Layoffs via conference call—a real-life nightmare before Christmas

Drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis drops the bomb en masse, and the terminated employees don’t even get to respond or ask questions.

A company lays off 1,700 employees. That news is bad enough. But imagine if it was just days after Thanksgiving—and handled by conference call for 900 employees. No company would do that, would it?

Sanofi-Aventis, the world’s fourth-largest pharmaceuticals company, did just that to a group of U.S. employees, leading several bloggers to compare its handling of the layoffs to the heartless practices depicted in the movie Up in the Air.

“The only worse method I can think of would be if the call had been a recording,” said Robert Holland of Holland Communications. “It may as well have been, given that employees had no opportunity to respond or ask questions.”

A more personalized, better-timed announcement would have done a lot to keep Sanofi-Aventis—and Yahoo, which announced about 600 layoffs last week—insulated from bad press, experts say.

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