For Mother’s Day this year, my mother and I had our traditional seafood dinner at her house, with fresh lobster and clam steamers.  What was different this year is that for the first time, neither of my brothers could make it so it was just my mom and me.  That meant I had to kill the lobsters.

At one point my mother came into the kitchen and asked, “So, is it traumatic?”

“I don’t know yet,” I said grimly.  The water was not yet boiling, but I was already getting thoroughly worked up in anticipation of the moment.  The lobsters sat in the sink, waiting, waving their claws at me.

Later, after the deed was done and all the food was on the table, I answered my mother’s question again.  “It was terrible,” I said.  “I think I did something wrong.  It seemed like they were still alive for a long time after I put them in the pot.”

Somehow, the lobster didn’t taste as good as it usually does.

I know you’re waiting for me to make a cheesy connection between the lobsters and what we do in the workplace, and I’m not going to disappoint you.  It’s like managers who have great ideas about saving costs by laying off workers, but they don’t want to do the dirty work themselves.  They get HR to handle the termination interviews, and because they don’t have to see the look in the eyes of a departing worker, they don’t take as much time and care to make sure it’s done as humanely as possible.  Or perhaps they don’t handle the communication with surviving workers as sensitively as they should.  Or perhaps they don’t try as hard as they could to avoid the layoffs in the first place.

Years ago I worked as the HR director for a small specialty financial services company that was constantly growing and cutting back, growing and cutting back.  Every time they cut back, senior leadership asked me to handle all the layoffs.  Managers were not required to sit in the room with me, and so they were free to be quick with the layoff decisions and stingy with the severance packages, never having to see that look in their employee’s eyes.  Never having to see the lobster thrashing.  (Sorry, I know that was really bad.)

Next time, kill your own lobster if it really must be done.  You’ll do a better job of it.

As for me, I’m thinking of having steak for Mother’s Day next year.

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