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In a page from Meta's playbook, Snitzer to open Kyiv branch.

Thomas Spritzler will be offering US workers the chance to transfer to it's Kyiv branch or receive three days of severance pay. In a carefully worded email to employees, the Report's owner explained, "dear occupant, your work can best be described as uninspired, and I'm afraid all we can provide is a participation trophy. I hope you will embrace our commitment to supporting our brave brothers and sisters overseas. Have a nice day."

PS. For those of you who are habitually uninformed, Meta recently sent out thousands of negative performance reviews which experts predict will precede some massive additional layoffs.

How Companies Can Lose Workers Without Imposing Layoffs

Issuing subpar performance reviews or requiring relocation can thin ranks

Meta says it gives incentives for high-quality work.

By Chip Cutter, WSJ

Feb. 26, 2023 5:30 am ET

Companies are shedding some workers without imposing layoffs.

Amid a wave of job cuts hitting U.S. white-collar workers, a number of employers are taking other approaches to manage their workforces. Some are adding new restrictions on remote work, stepping up scrutiny in performance reviews or requiring staffers to relocate across the country to keep their jobs.

The moves, though not labeled as layoffs, can at times have a similar effect in thinning a company’s ranks, human-resources specialists and corporate advisers say. It is also a sign that bosses at white-collar firms are back in charge after struggling to retain workers in recent years amid a tight labor market.

At Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc., META -0.96%decrease; red down pointing triangle thousands of employees received subpar ratings in a recently concluded round of performance reviews, the Journal reported. Meta’s leadership expects the ratings to lead more employees to leave in the coming weeks, people familiar with the matter said. A spokesman for Meta, which also cut a bonus metric for employees, said that its performance-review process is in keeping with what the company has communicated to employees, and that the company has long had a goals-based culture that gives incentives for high-quality work.

Other employers have shifted return-to-office policies. Walt Disney Co. said it is requiring employees to work in an office four days a week starting in March, while Inc. is mandating at least three days in offices for much of its staff as of May.

Employers can have multiple motivations for restructuring operations or changing workplace policies.

In recent weeks, Walmart Inc. told employees that it plans to close three of its U.S. technology hubs and require hundreds of workers to relocate to places such as Arkansas or California to keep their jobs, The Wall Street Journal reported. At the same time, Walmart told technology workers they are soon expected back at physical offices at least two days a week. Walmart, the country’s largest private employer, hopes to relocate most staff in the offices that will close, and some will be allowed to become full-time remote workers, a spokeswoman previously said. Those who leave will get severance, she said. The move affects a small percentage of Walmart’s around 1.7 million U.S. employees.

A Walmart spokeswoman added Friday that the closure of its technology hubs is in no way a strategy to reduce head count and that the company hopes “all affected choose to continue their careers with Walmart.”

Other recent corporate decisions are likely thinly disguised attempts to reduce staff as the economy shifts, said Harry Kraemer, a former chief executive of healthcare company Baxter International Inc.

Companies might feel reluctant to admit that they hired too quickly in the pandemic or incorrectly forecast growth and are now looking to correct, said Mr. Kraemer, who works as a professor of leadership at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

“It’s very much a layoff without calling it a layoff,” said Sevin Yeltekin, an economist and dean of the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester.

Though the labor market remains historically tight, with a 3.4% unemployment rate as of January, many companies are looking to signal to investors that they are taking steps to cut costs and increase efficiency, executives and advisers say.

Companies have long had ways to push employees out without firing them. Reorganizing teams, requiring employees to report to new bosses or making them take on new projects can all prompt staffers to look elsewhere for work, said Roberta Matuson, an executive coach and adviser to businesses on human-resources issues.

Some employers prefer a corporate restructuring to a layoff because it means they don’t have to single out individuals.

“It’s cleaner. No feelings are hurt,” Ms. Matuson said. “When no feelings are hurt, people tend not to sue.”

Any change in how people do their jobs can cause people to resign, executives and advisers say. After Tyson Foods Inc. TSN -1.81%decrease; red down pointing triangle said last year that it planned to close corporate offices in Chicago, Downers Grove, Ill., and Dakota Dunes, S.D.—consolidating those functions at Tyson’s headquarters in northwest Arkansas—hundreds of employees indicated that they planned to quit.

Roughly three-quarters of the 500 employees in Tyson’s South Dakota office told the company they wouldn’t make the move to Arkansas and planned to depart by about the time the office closes in mid-2023, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. More than 90% of the employees in Tyson’s Chicago office declined to relocate, the Journal also reported.

On a call with reporters earlier this month, Tyson Chief Executive Donnie King said the company is confident it can recruit to northwest Arkansas and that it had already filled some of the vacated roles.

Before companies announce an office closing or change, many executives often model how many employees could potentially quit, said Ms. Yeltekin.

Bosses know that, owing to personal reasons, a spouse’s employment or other factors, some employees won’t agree to a relocation, even if a company offers to help cover costs.

Efforts to increase voluntary turnover can carry risks, advisers say. Companies might lose the highest-performing employees who can most easily find work elsewhere, said Keith Goudy, a managing partner of the leadership advisory firm Vantage Leadership Consulting. “You can get a lot of undesirable turnover,” he said.

At the same time, many executives say that a softening economy could give companies an opportunity now to push for changes that bosses have long wanted, such as more in-office time, said Aaron Sojourner, a senior researcher at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

During much of the pandemic, bosses feared making changes that could cause employees to leave. That attrition might not be as much of a concern, advisers and economists say, as the labor market shifts.

“There’s less employer desperation,” Mr. Sojourner said. “Employers feel a little more empowered to impose the things that they want.”

Sarah Nassauer and Patrick Thomas contributed to this article.

Write to Chip Cutter at

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