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Layoffs And Junipers

October 18, 2016

Last weekend I was hiking in Utah’s backcountry. The backcountry in Utah, especially southern Utah is marked by sand, sagebrush, rocks, blue skies, more rocks, and hardy trees. (Okay, maybe the blue skies are not necessarily specific to the backcountry, but you couldn’t tell from the pictures.)

This is a Juniper tree. And by the look of it, a healthy one. You might think, just to look at it, that’s it’s sick or dying. After all, there’s a lot of dead wood hanging off that tree. We’re into the fall here in Utah. Plants in my garden are nearly all dead, their dry stalks will serve one more purpose as Halloween decorations before getting tilled back into the ground. 

But, Junipers are different. Dead branches are not a sign of the death of the tree. They are actually a healthy sign of progress. 

Two weeks ago, my supervisor at work made a startling announcement. Some of the departments had done layoffs. My team wasn’t impacted, and eve the dapartments that were might have trimmed one or two positions. It’s what is sometimes referred to in business as a haircut. Just a small cutback. 

The idea is that by cutting back a little now, we can keep the company healthy going forward. These haircuts can be a vital part of a successful company strategy. And they are a lot like the Juniper trees.

Junipers are adapted to a desert climate where water, the lifeblood of all living things is scarce and inconsistent. Junipers have adapted to the desert. In times of drought, the tree will stop sending water to certain limbs. Essentially killing part of the plant to let the rest of it survive. The dead limbs look to the casual observer like a sign of death or disease. In fact, they are evidence that the tree is actively working to survive. The green part is stronger because it was willing to sacrifice some of the rest of it. 

Companies do layoffs for the same reason. Fortunately with layoffs, teh employees who are let go can move on to other opportunities. But, still, it was an interesting business lesson as I hiked the high desert of Southern Utah last weekend.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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