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News & views

Dead unusual word wins sack race at HSBC

[29 May 2013] HSBC has told several thousand staff that their jobs are being ‘demised’ – in other words, they’re being sacked. Britain’s most profitable bank (it made £13.7bn last year) used the expression to say it was getting rid of 942 ‘relationship managers’. Up to 178 advisers for small businesses will also be going down the road:

‘This integration of advisers means the roles of commercial advisers will be demised.’

The union Unite’s national officer Dominic Hook condemned HSBC’s language, telling the Daily Mail: ‘This jargon is demeaning to HSBC staff who are at the end of their tether with cuts to sick pay, holidays and pensions.’

The Guardian suggested other unusual terms for being given the order of the boot, namely surplussed, furloughed, unassigned, downsized, rightsized and dehired. It also dredged up several euphemisms actually used by companies over the years when ‘letting their staff go’. It seems that Nokia Siemens Networks described its plan for 9,000 redundancies in 2008 as a ‘synergy related headcount adjustment’. Yahoo said its 10% staff cut would help the company ‘to become more fit’. Tesla Motors said its round of redundancies would achieve a closer adherence to its ‘special forces philosophy’.

Why is it so hard to tell people in plain language that they are no longer needed? Maybe the bank could have tried something like: ‘We’re sorry, but from [date] the bank will no longer be able to employ you because your job role is being made redundant. I know this will probably be very disappointing news, but...’.

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