A Classic Example of How Not to Handle Layoffs

August 6, 2008

GSK is in the middle of a round of layoffs of hundreds of scientists in its R&D labs. You can read the details on BNET, where I’m still guest blogging.

There are two things that are interesting to me about the GSK layoffs:

1. The top estimate for the layoffs is 350 of GSK’s 17,000 R&D staff force, which isn’t that many. A lot, to be sure, but not like over at Pfizer where 10,000– yes, that’s Ten Thousand — have been given the pink slip.

2. Despite the small numbers, GSK is getting panned across the web for its move.

Check out Derek Lowe’s comments section on his blog (which you can access through the BNET link, above). It’s filled with GSK staffers ripping the company. That’s a lot of comments activity. Pharmalot, the best-read blog in the drug sphere, gets a lot of comments —  but nothing like this.

So what has GSK done to calm the waters?

Er … nothing.

There’s still no statement on its web site about what’s going on and who exactly is affected.

I’ve said it before and I’ll be forced to say it again: Transparency is the key. This round of layoffs could have been a blip on the radar had it been announced with some definitive facts, contrite statements, and a feasible explanation of the strategy.

Instead, GSK concentrated on informing Wall Street, in detail, about exactly what its strategy was, as far back as October 2007. Check out this earnings call transcript. CEO JP Garnier makes it quite clear he’s going to take the ax to the oncology divisions and farm out the work to China.

If only those American, British and Italian scientists had known that, they could have spent some time updating their resumes … and GSK would have gotten a lot less bad press over what is, in the grand scheme of things, not the worst layoff mess in the business right now.

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2 Responses to “A Classic Example of How Not to Handle Layoffs”


  1. […] Edwards at Jim Edwards’ NRx calls GlaxoSmithKline’s oncology unit trims “a classic example of how not to handle layoffs.” He has more details about the layoffs over at his blog at Bnet.com (and why am I not […]


  2. […] « A Classic Example of How Not to Handle Layoffs […]


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