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Dumb and Dumber: The Impact of Downsizing on Firm Performance as Moderated by Industry Conditions

James P. Guthrie () and Deepak K. Datta ()
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James P. Guthrie: School of Business, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas 66045
Deepak K. Datta: Department of Management, College of Business Administration, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, Texas 76019

Organization Science, 2008, vol. 19, issue 1, 108-123

Abstract: Workforce downsizing through employee layoffs has become commonplace in American businesses over the last 20 years. While these initiatives are typically undertaken in the quest for improved firm performance and competitiveness, empirical research to date has been equivocal in supporting the efficacy of these initiatives. In addition, extant research has not thoroughly examined factors or conditions that may influence or moderate the performance impact of workforce downsizing. In this paper, we address the question: Do industry conditions moderate the impact of workforce downsizing on firm performance? We examine this question using matched primary and secondary data on a sample of U.S. manufacturing firms. After controlling for a set of industry and firm-level variables, including firms' prior performance levels, our results indicate that downsizing is associated with decreases in subsequent firm profitability and that these negative effects are more pronounced in industries characterized by research and development (R&D) intensity, growth, and low capital intensity.

Keywords: downsizing; industry; firm performance (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2008
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