Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Surviving layoffs

We live in uncertain times with global economies tumbling randomly impacting everyone within as well as across borders. Citizens and corporates alike are living with FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) as the world watches the unfolding of one crisis after another. With survival at stake, individuals as well as enterprises are taking steps to tide over the current quagmire. In our connected world, the impact is felt even in otherwise stable or developing economies.

Are there learning from past economic events that have left many economies struggling. Recession and slowdown driven new normal had everyone focusing on cost and then incremental growth. Successive events have taken away much of the impact once again driving enterprises and individuals up the wall. Once again there is talk of deep cost cutting which now chips at the bones with no flesh remaining.

Not too long ago interacting with such a CIO who was asked to find alternative opportunities, I learnt about the trials and tribulations of such a situation, especially when there is a gap between two jobs. The person was a great performer and excelled in creating new technology solutions. In recessionary times discretionary spending was cut, no new projects and thus the pink slip.

In good times every enterprise leader will cite the often repeated cliché “people are our best assets”. In difficult times after everything else has been tried, companies lay off assets that can no longer be deemed useful. Normalization has a way of sometimes impacting productive assets too with resultant attrition hitting operating efficiencies. Layoffs are reality and so is the adverse impact it creates.

The ecosystem of friends, peers and close family can help overcome the negative sentiment. Seek a coach or mentor who can keep the sanity levels normalized. Even if you are lucky it takes time to find what works for you and the new company wanting to hire your services. A non-CIO friend took almost 2 years to get his rightful position while his kids and family supported him emotionally. The CIO was lucky to find a fresh beginning within 6 months.

What could I have done to prevent this from happening ? The mind tries to justify and find causes related to personal behavior, performance or shortfall that created the situation. It refuses to recognize external forces instead attempting to rationalize self-existence. It takes a while for reality to sink in and start afresh. The self-denial phase can last from a few hours to years. This self-pity mode becomes the most unproductive time. It is important to leave behind the baggage and move on with a fresh start.

What does this mean ? Be prepared as Black Swans are becoming more prevalent than NNT (Nassim Nicholas Taleb) postulated. Do not feel disheartened when someone close gets impacted. Support the person any way that you can. When I faced this situation a long time back, my friends and the IT industry leaders provided adequate cushioning to sustain self-pride. I was fortunate to maintain continuity in my transition and thankfully overcame emotional distress quickly. That’s when I realized the importance of networking and reputation.

We live in uncertain times.

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