Layoff euphemisms

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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.

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?

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