Monday, August 15, 2016

How to survive a layoff (Part 1)

I work (as I have briefly mentioned before) for a utility,  which is arguably one of the most stable positions you can have. We don't go out of style like the latest gizmo,  or tend to suffer catastrophic failures like most highly traded companies. People will always need water, electricity, gas, telephone lines and internet infrastructure. Which is why you can imagine that the announcement that we were going to restructure and cut a significant amount of our staff came as quite the surprise.

In the immediate aftershocks, I learned three things about layoffs:

The first thing I learned about layoffs is that the fear of losing ones job is palpable and spreads through a group of people  faster than the zika virus. It starts with one vocal negative person who preaches the layoff like a conspiracy theorist with a cardboard sign preaches the apocalypse. They ask people questions like "how do you KNOW it won't be you"  and "whose going to feed your family once that severance check runs out". Given, for the few people like me with no real "roots down", this tactic doesn't really work. But it does mean that everyone else starts to freshen up their resumes and then people who weren't worried before start to be concerned about what will be left of the organization when all is said and done. Will all the other good employees have jumped ship?

The second thing I learned is that,  as odd as it is,  this is an excellent opportunity for  building community (should you decide to use it). The general turmoil sets the stage for some of the most real conversations I have had with my coworkers. With nobody guaranteed a position  we start to open up about where we see ourselves in the future, we help each other with resume reviews,  we give each other advice and feedback on how we can become successful. Maybe this was unique to the people with whom I worked,  but after some time together we are a family who really takes care of each other.

The third thing I learned is that I could use this as an opportunity to get some really great feedback. I've sat down and had some serious conversations with my management where I have solicited their advice on how I should handle the whole thing, where I stand in the organization, and what they see as my career progression. As much as I pride myself in being a take-no-names go getting business bitch,  I am still oddly timid about brazenly asking for advice on how I can develop myself professionally. Something about this whole situation made me feel less awkward about scheduling time with people I respect to try to get some clarity.

So, in my opinion, step 1 of surviving a layoff is realizing that the world does not start and end with a single job. There are positive things that come along with any major change, and this may be the beginning of a great chapter of your life. So while you should take whatever action you need to be comfortable, don't listen to the harbingers of doom because this is not the end of the world.



PS. What are your experiences with layoffs? Did anything positive come out of it?

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