The mistakes companies make during job cuts

Written by: Isabel Berwick, Janina Conboye
Published on: 25 Apr 2023

Have you heard the term “overboarding”? It’s nothing to do with boats. It’s actually business jargon, applied to a person who has too many board commitments. I first read about it earlier this year, when my colleague Anjli Raval wrote a hit FT column that introduced us to “overboarding” in a wider discussion of the contentious question of “how many board seats are too many?”

The simple answer is that it depends, but what is certain is that a board member at any organisation — whether it’s a public company or a small charity — needs to have enough time to be able to devote themselves fully to the role. A complicating factor is that it’s often not clear how many boards one person is on in total, as calculations only tend to list positions at publicly listed corporates, not private companies, non-profits or other institutions.

We decided to go deeper into the “overboarding” phenomenon for the first episode of season two of the Working It podcast. While doing that, I was also keen to explore the positive aspects of being part of a board. One of these things — which we didn’t have room to include in the final audio — was a mention of the very swift boardroom progress for women in recent years. As recently as 2015, I edited an FT opinion article by an external business commentator which said: “it is hard to avoid a sense that some of these non-executive figures are there to meet political demand for female appointments rather than for their skills.” That piece also introduced me to the phrase “golden skirts” — a derogatory way of describing the few senior women who were in demand, and perhaps on too many boards. (This came from Norway, where there’s been a 40 per cent quota for women on boards since 2005.)

Eight years later, women hold 40 per cent of board seats in UK FTSE 350 companies. There’s still work to be done, especially among under represented groups. But the idea that board members should come from a diverse pool of candidates is now mainstream — and it’s also a great way to stop overboarding becoming more widespread.

Do let us know what you think of the episode — and what you’d like to hear about in this series of the podcast. Email the team at

And lastly, scroll down in today’s newsletter to get a glimpse of where one of our Working It readers spends her most productive hours. Thanks to everyone who responded to our call last week to send us photos and descriptions of where you work! (Isabel Berwick)

Top stories from the world of work:

  1. Women have raced into the boardroom, but now comes the hard part. Appointing more female chief executives and chairs is a challenge that will take longer, writes Pilita Clark.

  2. The plight of ship crews stranded at sea. Sarah O’Connor reports on how maritime workers are a vital link in supply chains but when left abandoned they have little visibility and little protection.

  3. Women struggle to close corporate America’s gender gap. Cultural and societal barriers continue to frustrate efforts to make diversity stick in white-collar fields.

  4. The resilient boom in entrepreneurship. Start-up fever is a timely force for jobs, innovation and productivity.

Who to fire — and how?

Who to fire and how
© FT montage/Getty

Employers such as Goldman Sachs, Meta and Ford have laid off thousands of employees in recent months. In January alone, US companies cut nearly 103,000 jobs. But how can these companies avoid lasting damage to morale as they swing the axe?

Brooke Masters, along with other FT reporters, spoke to management experts to find the better — and worse — ways to reduce headcount.

One of the most egregious mistakes? To give employees the sense that quick fix cost-cutting is dictating who goes. Letting the process drag on is also a no no, they say. If a company is going to cut staff, do it fast.

Further, last in first out isn’t such a good tactic, either. It wastes money invested in recruiting and training new employees.

Meanwhile, if you are a worker who has been made redundant, how do you survive the financial shocks? Here’s some guidance from FT Money on severance payments and debt, and advice on how to limit the impact on your household finances.

Sometimes redundancy can even present an opportunity to do something different. Here are some tips from the FT’s career expert Jonathan Black on how you might reassess your career options. (Janina Conboye)

A word from the Working It community

As an emerging tech hub, Madrid offers the benefits of a global capital at a fraction of the cost, making it an attractive destination for remote workers. Here’s what FT readers had to say about a piece from FT Globetrotter about how to be a digital nomad in the Spanish capital, especially since a new law has made it easier for non-EU freelancers.

Mashauri, who has lived in Madrid for more than a decade says it just keeps getting better.

"Public transport is amazing and inexpensive, especially compared to places like London. Viva Madrid!"

The Grass is Greener says once you pick up usable Spanish, a whole new world opens up.

"You’ll find Madrileños extremely friendly. This coming from someone who has lived in England, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong."

Meanwhile, Senior Jauna warns that the bureaucracy can be tricky.

"People should understand that Spanish official bureaucracy is very difficult to handle, indeed you will need a lawyer (or better a gestoría) to solve many issues."

A window into where you work

Last week we asked readers to share with us insight into the ways you work — and why it does, or doesn’t work for you. Please keep the photos and descriptions coming! Reach us at

Kirstin Ferguson gave us a glance at her office, which gives her a beautiful view of the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland, Australia.

"I love it because there is loads of light, I can hear the ocean day and night, I get to watch native birds (including many cockatoos) in the banksia tree just outside my window and I have a big desk to spread everything out I need. My dog, Huey, has his own spot as well so everyone is happy."

A window into where you work© Kirstin Ferguson

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