A Coaching Power Tool created by Iva Wilson
(Executive Coach, UNITED STATES)
As President of Philips Display Components, a division of Philips I was given an assignment by the new Managing director of the business group Display Components. He was also my new boss who prior to that was running Display Components in Europe and was as such my colleague. He and I never had a good relationship and when he became my boss I did not want to continue in my position. He insisted that I stay, as I in his own words was much more knowledgeable about the display components business in particular the technology behind it. He told me he needed me to stay for a least six months. I agreed to do so under the condition that he help me find another position in Philips. He committed to do so.
The first assignment I got was to reduce the fixed cost in our company. This meant that we needed to reduce the number of people employed as the fixed cost is mainly dictated by the salaries our people both in the headquarters and in the factory were paid. This did not include the hourly personnel as their compensation was contractually determined.
Once I accepted this assignment I decided to first assess the processes we need to run the business and after that select the people who best fit those processes and lay off those that did not. We hired consultants to help us with that and I also added to the project group two individuals from Philips who reported to my boss as well. I thought by doing so they will be able to help us with our boss once we start working on the project.
It took us approximately four months to complete the project and make the assessment as to how many people we needed both in the headquarters and in the factory to fully support the business. We also assessed which people would best fit into those jobs and were ready to report to my boss. As a result of this evaluation we determined that approximately 18% of our employees will have to be laid off.
I went to Europe to report to my boss about the results. One of the US consultants as well as the two individuals from Philips accompanied me to the meeting where I was to report to my boss about the findings.
When I entered my boss’s office and started reporting I felt very uncomfortable. My boss was not listening, he was writing something and he did not seemed interested in what I had to say. Once I completed my report he said to me:
I am not interested at all about your findings, I just want you to lay off 20% of the people that represent your fixed cost. Your project did not come up with 20% but only 18% and this is not enough.
I could not believe my ears!
Cutting more people would cut into the meat of the organization and we would not be able to accomplish all the work we have to do
I told my boss. He responded
I do not care about that, just do what I told you to do!
I was expecting that my boss would be happy with how we approached the assignment. He never told me that I have to lay of 20% of all the people who are part of the fixed cost. My blood started boiling. I told him, I will not do that and he will have to do it himself. His response was