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i Editor's Letter: Humanity and generosity

 

Apparently, there was an old joke on global trading floors that UBS, stood for 'U've Been Sacked'. Sadly, for some staff in the London office of the Swiss banking giant this week, that joke turned sour; brutally so, when 100 fixed income traders turned up for work on Tuesday to discover, via their deactivated entry swipe-cards, that they had lost their jobs. (Others found out because their emails bounced back!) They were victims of the bank's plan to cut 10,000 jobs in a 'restructuring' of their division.

In the FT, Axel Weber, the UBS chairman, justified the manner of the sackings thus: "dealing with our employees in a respectful and adequate fashion means we cannot leave them in uncertainty about what is coming over the next three years". Blimey, what would 'disrespectful' look like? Mr Weber thereby achieved the well-nigh impossible: he made me feel sorry for bankers.

Over my career, I have – sad to tell – sat on both sides of the desk when an employer tells an employee they are being 'let go'. It is not easy to tell someone 'we are entering into a consultation period' over the future of a job you both know has already been 'disappeared'. But it's never as bad as being the poor stunned sod hearing it. Trust me.

I tried to be as humane as possible as the 'firer', and have been fortunate enough to work for people who did the same for me as 'poor stunned sod'. Of course, I still resent their not appreciating my indispensible brilliance, but humanity and generosity should be non-negotiable pre-requisites when you pull the rug of security from under someone's life.

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