HR Guru: Up in the Air Has Heartless 'Transition Consultants' All Wrong
So far, Up in the Air has coasted through awards season with its timely tale of selfish human-resources mavens who gradually learn there are better things in life than traveling around the United States expediting mass layoffs. This perception could get a little out of hand, according to one of the industry's real-life veterans who has launched a new PR defensive against Hollywood.
I guess this counts as a spoiler of some sort, but it turns out that the "Web-enabled outplacement" -- i.e. firing people over a Webcam, sometimes from as nearby as an adjecent room -- is a real practice that actually occurs in the HR realm. We have a gentleman named Sanjay Sathe to thank for this insight, which is explained at length in a press release decrying the "myths" in Jason Reitman's critical darling. Among them: Most companies tend to lay employees off themselves, not through some dispassionate third party. Oh, and dispassionate third parties are their own myth; HR professionals really, truly like people! And those one-size-fits-all information packets that George Clooney's callous ax-man hands out? That's just the beginning of the materials meant to help laid-off workers start new professional lives.
Let's see, what else... Oh: Clooney's condescending pep talks ("Anyone who ever built an empire or changed the world sat where you are sitting, and it's because they sat there that they were able to do it") are also crapola, as is the idea that his character would promiscuously bounce from firing to firing without the slightest scintilla of follow-up:
"While the 'transition consultant' played by Clooney skulks out of offices and on to the next firing, real-life transition consultants begin their work after the layoff," Sathe says. "The story of transition consultants working with employees to help them find new jobs is often an uplifting and inspiring one. Maybe that can be the story told in Up in the Air 2."
In other words, Up in the Air: It's just a movie! Also: NBC might want to get in on that sequel action right about now.