Should you use euphemisms to describe layoffs?

A tongue-in-cheek look at why euphemisms are better than truth telling in a crisis.

Never tell the truth in a crisis. Don’t lie, either. That can be even worse. So how do you evade the truth without alarming or offending people who can make trouble for you? Use euphemisms.

Euphemisms are essential business tools. They allow you to create a kind of alternative reality in between truth and lies. Euphemisms are useful in many situations, but are especially handy when your company is getting rid of unnecessary employees.

The flexibility enjoyed by American business is the envy of the industrialized world. In no other modern, industrial democracy is it so easy for a company to rid itself of unwanted employees. Whether it’s called downsizing, merging, outsourcing, reorganizing, or offshoring, shedding staff pleases a company’s stockholders by boosting its stock price. Surprisingly, it does not have the same effect on the general public.

We expect employees to place their own interests above the company’s, but the negative reaction from the general public is more puzzling. You might think that people who want a strong economy would welcome actions that boost the Dow, but curiously this is not always the case. Only with other managers is it possible to discuss layoffs rationally.

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