Enjoy your furlough; Isn't that like a spring break?

Last week, the employees of this company (Penton) began a “furlough” of one day per week for the next four months. Basically, the company is shutting down on Fridays. Employees were told to enjoy the extra time with their families.

Yep, enjoy that extra time off, maybe take the kids to Disneyland or something. Whoops, don’t forget to take into account the accompanying 10 percent cut in pay you’ll experience.

You might have even read the actual memo on the no pay for Fridays in a competitive publication, Folio magazine. It appears someone inside Penton forwarded the CEO’s e-mail message to the competitor and it published the entire memo along with its writer’s story.

As you might imagine, once our CEO’s memo appeared in the competition, the crap hit the fan here. I understand the Penton IT department was instructed to try to discover who forwarded the memo to Folio. The investigation apparently showed some 500 instances of employees forwarding the CEO’s furlough message to others, many outside the company. Did they discover the culprit? Don’t know.

In a followup memo from the Penton CEO, employees were told that forwarding internal communications to anyone outside the company was not a good thing to do. In other words, doing so might reflect poorly on your (soon-to-be-previous) career. Of course, all this is implied and not stated for obvious reasons.

I was reminded of our situation this morning after a reader sent me the link to a similar tale, this time presented in video form. In the video, a supervisor is given the task of explaining to his staff they are being furloughed for five days over the upcoming quarter. The problem is, the supervisor doesn’t really understand what the word furlough means. Instead, he tells the staff they are getting a spring break!

There are two versions of the video. One is 10 minutes long and the other is shorter, running only 2 minutes. The short version tells you all you need to know. The employees are getting screwed, and the supervisor doesn’t even know it’s happening. He’s so clueless, you almost feel sorry for him.

In the case of Penton, management made no attempt to hide the not-so-small detail that everyone is going to suffer an about 10 percent pay cut to compensate the company for the time an individual won’t work (Fridays) over the summer. And given that layoffs, especially as we’ve seen in the radio, television and print industries, are particularly devastating, taking a 10 percent cut in pay is far better than losing one’s job. I give credit to our managers for making that decision.

So, for a light-hearted start to your work week, watch this doofus try and explain what furlough means to his disbelieving staff. And, if you’re ever charged with having to tell your staff they are going to be furloughed, don’t make the mistake of calling it a spring break.