Aviva mistakenly sacks 1,300 employees by email

Aviva mistakenly sacks 1,300 employees by email

Summary: UK insurance giant Aviva mistakenly sacks 1,300 of its employees in a rogue email. The email was only meant to go to one employee. Wait, people are still being sacked by email?

TOPICS: Collaboration

"Most insurance companies see policies. At Aviva, we see people." One of the world's largest insurers clearly doesn't "see people" if it's going to fire a massive chunk of its business by email.

Aviva accidentally sent an email to 1,300 global employees in its investment unit, telling them they were out on the street. Aviva only meant for one of those emails to go through.

Nothing changed, however, as they all kept their jobs. Sandra in accounting only got a minor bump on the head when she hit the corner of the desk whilst fainting, but James in recruitment might need to work harder to keep his job after he left a certain surprise something on his boss' desk.

ZDNet's David Gewirtz, part mad scientist, part celebrity author, and part shadowy government advisor, describes it as a "jerk move" for sacking someone over email.

I agree.

In an age of lacking inter-personal relations and working from home, it should come as no surprise to learn that many employees do still get the boot by email.

But there is no excuse for Aviva in this case, however, as despite its decentralised nature, someone surely could have approached the soon-to-be former employee. Under European employment and labour laws, one can't just sack someone for the living hell of it. There are processes, procedures --- and ultimately tribunals --- for when it goes does go wrong.

Still, a jerk move is a jerk move. Aviva, with all its wealth, importance, and 'modern attitude' to its workforce, should never have sacked someone by email.

But I think it shows that most news agencies that have reported the email screw-up are more focused on the poor former employee getting canned by email, than the 1,299 other employees who had a moment of panic but within minutes were subdued by a reneging email.

Aviva, amongst many, are not the only jerks in the industry for doing this. If an employee worked on the other side of the United States, or even across the Atlantic, the very least a manager can do is pick up the phone. It's picking up a phone, for goodness sakes. It's more personal, cheaper, and no matter how angry one is at another person, they could still end up one day being your boss years down the line.

Still, at the least the employee wasn't taken round the back of the sheds and shot like an injured farm animal. "Mr. Brightside" they call me.

Image credit: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET.


Topic: Collaboration

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • That's really just crappy

    of Aviva or any company to lay of anyone via email. I used to work for a large banking firm in the US and when I was RIFed (Reduction In Force) due to staffing cutbacks after the sale of a large chunk of real estate I was pulled into a meeting with my supervisor and an HR rep to give me the news and options as far as reapplying for an internal position, offered job placement services, etc. Even with all of that it sucked out loud but that email had to have really just been the proverbial knife in the back.
  • Less of the Aviva......

    and more of an arrivederci to the idiot to hit the send button before checking the distribution list!

    I hope he gets RIFed good and proper ;-)
  • It's not clear that the original employee was sacked via email

    The original story simply says that the email told the employees to " to turn over company property as they left the building." This could have been a routine follow up email stating termination procedures *after* the employee had been notified of the termination via other means. It did not say that the purpose of the email was to notify the employee he/she had been fired--of course for the unintended recipients it appeared like they were being fired via email. For all we know the original recipient could have resigned and still gotten such an email.

    So I think calling the company jerks is premature without additional information.
    • Original article?

      I can't find the source article with the text of the email. I think this is just a rumormill exaggeration, with every blogger quoting each other. Has anyone contacted Aviva to verify the story?
      • Bloomberg news article

        All I have is the Bloomberg news report through a link by David Gewirtz. The url is http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-20/aviva-mistakenly-fires-1-300-employees-at-investment-unit.html

        The Bloomberg article has a quote from Aviva spokesperson, but does not have the text of the email. They admit that the 1300 email mistake happened, but there is no evidence whatsoever that the original email was meant to be a "fire by email" notice. More of a routine, after termination instruction on how to handle company assets.
    • Few facts

      Excellent excellent point, @slater99! +10!
  • :D

    >>ZDNet???s David Gewirtz, part mad scientist, part celebrity author, and part shadowy government advisor, describes it as a ???jerk move??? for sacking someone over email.
    I love this. :)
    Ram U
  • HMMMM...

  • Veracity

    Has anyone contacted Aviva to verify the story?
  • so?

    What did James leave on his boss' desk?

  • Why are so many defending the company????

    Someone at that company made a very huge mistake - they should be fired!

    Everyone but a CEO is disposable now. The CEO's are only disposable after huge $ payments.

    HR is B.S - never trust a HR rep.
    • HR is BS

      I second that mate. HR is truly the most BS of departments that have existed.
  • Fired via email

    A couple of yeas ago, while I was working a Dell contract supporting the ops centers on weekends, I was "laid off" via email, and didn't even know I was dismissed because the dismissal was sent to my Dell account that I could not access because it had been disabled due to my termination!

    Luckily my head hunter called me the Friday before my shift to let me know.
    • Terminated twice in one day

      I actually got terminated twice in one day which was pretty funny looking back at it now. I was due to finish my notice period on the 24th but my dumb idiot of a boss terminated it and then lied about it afterwards saying it was someone from our US department. What a c 0 c k i say!!!!
  • Wait, people are still being sacked by email?

    Like shooting someone in the back, it's the safest way for middle management cowards to fire underlings.
    Liam SWz
  • Ho, Ho, Ho - Santa is more personal!

    Ho, Ho, Ho! What a jerky company and approach--just goes to show that in spite of the BS by many companies about how they treat everyone, one big family, we care, blah, blah, they don't walk the walk, although they talk the talk.
  • Should be 2 laid off

    I agree with some of the above, there should be two lay offs, the original staff member and the idiot who sent out the email.