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Layoffs – Why the “C” and “E” in CEO should stand for Caring and Empathy

{ 9 comments… add one }

Paull I love stories about leaders who care. President and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Paul Levy is one of those leaders. He doesn’t just say he cares, but shows it. Faced with the prospect of laying off 600 employees, he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. This is a leader who truly understands that the “C” and “E” in CEO should stand for caring and empathy. He saw these 600 employees as people with families. Many of them were lower wage workers who if given a “pink slip” would only be a paycheck or two from losing their homes.

So, instead of taking the easy way out with layoffs, Paul Levy went to the employees themselves to work on a solution. He held a town meeting in which he explained the situation: "I want to run an idea by you that I think is important, and I'd like to get your reaction to it," Levy said. "I'd like to do what we can to protect the lower-wage earners – the transporters, the housekeepers, the food service people. A lot of these people work really hard, and I don't want to put an additional burden on them.”

"Now, if we protect these workers, it means the rest of us will have to make a bigger sacrifice," he continued. "It means that others will have to give up more of their salary or benefits."

Levy received a rousing and emotional ovation from those in attendance. He followed up after the town meeting and used e-mail and social media to solicit ideas, including Facebook. He received 2,700 suggestions in all.

70 people were eventually laid off, but as an organization they were able to save 530 jobs! Leaders like Levy are inspirational. This type of approach is refreshing. I guarantee when Paul Levy says something people listen and they listen with great respect and adoration for a leader they know truly cares about them.


Do you have any stories like this one you could share? What are the long term benefits of caring and empathetic leaders?

Read a similar article I posted back in October “Help for Caring Leaders of Companies Laying off Employees – Maybe?” Click here to access.

Mike Rogers

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Leave a Comment

  • Michael Trouillon November 18, 2009, 4:40 pm

    Great post…Levy is truly a leader not only in title but by his actions!
    Too bad there is not more of this in the world and in the insurance industry in particular.
    Sometimes there are hard decisions to be made…and quite often they are made in the vacuum of the corp boardroom. Levy showed true initiative by reaching out to his staff and asking for their help on the project.
    His immediate results were great ideas that helped him save 530 positions…but I bet the long term benefits of a staff willing to work harder, smarter and better were unintended benefits! (not to mention staff loyalty)

  • Mark S November 19, 2009, 8:46 am

    And here I thought that just happened in movies, like “One Good Man”. Bravo! Good thing though there wasn’t a union involved…

  • AT November 19, 2009, 9:28 am

    I work for a corporation in which the CEO of the company is the antithesis of Levy. This guy paid himself $40 million in bonuses last year while people where being laid-off and the rest of us that where left behind as “survivors” saw our benefits and compensation go down by as much as 18%.
    Kudos to Mr. Levy and shame on the rest of the greedy CEO’s in America to whom the bottom line $$$$ is more important to them than people.

  • Mike Rogers November 19, 2009, 9:59 am

    Thanks Michael, Mark and AT for your posts. It just feels right when a CEO cares doesn’t it?
    AT, it’s really sad when greed takes the place of leadership isn’t it?
    – Mike

  • Nattu Dakshinamurthy November 20, 2009, 10:51 am

    Good One.. I have my own personal story to tell about one of the CEO of a start up that I worked back in 2k times in Silicon Valley.His name is Richard Johnson and the company is Cachevision.
    The story starts like this. Company was in very bad shape and was about to be folded in any time. At this point of time I had to travel to my country for my wedding.I gave the wedding invitation to Richard (In our custom we invite everybody known irrespective of whether they can make to the wedding or not). Richard accepted the invitation card and congratulated me. Off I went for my wedding and during my stay in my country , my company closed two days before my wedding. Now, Richard did two things , which I will not forget for my life.
    1. He specifically informed my HR Director not to inform about the situation before the wedding . The reason later I was told that , he does not want to spoil my one of a lifetime event (he jokingly said that he does not want my dull face to be on the wedding photos). Of course after two days HR director called and informed the situation.
    2. Since I was on a Work Visa he did not officially lay off and I was told to come back early and was given the layoff slip after I reached US. This enabled me not to lose work status And made sure that I maintain my Work Visa status.
    This apart from four weeks of Pay. Yes, it’s not much money but Richard did much more than money. I can’t find a better example for Caring & Empathy Officer than Richard. Yes, Paul Levy is good . But for me Richard is better than Paul Levy , since Paul was not losing his job but Richard was losing his and he still cared…

  • Mike Rogers November 23, 2009, 3:26 pm

    Great story Nattu. Richard certainly didn’t have to do anything did he? But it demonstrates that we was a leader of great integrity. I am grateful for the Richard’s out there myself!
    – Mike

  • Gordon July 5, 2012, 6:41 pm

    The counter point appears to me to be that C and E stand for something opposite to most CEOs, and those would be Conceit and Entitlement.

  • Mike Rogers July 8, 2012, 9:12 am

    Gordon, could be ; )


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