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Arment Dietrich

Sun-Times Fires Staffers by Phone

By: Arment Dietrich | March 12, 2008 | 
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Blog written by Ayanna Green

The Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines public relations as the art, technique, or profession of promoting goodwill between an organization or an individual and the public, employees, customers, etc.

I will be focusing on the promotion of goodwill between an organization and its employees.  We hear news all of the time about poor employer/employee relations.  These relationships are often strained the moment they begin.  

What is in the media worsens the uneasiness.  For example, on January 24, 2008, a news story broke about the Chicago Sun-Times Media Group firing employees over the phone midweek.  When will organizations learn that how you treat your current employees has the ability to effect prospective employees and business opportunities?  Organizations would do well to take their image as seriously as their bottom line.  I get hot under the collar just thinking about it.  I wonder if that was the best way for the Chicago Sun-Times to terminate their relationship with its employees.  On a visceral level, my immediate answer is no.  Logically, it just doesn’t compute.   Why would a newspaper execute planned layoffs so poorly?  Did the Chicago Sun-Times really think this would not grab the attention of rival newspapers? 

There is a lot I don’t know about what really happened.  I don’t know if these were part-time or full-time employees.  I don’t know if they were telecommuters (in which case it may have been the most efficient way to lay them off).  But I do know that it looks bad.  It looks bad to the millions of people working in the United States.  It also feels bad.  We think this could happen to us or our loved ones.  We run through our mental Rolodex to make sure we don’t know anyone who works at the Sun-Times.

When the story was ran, Sun-Times stakeholders may have been pleased, but existing employees were aghast.  Can you imagine how tense the office atmosphere was?  Can you imagine the blow to productivity?  The Sun-Times financial woes may be waning, but their internal woes are just beginning. 

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