Welcome to the archives for NewsTalk, an IBJ blog published from November 2007 through December 2010.

Layoffs / Downsizing / Employment / Workplace Issues

Layoff euphemisms

November 9, 2009

Border’s announcement today that it will close 200 Waldenbooks locations, including the one in Greenwood Park Mall, amounted to yet another layoff notice as the economy continues to sputter.

Approximately 1,500 positions, mostly part-time, will be affected by the “right-sizing,” Borders warned.

Borders actually used the “L” word, “layoff,” in the release, so it was more honest than some. At least “smartsized,” “streamlined,” “offboarded” and some of the other euphemisms were absent.

Why do so many corporations beat around the bush? Butler University professor Ed Kanis thinks corporations are inherently uncomfortable with direct language.

Kanis, who headed communications for Louisville-based Kindred Healthcare as it went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization several years ago, says human resources departments in particular are euphemism factories.

“You’re always trying to deliver messages in the most sensitive way possible,” he says. But, “Professionals get it. It’s somewhat of a cop-out not to be direct.”

Euphemisms aren’t going away, Kanis says. If for no other reason, “Spanglish” words understood to both English and Spanish speakers will emerge. “Every year the wordsmiths among us come up with new language.”

How do you feel about layoff euphemisms? Any favorites?

Comments powered by Disqus