Thursday, December 10, 2009

When You've Survived the Last Round of Layoffs

When you have survived the last round of layoffs, you are not prepared for the emotional turmoil that is about to cloud your judgment. So says a new and helpful article from Forbes: "Survivor Employees: What You Need to Know." Link here.

You are probably so relieved that your name was not on the list that you ignored the difficulties of adjusting to your new work reality.

It might hit you the first day you walk into the depleted office space. Where once there was bustle and noise, now there is an eerie silence. Where once there were colleagues, co-workers, even friends at their workstations, now there are empty desks.

If your walk across the floor was punctuated by glances at busy workers or even candid photos of happy family moments, now you are taken aback, even traumatized by the absence of even the most simple markers of a life fully lived.

Your emotions are a jumble. You feel relieved for having survived, concerned about what is going to happen to those who did not, worried about being the next in line, confused about what your new duties are, and disoriented in a space that was once as familiar as home.

You know that the situation is calling on you to be your best and most productive, but your emotions are distracting you from the work at hand. As Forbes explains, you might even have fallen into the habit of doing too much busywork, the better to look like you are hard at it.

Emotional turmoil is difficult to sort out or to work through. Better to look at a part of your new reality that can be more easily dealt with.

You are feeling lost and adrift because you have lost your bearings. Your everyday routines have been undone. You can no longer stop by your friend's desk to share stories about your children. You can no longer glance at the co-worker who always seems to have his feet on his desk. Many familiar faces have disappeared from your coffee run.

You know that it is normal to feel disoriented when your world has undergone a drastic change, but that is cold comfort indeed.

For the time being you know that you have to restructure your workday. You will need to establish new routines, involving different people, and different activities.

These are changes that are too small to worry about. But, if they cause you to remain disoriented, they will become essential.

If you catch yourself wanting to go over to have lunch with a person who is not there, you will need to collect a group to lunch together in the cafeteria. You might have to change the path you take to go to the restroom. You might want to reorganize your desk.

Then, there is the question of your new duties. The Forbes article emphasizes this point. Rightly so. Sometimes your manager feels as disoriented as you do. He may be responsible for the staff cuts, but he has not fully thought through the new organizational structure.

You may be called upon to take the initiative to pick up the slack here or there. For lack of proper guidance you might overstep the bounds of your position. In these circumstances, it often happens that the manager needs managing by those who are below him.

Other managers do a better job. They have understood the problem, have redefined the new areas of responsibility, and have told everyone what is and is not expected of them.

Clear communication is essential here. If everyone is going to have to do the work of one or two extra people, he or she should receive proper guidance and instruction, to say nothing of encouragement and acknowledgment.

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