We Are Performing Well, But…


American Express: A flexible work environment, health, dental, vision and life insurance, family paid leave, flexible hours, onsite gym, onsite café, public transportation reimbursement, tuition reimbursement, retirement savings plan, the ability to join a variety of Employee Networks, great challenges, great atmosphere, great rewards, great bosses, great communication etc (American Express, Great Rated). The list goes on and on… Hire me now please! Who wouldn’t want to work in a company with such great perks and benefits? 

Ranked among the Best Companies to Work for and World’s Most Ethical Companies,  American Express certainly is a favorite among masses. An article in Fortune Magazine, mentions how companies should learn more from American Express about gender diversity, given that American Express has recently “announced a $300 million initiative to diversify its workforce.” They even have a Chief Diversity Officer who is responsible for supporting and enforcing the company’s diversity initiatives. They don’t stop at improving their internal culture, but do good for the society as well. They have been publishing quarterly corporate social responsibility reports, each under different themes such as “Promoting Environmental Sustainability”, “Saving Paper” and “Investing in Our Communities”. American Express seems to be the ultimate place to work for employees AND it’s doing great things as part of their corporate social responsibility initiatives, so why not drop everything now and apply to be an American Express employer?

Maybe it’s because there are other great companies out there like American Express who treat both its internal and external stakeholders fairly or maybe it’s because of its recent layoff announcement? Just recently American Express announced that they will be eliminating 4,000 jobs due to its struggle to meet the revenue targets (Wall Street Journal). The 11% rise in its fourth quarterly profits, and the layoff of 4,000 employees, which equals to approximately 6% of the American Express workforce, seem to contrast each other (Yahoo Finance). This raises the question of whether American Express truly cares about its employees or is it trying to satisfy the demanding investor’s needs in this growing economy?

This is not the only major layoff the company has seen. Under CEO Ken Chenault, 7,700 jobs have been cut in 2001, 6,500 jobs in 2002, 7,000 jobs in 2008 and 4,000 jobs in 2009 (Brand Channel). Yes, the company has been going through some financial troubles and has seen declines in some parts of its businesses, but are these layoffs actually for the benefit of the “overall” business and for further investment into its growth, or is it simply a way to please its shareholders?

American Express seems like a great place to work, but would I want to work in a company, where every now and then I’m in a fear of being laid off? If American Express is truly dedicated to employees, can’t it find other ways to increase efficiency? Or is it simply that shareholders are of primary importance for Amex when it comes to prioritizing the stakeholders?

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4 thoughts on “We Are Performing Well, But…”

  1. Layoffs are a really difficult aspect of the workplace, but they occur often. I think it’s really unfair to discount Amex just because they have repeated massive layoffs. Aspects that make Amex such a great place to work (reimbursements, great atmosphere, great communication, etc), may also be the reason why they continuously are down sizing. In order to maintain these great aspects of the company, Amex has to maintain a certain amount of employees. Or perhaps, they want workers to put in their best efforts all the time, so Amex has these massive layoffs to show that they are serious and all workers must be dedicated to their jobs. So that only the hard, efficient workers of Amex can reap the benefits of working there.

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  2. I would agree that it may seem daunting to work at Amex knowing that there is a chance I would laid off. If Amex are truly dedicated to their employees, I think one way of to increase efficiency is giving employees more autonomy so they would feel empowered to improve operational processes to save money. But with the looks of the layoffs, it looks like they are more focused on shareholders.

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  3. Were they also hiring in this period? If not, and they keep growing, maybe the layoffs were due to bloat. If they they were hiring, growing, and laying off others, it is a darker picture. Are they replacing loyal employees with cheaper ones?

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  4. Lay-offs do not always mean that a company does not care about its employees. Often in can mean the opposite. Lay-offs are often necessary during tough financial times. Companies must sometimes let go a small percentage of its employees for the survival of the remaining work force. Looking at it from a holistic view, is it worth letting go 5% of employees for the financial security of the remaining 95%?

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