A friend of mine was recently laid off, which came as a huge relief after months of toxic interaction at his company. We had chatted a few weeks earlier about his suspicions that “something was up in the office”. No surprise, then, when a termination letter and severance package were handed to him one Monday morning. The signals?
1) Budget cuts – Management formally decreased their budgets, and increased the frequency of “we need cost cutting” and “we’re losing money” conversations
2) New, impossible-to-achieve performance targets – the boss required a doubling of sales targets (higher than ever before) with less resources
3) Management insisted that employees formally sign-off on impossible performance targets
4) Computer security changes – an unusual amount of time was spent by IT technicians updating certain PCs and changing passwords
5) rewrite of the current job position – management removed 30% of the existing job and transferred those responsibilities to another position. The decreased role also took a corresponding pay cut.
6) Other employees were asked to train and learn existing positions for future “backup”
7) Frequent closed door meetings – By themselves, a series of closed door meetings may be unrelated to layoffs (an acquisition, someone’s medical issues, a new strategy). But coupled with the above signs, the odds of a staff reduction in the office may increase.
What can you do about the situation?
1) Stick to factors within your control. Outside circumstances such as the recession or economy may be driving factors of your company’s business problems; a layoff is not necessarily “personally” directed against you. Don’t mistake hard-edged but difficult business choices as personal vendettas. There is no point worrying about what is outside your control.
2) Consider what you can do to help the situation as an employee: suggest areas for cost reductions, business efficiencies and improvements, etc. Stay calm, courteous and professional even if the office politics become heated. Overreacting at any level will put your behavior in the limelight and could contribute to management’s choices on the layoff list.
3) Continue to seek clarity of expectations in your job. Ask for clarification if you are not sure what is expected of you during changing budgets, job descriptions and work situations. Always be respectful in your communications to upper management.
4) Keep your health maintenance up to date, in case a layoff is imminent. Get dental work done, renew the eyeglass prescription. Keep up a healthy lifestyle (exercise, eat properly) to reduce your stress level.
5) Cut back on personal financial spending where you can. Stick to “needs” and ignore the “wants” to keep debt levels down.
6) Develop a vision of the better job that you can move to. A wise mentor once told me, “Don’t run FROM a lousy job, run TO a perfect job!” Refocus your mind on positive career opportunities.
7) Start taking small steps toward the better job (i.e. take a night course, develop contacts, join a networking group, etc). Whether you remain in your current position or move elsewhere, shifting your mind onto positive forward thinking options will dilute the toxic emotions that may be swirling around you in your work environment. Remember:
Luck is opportunity meeting preparedness.
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