What’s the best day of the week for laying off employees? A certain well-known electronics retailer has apparently settled on Tuesday.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported last week that Best Buy, the struggling electronics retail giant, has regularly been laying off small groups of employees at its headquarters in Richfield, Minn. The latest rounds of low-key layoffs have come a few months after Best Buy shed 400 corporate and support workers. The new layoffs are unique not only because they’ve trickled out slowly as opposed to taking place with one big chop, but also because they’ve been taking place on one particular day of the week: Tuesday.
Employees have even given a name to the event: Termination Tuesdays.
A Best Buy representative says the layoffs have not been taking place every single week, and insists that shrinking its workforce — around 5,000 in recent years at the corporate campus, down from 9,000 at its high — is necessary for the retailer to best compete in today’s marketplace. Spokeswoman Amy von Walter tells TIME that the layoffs are an unfortunate part of the company’s ongoing transformation plan, which was dubbed Renew Blue and announced earlier this year. “When we committed to reducing costs as part of our Renew Blue transformation efforts, we said our first priority was to identify savings in nonsalary expenses, but we have also had to make some difficult decisions involving head count, which ultimately allow us to accelerate our work to transform our business,” von Walter says.
Nonetheless, anonymous sources within the company indicated that morale has reached new lows, what with colleagues disappearing left and right, and that the atmosphere is especially tense on Tuesdays. “Whenever someone leaves their desk, we think that person just got laid off, when he or she might just be going to the bathroom,” one Best Buy employee told the Star Tribune.
The Tuesday terminations have generally been hitting a handful of employees at a time, perhaps a dozen or two, tops. Why not simply pull off the Band-Aid quickly with one mass layoff? That approach can be brutal, but at least it gives those remaining behind the impression that their jobs are (somewhat) safe.
As some of the retail experts at RetailWire commented in a discussion about Best Buy’s near weekly firings, it can be horrible to have “people looking over their shoulder and waiting for their turn” to get their walking papers. Instead, one insider suggested, “Terminations and downsizings need to happen quickly so that the remaining employees can recommit and move forward.” Another noted, “Employees who fear their job may go away are likely to spend more time looking for a new job, since it is better to look for a job while you still have a job.”
Best Buy’s von Walter explains that the company instead prefers to cut costs (i.e., employees) more strategically and has been carefully picking and choosing the workers and departments that’ll receive pink slips. (Best Buy says it has simultaneously been adding head count and making investments in other areas that’ll help the company grow.)
Some have speculated that Best Buy may be firing people in dribs and drabs because doing so allows the company to circumvent a federal law that orders large employers to give 30 days’ notice of impending mass layoffs. Piecemeal terminations may also help Best Buy minimize the bad p.r. and media coverage that often accompany large-scale layoffs. Best Buy said that all such speculation about how and why it is right-sizing its workforce is off base.
In any event, what’s up with Tuesday? Why has it been chosen as D-Day in Best Buy circles? Best Buy didn’t want to address the topic directly, but von Walter notes, “Best Buy provides a meaningful severance package that includes salary, health care benefits and outplacement services to help ensure employees have support during the transition.”
Human-resources experts have varying views about which day of the week is best (least painful) for firing people. Some say Friday works best because it’s least disturbing to the office; the individual leaves for the weekend with everyone else and simply never comes back. Others think that a Friday firing is unnecessarily cruel. “Fridays make the departure less dramatic but could leave the employee stewing over the weekend,” a Wall Street Journal story on the topic stated. Pivotal Integrated HR Solutions is decidedly anti-Friday firings. “Fridays are recommended as not ideal because the employee would be left facing a weekend of going over things in his/her mind without being able to seek assistance,” a company post explained.
Mondays seem cruel in a different way, leaving a fired employee wondering, “Why didn’t you just cut me loose on Friday? Why’d you make me come in at all this week?”
So what we’re left with is the midweek termination, which gives the freshly canned worker ample time left in the week to evaluate severance packages (if offered), to get legal and personal advice, and to also start the job hunt. Hopefully, the timing helps to avoid totally ruining the person’s weekend as well.
Look at things that way, and it seems sorta nice of Best Buy to choose Tuesday as the day to give workers the boot.