So, there have been like three rounds of job cuts at your place already over the last couple of years. And just when you were beginning to think it might finally be safe enough to move from your rented apartment to buying your own place, they put you under notice of lay off again.
The firm’s $100m profit is well down on budget and measures must be taken. Blah. Blah…
On the one hand it’s good to be told there’s a threat so you’ve got time to do something about it. On the other hand, the fear that you’re going to be one of those tapped on the shoulder in a month’s time can scare you witless.
Here’s how to get a grip.
Get The Facts
Detail can be thin on the ground during times of restructuring. Part of that is because leadership is often genuinely uncertain about exactly how things will pan out. But while good leaders will be confident about sharing what they do and don’t know, others will add to the air of suspicion and uncertainty by hiding in a cupboard for the next four weeks, or avoiding eye contact with you at all costs.
And scary monsters breed in silence.
You absolutely must put yourself in the driving seat here and make sure you know as many of the facts as you can. How many jobs are going? How many from your team? What processes are going to be used to select in or out? Will you have to apply or interview for your job? What’s that going to look like? What are the timescales? Is there any practical or emotional support being offered to you during this time? How would you be able to access it?
Focus On Your Deliverables
Once you’ve got the facts, focus on them. It’s really tempting to allow your productivity to slip, and take sneaky breaks down to Starbucks to bitch with colleagues about what may or may not happen. But while keeping other people onside with you is good, indulging in speculation can just make you feel more crappy.
Avoid this by making sure you keep a focus on what it is you’re supposed to be delivering each week and indeed each day. I’m sure you already have a To Do list, but you need to hold yourself accountable more so than ever for achieving it. Being able to tick things off and see things completed, gives you a sense of achievement and keep your personal confidence in a good place. Essential for keeping you bouyant during tough times.
Find The Certainty In The Uncertainty
Sometimes knowing what it is you should be doing is far from obvious. If you’ve been through round after round of terminations lately, the shifts in your job role can be seismic enough to be making you feel seasick.
Instead of feeling rudderless and waiting for senior management to sort things out, help yourself by figuring the things in the current picture that you can be certain about, running with them, and allowing that to anchor you.
At worst you may be criticized for doing something that’s off piste. At best you’ll be praised for your initiative. Either way, you’re keeping your own energy in the game.
Confront The Worst That Can Happen
What specifically is it that’s scaring you sh*tless?
That you won’t be able to keep paying your rent? That the loan you took out two years ago to bail out your credit card debt is at risk of being unpaid? That you’ll have to give notice on your gym membership and – hey – aren’t you on a twelve month commitment period there anyway?
That you won’t get another job? That your job is becoming a dinosaur and no-one’s hiring your skill set any more?
However gruesome and ugly these fears are, get them down on a bit of paper and start looking at them.
Figure Your Back Up Plan
Take each of your fears and ask, “what would I do if…?” Brainstorm your answers. Talk them through with a friend or hire a coach and come up with positive concrete ways of dealing with the worst case possibilities.
This could include thinking through what conversations you’d have with banks and other lenders about your finances. Or with friends about temporarily moving in while you get back on your feet. Or with ways to work out that don’t include gym fees. You may never have to resort to these things, but just knowing that you’ve got alternatives frees up serious head space.
Your plans should also include making sure that your resume is up to date and that your professional and personal networks are vibrant and in place.
It may even include taking time to blue sky ideas for setting up your own thing completely outside of a corporate arena. Who knows, if the conditions are right, the push – or even the fear of it – could be just the impetus you need to break out of your corporate set up altogether.
Living with the threat of lay off hanging over you can be a seriously depressing. But you can change the script on that by taking back your personal power and finding your own positive way through.
What talks to you in all of this? What other ideas would you add to help others in this scenario?