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SMS 4U: U R sacked

Breaking the bad news: Some firms use mobile phones.
Breaking the bad news: Some firms use mobile phones.

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(CNN) -- In a world where electronic communication is replacing face-to-face meetings, bosses are sending text messages to tell staff they have been sacked.

When Accident Group, an insurance company in the UK, ran out of money earlier this year, 2,500 staff received an SMS on their mobile phone telling them to call a number.

A recorded message from PricewaterhouseCoopers, the company's insolvency firm, told them they were being made redundant unless informed otherwise.

"You get a text message saying it's unfortunate. Yes it's very unfortunate. I think it's appalling," said one employee.

As companies strive to increase productivity and reduce costs, redundancies mount. But many businesses are not getting better at breaking bad news. (We want your views)

One UK software company handed out red and green pieces of paper. If your name was on the green sheet you went to the back of the room where managers handled your redundancy.

IT consultant Jeremy Bell survived the cuts but watched as his colleagues were told the bad news.

"It was very impersonal and very insensitive," he told CNN. "People had no time or any sort of privacy to control their emotions."

From the U.S. to Australia, employees are being sacked via voicemail, while others return from lunch to find their security cards do not work.

Meanwhile, the reputations of large corporations are at stake if they get the process wrong.

"Customers of that organization are going to say: 'Is this the kind of company I want to do business with?'" says Bob Mason, a human resource consultant.

However, some companies are very helpful, offering redundant employees retraining, outplacements, interview techniques and tips on writing their resume.

"Then when people leave they still feel that they have something to contribute and feel they've been valued," says Paul Cronin, of the Work Foundation.

There is also the problem of low morale for those left behind after the staff cuts.

"It's important to get those that have stayed remotivated. Those who remain become very self-centered, narrow-focused and don't take risks," says Cronin.

Many companies in Europe are legally required to consult employees individually and collectively, as well as provide termination pay, although protection levels vary depending on where you live.


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