, or I should say most of, us where not born with a silver or gold spoon in our mouth. Some of us worked our way up the ladder. Maybe we as executives need to take time and reflect a little. I know that’s asking a lot and some will not because they are driven by Greed, Money and Power. Problem is, it’s always been told to me that if you give a little, in return you’ll get some back. I personally have given to our employees a little in return each year. Whether it’s a Merit raise, a dinner for two or a yearly raise. There’s no need for… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

Cool excuse. We told them that we’d tell them electronically and we’re an electronics company so that makes it OK. Give me a break. George’s last sentence sums up the probable consequences beautifully – complete destruction of trust amongst the remaining (and any future) employees should the company ever decide it needs to hire staff.

John Lansdale
Guest
John Lansdale
14 years 5 months ago

Found the job electronically, interviewed electronically, hired electronically, selected benefits electronically, paid electronically, given schedules and work instructions electronically, join the union electronically, strike electronically(?), blog about it, fired electronically. What’s the big deal? Next comes electronic faith and grief.

Contrary to the PR ideal, it’s not the media, it’s the message.

Madeleine Forrer
Guest
Madeleine Forrer
14 years 5 months ago

Deplorable is the word that comes to mind. I’ve seen and had the misfortune of participating in mass layoffs. Those 400 people didn’t work for one person. There are ways to do it and it’s been done for years!

It’s a stressful process to be sure, but there is absolutely no excuse for such a poor decision. I fear it reflects what continues to be wrong with RadioShack and that their recovery will be further off than they hoped.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

Absolutely inexcusable. People are NOT electronics.

Simon Foster
Guest
Simon Foster
14 years 5 months ago

I feel I need to reply partly against David Livingston’s comments. I agree that the sacking of many individuals is not a pleasant one. I also agree that it is preferable to perform this in a more “en masse” approach. However email is such an impersonal mechanism. Why could they not at least invite them into one room and stand up in front of them and explain what they are doing. I recall at a previous employment having to watch my CEO do this to around 50 people. Still not pleasant to watch, but other people, including myself, are at least on hand to be consulted face-to-face.

Still, I have to wonder whether this will be the last wave of culling for RadioShack. One would also hope that they have looked hard at what is going wrong and make changes before they have no one left.

Ian Percy
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

I’ve spoken for years about the truism: “How we are managed is how we serve.” If there is no management engagement with the employees there will be no engagement between employees and the customers. Disrespect breeds disrespect. Lack of care breeds lack of care. And so on.

When the ‘ecology’ of an organization breaks down the ‘economy’ soon follows. Without a strong and positive culture, no level of success is sustainable.

The most amusing bit is the ‘justification’ that they actually “warned” employees (probably by email) they were going to be fired by email. Someone in RadioShack HR came to the conclusion that this would make it all so human. Count on it; there will be a series of breakdowns like this as the company crumbles.

Mark H. Goldstein
Guest
Mark H. Goldstein
14 years 5 months ago

RadioShack is in the middle of a war; during war time, who has time to be appropriate and do the right thing?

Will RadioShack escape the bankruptcies that Tower Records and Musicland were not able to avoid? Who knows? I’d expect more carnage along the way and any competent man or woman in Ft. Worth should run for the fences and become a RadioShack refugee. Expect more emails like last week’s. Go get a job at one of the other big retail orgs in the super-prosperous DFW area if you can’t handle life during wartime!

Kenneth A. Grady
Guest
Kenneth A. Grady
14 years 5 months ago

RadioShack has made many missteps in recent years, and unfortunately the chain did not break. RIFs are never pleasant and about the only saving grace is to handle them with with respect for the individuals involved. While logistically it is more complicated to meet with all 400 employees, that is no excuse for not doing so. RadioShack has lost far more than it gained by using the email method. Without knowing who made the decision and why, it is difficult to go further. I suspect, however, that RadioShack’s sole service on this one will be to inform other companies on how not to do a RIF.

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
14 years 5 months ago

One wonders if the principles of servant leadership were remotely a part of this action. The employees, despite what senior executives may or may not think, are not responsible for the bloated head count. The organization is. While individually, we are all responsible for performing with integrity, RadioShack fostered and maintained an environment in which inefficient work was accepted. Again, the blame falls on the organization.

In any large scale layoff, the company has four constituents to attempt to serve. The laid off employees, the remaining employees, the stockholders, and the public. The packages, based on the articles read, appeared generous.

The process, while efficient, may end up with hidden costs of great significance over the long run. No, I am not impressed with this mechanism, nor the 30 minute window, or the assembled into group out-processing. Ugh.

Barry Wise
Guest
Barry Wise
14 years 5 months ago

RadioShack’s management has just added another problem to the list of things they need to overcome on the road to turning the company around: winning the respect of its remaining employees. The new management in any turnaround has to gain the confidence of its employees to help achieve their success, however, RadioShack’s management now also has to repair their image in order to attract the kind of people they need to be successful. One of the lessons that should have been learned is that technology can’t replace common sense and compassion when dealing with a company’s employees.

Warren Thayer
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

Tacky and disrespectful. Over the years, I’ve been both a firer and a firee, and it was always done eyeball to eyeball. Sure, it’s traumatic for both sides, but do it with class. These were headquarters firings, and nobody had to go any great distance to do the job. At my company, five years ago, my boss once spent an entire day getting to and from a branch office to let one guy go. Not a pleasant act, but something done with class, and I’ve always remembered it (along with more pleasant things, I might add!). In the early days of my newspaper career, a competing paper let one of its linotype operators go by leaving a note on his machine when he went off to lunch. It created town-wide outrage, and a boycott of the newspaper, which we capitalized on. How things change!

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

There is never an easy way to fire people. But how do you unload 400 people in one shot at one office? You can’t do it one at time. You can’t even do it 20 at a time. It would cause so much panic. I’m going to back Radio Shack up on this. One shot — done. If you do it in one shot, then the remaining workers know they are safe for the time being and don’t have to suffer watching small groups of people being lead out by security.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

Purely from the most selfish point of view possible: how much bad publicity does RadioShack want to generate? They’re certainly not impressing their investors, franchisees, potential new franchisees, customers, or their remaining employees. The CEO with the faked degree, the poor financial results, and the email staff layoffs: is this what RadioShack wants to be known for? Is there an annual award for Worst Self-Generated Publicity By A National Retailer?

Lisa Everitt
Guest
Lisa Everitt
14 years 5 months ago

> RadioShack is in the middle of a war; during war time, who has time to be appropriate and do the right thing?

Um, the United States Marines send a detail in full dress blues to inform the family of a dead Marine. They stay with the fallen Marine until he or she is in the ground and an officer stays in contact with the family until he or she’s no longer needed. The Marines leave no one on the battlefield.

Treating people in a shoddy manner is never cost-effective.

Pulitzer-winning story about Marine bereavement detail here. Follow-up
story
sends the bereavement detail to the Lakota Sioux reservation. Bring Kleenex.

Jim Wisuri
Guest
Jim Wisuri
14 years 5 months ago

Radio Shack has provided another example of how coarse our culture has become.

And what’s most curious is how “human” resources executives — and consultants — can justify the avoidance of acknowledging a departing colleague’s humanity, and contributions to the corporate good. It can be done quietly, with grace, with regret, with respect, one to one.

If Radio Shack is in a war, it would be wise for them to remember the importance of keeping the troops focused and motivated.

Mike Romano
Guest
Mike Romano
14 years 5 months ago

And we wonder why employer-employee relationships the past 20 years have deteriorated to this corrosive point?

The prevailing attitude today has boiled down to “I’m firing you to save a buck” on one hand and “I’m leaving you for a buck more” on the other hand.

George Whalin
Guest
George Whalin
14 years 5 months ago

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a company would choose efficiency over humanity when it comes to layoffs. Sure, they are offering a nice severance package, but the way this was handled will stick with these people as long as they live. As others have written, what does this say to the people still working at Radio Shack? We’ve been talking about the importance of a company’s human resources for many years. I wonder when we will actually take it seriously.

Diane Blanck
Guest
Diane Blanck
14 years 5 months ago

In this day and age where time is precious and technology is plentiful, it is always enticing to use technology to be more efficient. It is also common to forget that for humans, face-to-face interaction is always the most productive. Finally, it is NEVER acceptable to prioritize efficiency over people. RadioShack’s email delivery of mass termination notices is disrespectful of all its constituents, the fired employees, the remaining employees, the shareholders and customers. As a business person, I am appalled. As a consumer, I will not transact with a company that doesn’t value its people. RadioShack should be embarrassed and current employees should begin looking for companies that might appreciate their talent and dedication ’cause they too could get the flaming email in the next round of cuts. Two songs to live by come to mind, “People, people who need people…” AND “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
14 years 5 months ago

RadioShack’s handling of this situation is a sad commentary on their business. It certainly shows a lack or respect for what could be their best allies in the months ahead, their own associates. It is indeed possible to set up group and individual meetings with 400 people or many more, if HR and corporate believe it is important. This could be a classic case for corporate America on how not to handle a difficult situation.

This action can only result in future negative consequences for RadioShack, which is now “RadioShame” in my opinion.

Edward Herrera
Guest
Edward Herrera
14 years 5 months ago

I think this is cutting edge. I have been part of ugly Fridays where 100s of people were let go and there is no easy way to mass terminate. As for the remaining employees, I think they will feel safer about their jobs. I know I respected the courage to mass terminate to save the company. This may not turn out well for RadioShack but this is not the last of this type of action. To the point above, yes we will participate in online funerals with video conferencing.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
14 years 5 months ago

It doesn’t make any difference how one is notified. What is important is that the event be publicized so that prospective employers know that the employee was not terminated for any specific reason. What did RadioShack do for these employees. Health insurance, severance pay, early retirement? These considerations are the true measure of a company’s compassion. Whether a boss is made to sit down and let someone go on an eye ball to eye ball basis and terminate someone personally doesn’t amount to a hill of beans unless the person who made the decision is trying to focus any ill will away from himself. What matters in a situation like this is that the company do everything it can to take care of the ex-employee and make the transition as positive as possible.

If you want to know how coarse RadioShack is or isn’t look into how these employees were treated and let us know. Give me a good package and an email any day!

Dwayne Kelly
Guest
Dwayne Kelly
14 years 5 months ago

I would like to know what happened after they received the email Were they escorted out by security? Did the new ex-employees take souvenirs?

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

Totally cold. Institutionalized rudeness and cowardliness in its most rarified form.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
14 years 5 months ago

If I were a RadioShack employee who was fired via email, I’d pretend I didn’t receive it or open it, and show up at work the next day. That would force management to treat me with the courtesy I deserve. Was I hired via email? No, and I wouldn’t deserve to be fired that way, either.

On the other hand, when was the last time you were in a RadioShack store? My impression — when searching for some esoteric cable connector or another — is that the employees are generally in the geek mold (I use “geek” in the most respectful manner possible, since the term has been embraced by the Geek Squad repair service). Let’s just say that personal interaction is not their strongest attribute. So, perhaps they were completely comfortable with termination by email. It saved them a trip to work and an uncomfortable personal interaction. Seriously, I wonder if, upon being hired, how many RadioShack employees would opt into email termination if it were ever necessary.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

Did an escapee in a Titanic lifeboat care whether they were sitting inside or out? Did the doomed care if they got a rail side spot or not?

How much morale can a company have (anyway) if it’s firing people en masse ( which, in turn, is because it’s slowly going out of business)?

James Tenser
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

Well I guess I’m grasping a few mildly positive aspects of the “Radio Schock” approach:

– everybody affected finds out simultaneously

– privacy is somewhat respected; at least there are no visible pink slips

– they don’t spend a lot of extra HR hours on an unpleasant task

But brrr… it sure got chilly in my office when I read about this.

This event debuts a new cultural role for electronic communications and it raises a new and rather grave question of etiquette.

I imagine it was not the most productive workday ever at RS headquarters.