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A person hired by a company to make sweeping changes to save money, usually by reducing staff. We knew our days were numbered when our company brought in a hatchet man to make cuts to the staff.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
a man who does the cruel or difficult things for someone else; someone who does someone else's dirty work. He served as the president's hatchet man and ended up doing all the dirty work.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
1. A person assigned or hired to carry out a disagreeable task or unscrupulous order. For example, When it came to firing an employee, Arthur was his boss's hatchet man. This expression originally referred to a hired assassin but in the mid-1900s was transferred to less nefarious enterprises.
2. A person who attacks the reputation of others, especially a journalist hired to do so, as in You can count on Mary's column to destroy the mayor-she's the perfect hatchet man. This usage gave rise to hatchet job, meaning "harsh destructive criticism." [Mid-1900s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
a hatchet manINFORMAL
A hatchet man is someone who is employed to do unpleasant tasks, especially to get rid of jobs in a company. Note: A hatchet is a small axe. Hall, they reckoned, was a hatchet man, out to shred the workforce and totally crush the union. Note: A woman who does a similar job can be called a hatchet woman. She had a reputation for being a ruthless hatchet woman. Note: This expression is usually used to show disapproval. Note: This expression may relate to violent gang warfare in the United States during the early part of the 20th century. Gangs often hired an assassin or `hatchet man' to hack an important member of a rival gang to death with a hatchet. This work was known as a `hatchet job'.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
A person who performs nasty tasks for his or her superior, such as firing subordinates, attacking the character of a political opponent, spreading rumors about a competitor, or the like. The term, so used since the 1940s, was applied particularly in politics and journalism, and the work so performed was also called a hatchet job. The magazine Newsweek had it on July 27, 1968: “He’ll be the hatchet man . . . just like Nixon was in 1952.” It also is used in other contexts, for example, “This critic did a real hatchet job on her concert.” A related term is character assassination, dating from about 1950, but it is no longer heard as often.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer