Refers to workers who will keep their jobs as opposed to those who will be laid off. A euphemism that attempts to make abstract what is unpleasant.
If you have a job right now, congratulations: You are in a “go forward” role. If you lose your job, sorry: You are no longer in a go-forward role.
It’s not you. It’s the go-forward structure.
This summer, the term, which is sometimes used in the world of mergers and acquisitions to describe the fates of employees after a deal is completed, crept into mainstream layoff vocabulary.
“Today, we shared the difficult news with 54 of our team members (representing 15 percent of our team) that they no longer have go-forward roles at the company,” the Mom Project, a digital talent marketplace, wrote in a LinkedIn post in July.
Two months later, Compass, the real estate brokerage, used the term in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, saying, “The company believes it is in a position to reduce its go-forward investment in technology given the maturity of the company’s technology platform.” As a result, the company wrote, it would be laying off workers on its product and engineering team.
Layoff euphemisms — including “rightsizing” and “reduction in force” — make abstract what is a painful, human process, said Roger Lee, the creator of Layoffs.fyi, a site that tracks layoffs in the tech industry. Employers often refer to cutting roles rather than employees, he said, and such language can “dehumanize the whole process.”
Though the strong labor market has been one bright spot in this confusing economy, some industries, including banking and tech, have planned or completed rounds of layoffs. Layoffs.fyi estimates that more than 90,000 workers have been laid off from about 700 tech firms this year.
“We should have been clear and used the word layoff,” Saana Hunt, the president of the Mom Project, said in an interview, reflecting on her company’s LinkedIn post. “It was a poor decision in an attempt to soften the blow for impacted team members.” (A spokesman for Compass declined to comment.)
Mark Herndon, the chairman of the M&A Leadership Council, agreed that talking about layoffs is hard. “It makes even the most fearless executives go weak in the knees,” he said, adding, “I think that causes most leaders to tap dance and be too opaque for their own good when communicating on this.”
The language surrounding layoffs is all the more challenging in the current economy, as companies balance labor shortages against warnings of a looming recession. Many companies “don’t know whether they’re laying off or hiring,” said Peter Cappelli, a professor and the director of the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
“They don’t want to say ‘layoff,’” Mr. Cappelli added, “because that’s associated with a company in trouble.” So they try to convey that they are simply becoming more efficient.
“You can tell a plausible story about anything,” he said.