Motivating staff while imparting bad news can be a difficult needle to thread, as Squire Patton Boggs discovered after celebrating greatness just before announcing 20% pay cuts.
Last week the London Managing Partner sent an email to staff which, according to sources, read, "Thank you for the huge effort across the office in our billings and collections push...in the words of Queen and Adam Lambert ‘You Are the Champions’”.
Three hours after praising staff for successfully maintaining profitability, the UK LLP was "whacked with a totally impersonal email about pay cuts across the board", said a source. "Conveniently they timed this right after financial year end, funny that".
A source said an email sent a month earlier from "the invisible forces" in the United States had reassured staff that because the firm was conservatively ran, it was in a good position to weather the storm, and more so than other firms. "But as soon as [the US HQ] hears other firms making pay cuts, it follows suit", said a source. "So the first email was all fart then".
A spokesperson for SPB said that was unfair, as management had warned things might change. Bosses wrote in the email, "A number of our peer firms have already announced cost reduction measures, with many more likely to do so in the weeks, if not days, to come. We of course are not immune to the difficult economic realities that compel considering such measures and will communicate our thinking as quickly and clearly as we can in this rapidly evolving medical and business environment".
"It is funny, when a multitude of other firms announced pay rises and salary increases, SPB management dutifully ignored that trend. However, as soon as it sees other smaller firms making pay cuts, it hops on the band wagon", said an aggrieved SPB lawyer.
Despite cutting associate salaries by 20%, the firm said its bonus scheme had not been compromised. It also refuted one source's claim that the reason that the bonus scheme wasn't affected was "because no one got a bonus or pay rise this year". A spokesperson told RollOnFriday, "Our associate compensation and bonus reviews take place at the end of each calendar year. The last review operated as normal with awards in line with previous years".
In a statement, SPB said, “The global pandemic has created distress for companies around the world and will continue to for some time. No one is immune from these market conditions and we announced these temporary measures, as responsible stewards of the firm, in order to assure the firm’s success and prevent job loss over the long term. The majority of our associates understand why the firm is proposing these measures”.
Meanwhile, happier sources at Clyde & Co praised their firm's lockdown comms, even though they featured zero references to Queen's original or revised line ups.
"I have been genuinely impressed (and surprised) at the Covid-19 handling so far", said one, highlighting the CEO's weekly video blogs "which, while window dressing, are helpful and well-intentioned".
"We have been told that we have seen a downward trend in instructions for some teams but a spike in certain areas of work (not surprising given the stress that the insurance industry is being put under at the moment)".
Other Clyde & Co measures follow the more optimistic of the pandemic playbooks. While the firm is delaying distributions for equity partners and deferring salary reviews until October, it has also preserved the 2019/20 bonus scheme and, at least for now, shied away from salary cuts.
It has also established an Employee Hardship Fund which, said an impressed insider, will "provide financial support (grant not loan) to those in genuine need".
The only criticism has been the difficulty in taking home hardware. "I had to smuggle my monitor, keyboard and mouse out after hours as it wasn't clear whether we would be allowed to take them", said the insider. RollOnFriday has notified the police.
As it's a bank holiday, here's more Freddie.