Entrepreneurs and business owners could learn a lot from Marissa Mayer and her decision to refer to layoffs at Yahoo as a "remix."
Want to degrade people during one of life's hardest moments? Follow Mayer's lead.
Want to be mocked in the media? Follow Mayer's lead.
Want to confirm a widely held belief that you lack empathy? Follow Mayer's lead.
Layoffs are not remixes. "Layoff!" isn't something a DJ shouts right before the music starts to throb.
A layoff is a parent losing his job, forcing the other parent to re-enter the work force to support a family. My mom had to do that for my family when I was a kid. She would go to McDonald's to work the morning shift, earning minimum wage, her hair smelling of Egg McMuffins. After that she would deliver newspapers in the afternoon, the skin around her fingernails stained black with ink.
A layoff was my dad having to learn not just how to do something new, but also how to be something new. One day he could take care of his family, and then one day he couldn't. Unemployment is part math problem (how do we pay the bills?) and part identify problem (who am I, if I am not this?).
It's never a "remix."
(Side note: I am sure some expensive PR consultant came up with the term "remix" to describe a mass layoff. I work in PR. Terms like "remix" are why people think we are the devil.)
Only those who have never felt the immediate pain of a layoff and wondered how they were going to support themselves and the people they care about would ever call a layoff a "remix." When Marissa Mayer loses her job, she will still be fabulously rich. She will never have to decide between the water bill and a visit to the doctor.
She will also never have to see the human impact of layoffs. Yahoo has around 11,000 employees. One human being, having been laid off, represents just .00009 percent of that total work force. I'm not even completely sure how to pronounce a number that small, but I know that that one human being is 100 percent a mother, father, son, or daughter to someone else.
Layoffs are inevitable. Our economy thrives on the kind of creative destruction and regeneration that creates layoffs, which in turn create new opportunities. Because layoffs are necessary, there isn't a need to come up with a cute term for them that attempts to obscure the reality.
Getting laid off never feels good, but the notion that somehow it feels better when you can to go home and tell your spouse and kids that you were "remixed" instead of "laid off" is ridiculous.
It's the kind of ridiculousness and failed leadership that fuels the anger toward the corporate class that is so evident in our presidential primaries.
People whose job loss is a result of circumstances beyond their control deserve better than being used as a PR prop or a buzzword. If you have to lay people off, do it with a sense of dignity and respect, beginning with using the correct term.