Business has, over the past 15 years or so, somehow gotten the idea that hiring an employee is an act of philanthropy, or at any rate a favor the employer does for the employee, for which the former is entitled to all kinds of recompense and reward from the employee, the employee’s family, and the community at large.
Lost in this scheme of presumptions is what the employee does for the employer. First, of course, s/he makes goods or performs services which enable the employer to make a profit. But second, and almost as important, s/he buys goods and services, from the employer and from other employers whose workers in turn buy from employer #1, and so on. And third, the employee behaves like an employed person, a person with a stake in the economy and the community. Which is to say, s/he votes for local officials who are hospitable to business; s/he encourages his/her children to work hard in school, and even volunteers on school projects; s/he does his/her part in keeping the community neat, clean, and safe; s/he does not vandalize local businesses and assault their customers and employees.
The business that “downsizes,” not from any pressing need, but because everybody else is doing it and that’s how you look lean and mean to your competitors and your stockholders, is losing out on what its employees do in all three areas. It loses not only the goods produced and the services performed by the laid-off employee (these can often be made up for by working the remaining employees a bit harder, at least in the short term), but also the profits to be made by selling goods and services to its ex-workers –or the ex-employees of the business down the street, which has been encouraged to emulate your staff cuts.
But, perhaps most important in the long term, you have lost the benefit of operating in a community of employed people, people who have something to gain by not trashing your business or anyone else’s, people who have something to gain by making and implementing long-term expenditure plans for homes, appliances, new cars, education, medical care, and travel. Once you have laid off your employee, and s/he sees other workers all around suffering the same fate, s/he ceases to plan for the long term or to be at all interested in your fate. S/he will spend only for immediate necessities, and vote only for the alternative least likely to raise taxes. If that means the road in front of your plant disintegrates into oatmeal and mud, so be it. If that means his/her teenage sons come around to throw rocks through your windows or stead hubcaps in your employee parking lot, that’s life.
The employer who will not recognize the benefits its employees provide is doomed to do without them.