Redundancy is inevitable today, but it’s not all bad. There are some things you’ll want to do and some not to do so that, if and when you get shafted.
So you got shafted (audio)
I wonder how many of you have faced or experienced redundancy in your career? Or as leaders how many have had to lay someone off? It’s a tough time for everyone involved isn’t it? And I’d also be curious to know how many of you employed consider yours to be a ”safe” job or contract?
It is the fallout from this situation that I’d like to address today, and perhaps discuss a few strategies those in the various above categories might find useful. Given I have helped a few clients through this process recently, I would like to share with you a bit more depth of the perspectives we worked through . Hence I will deal with this blog in two parts. Today we’ll look more at the background and some of the realities and next week we’ll explore some of the options and strategies that might help prevent future occurrences or at least mitigate them if they do. I might call that one “Getting back up”.
Redundancy – when, not if…
In today’s growth obsessed competitive business world, mergers and acquisitions are simply “par for the course” in business, right? And when that happens, it’s quite logical that there don’t need to be two CEO’s or CFO’s or…. and so it is quite understandable that some and often many will “have to go”, correct?
With the increased pressure through visibility on results and particularly growth results, “rightsizing” has become a normal state of affairs in every larger or smaller organisation from time to time. This was very obvious during the GFC where external pressures created all sorts of adjustment necessities through no fault of most of the businesses affected.
But it is also a “normal” phenomenon in business without such external influences. If a management team “get’s it wrong” and reads a market or an opportunity wrong and the investment in marketing or advertising or resources doesn’t deliver the expected outcomes, one of the “survival” strategies is to “let people go”, because people are usually the biggest expense in any business. This applies equally to employees and contractors. In fact, one reason companies often use contractors is to “have that flexibility”.
And of course then there are the “political games” and “power trips” and all the “ego stuff” that can result in “portfolio’s being adjusted” which is elegant business speak for “pushing somebody out”.
If you think about the above, there is nothing new about it, is there? Normal every day business. Yet why do some of us get “caught out” from time to time?
And when it does, isn’t it amazing how devastated many people are by it occurring?
What defines you?
If we allow ourselves to take this event too personally, we are actually allowing it to play with our sense of self worth. I have learned that this can often come from identifying too much with the role we have or had. Do or did you perhaps identify too much with the job for your identity?
I wrote about Belonging some time back and appreciate that being respected as part of a credible organisation can also play a part here, albeit provided we don’t allow that to interfere with our overall and long term self worth.
How often have we heard of people passing away just a few years following their retirement? I suggest that can be the result of thinking that we no longer have a sense of What is your purpose?.
Purposes are like goals; when we have achieved them, we need to set new ones to replace them with, lest we stagnate. Hence if we have allowed our job or our work too much leeway to define who we are and what we represent, then the above scenarios can become more prevalent. If we replace the old with a new purpose, it’s usually all good.
Many men have been raised to believe that their primary focus is to provide for their family. While that’s great, I have learned that LOVE is spelled T.I.M.E. and that we really need a Balance.
If you are overly defined by your work then being made redundant will be much tougher for you to deal with. Just check in with yourself quickly and assess your risk in this context. Do you have some work to do on yourself, or is your self-worth in good shape irrespective of your work?
Taking it personal
Apart from the surprise, I understand the “anger” and also the disappointment often felt when this occurs. Everyone reacts that way – that’s quite normal. However, before you head off down a path of trying to figure out “why me” and “what might I have done (or not done) to deserve this”, may I suggest you remind yourself that companies have to look at P&L’s (Profit & Loss Statements) and balance sheets absolutely cold and from a numbers perspective and sometimes circumstantially come to the conclusion that “something has to go”.
I believe that at that stage and level it has nothing to do with personal performance etc. It has everything to do with who is the most expensive that we can remove or do without – without even thinking or worrying about the person or how the task or business can run afterwards. It’s a cost cutting focus. And maybe you were one “that needed to go”. Only after that’s done does the rationalization and the consideration of how we “sell and tell” this to those concerned actually come in to play.
I know what I’m about to say can be deemed as “callous” but I sometimes use the metaphor of the “finger in the glass of water”, where I ask the person to put their finger in a glass of water and explain to me the size of the hole that is left after that finger is withdrawn from the water again. The time that it takes for that “gap” to close is how long “shafted” people are often remembered by the company “letting them go”. I’m not talking about the relationships you had with individual people, but how quickly a “company moves on” after this event.
You may find my blog: Letting Go useful in this context also. I think it is also a critical time that you do everything that you can to maintain a positive mental attitude. Perhaps Managing Your State may help here as well?
Giving yourself Time
Of course every situation is different and often people don’t have much time up their sleeve before they need to be in another income producing role. However, if there is one thing I have suggested most to my clients in such situations it is to give yourself time and not to rush things, certainly not in desperation.
I sometimes tell the story of my coach likening me to a fish that had fed at the bottom of a deep pool for 20+ years and that my redundancy made me “come up for air and see what else exists other than the deep dark blue depth of the seabed”.
Whilst they will provide some very useful advice and pointers, the outplacement people are measured by how quickly and how well they “deliver” people into their next job. There will be a time when you can and should use their services, but I think you will want to use some of your own time first to “figure out who you are and what you want” away from the identity of your last role in your company. Perhaps you can clarify with them that you will only get back to them “after a while” so that their services commitment to you doesn’t lapse in any way?
Given all of the above, I hope you have got more of a feel for how “normal” it is to “get shafted” and forgive me for insinuating: “so what…?” My objective with this first part of this blog is to remind us all how prevalent being made redundant is in today’s business world. That it is just an event, and that the way we look at and react to that event is a matter of your attitude, your belief in yourself and of your circumstances.
If you have continued to allow yourself to be totally dependent on that one single source for your income, it will of course be more challenging and threatening.
If you have learned from a previous such experience and done something about multiple sources of (active or investment) income, I applaud you, because then you are well on your way to becoming one of The 5% that know WHY, so that being that exposed can’t happen to you again. If not, perhaps it’s time to consider that, and I hope that next week’s blog will give you some insights into some of the options you might consider.
In the meantime, if I could urge you to reflect on your current role and situation and assess the likelihood of your role being “at risk” in the foreseeable future, and ask yourself very truthfully Who is driving your bus? then I hope to have a captive audience next week.
What if you did? And what if you could?
This is a 2 part blog article. Read or hear its sequel at “Getting Back Up Again“
Michael Pascoe says
Thanks, great blog