Even though there are days when I’m not crazy about going to work, I do consider myself lucky that, not only do I have a full-time job with benefits; I’ve been able to work at the same company for roughly 10 years.
As part of this longevity, I have survived several different company layoffs. The reasons for the layoffs varied. Sometimes it was about money. Other times it was the result of the company coming under new ownership or management. Regardless of the reason, the layoffs ultimately resulted in some pretty big adjustments for those of us who still were working. Fortunately (or, unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), I’ve learned some ways to make the adjustment a little easier.
First, ignore the urge to be bitter or to panic. Whenever layoffs happen, it’s easy to wonder if you’re going to be the next to go or to be angry because they fired one of your friends or someone who had been at the company for years. When you do this, it’s very easy to find yourself slacking off a bit and not performing at the same level that might have originally saved your job.
A good way to avoid this is to try to look at the layoffs from the company perspective and see if you can see what they see. This not only has helped me understand why someone might have lost their job, it also has helped to put my own job in perspective so I can judge where I need to improve.
Second, be prepared to assume more job duties. One of the biggest problems with layoffs is they are usually based on employees’ official job duties and overlook some of the unofficial jobs. For example, the last round of layoffs claimed the person who normally unlocked our front door and it took a while to get into the habit of doing that each morning. I’m also not sure there’s anyone left in the office who knows how to use our coffee maker. And that doesn’t even include the “official” jobs that had to be reassigned.
It’s best to take on what tasks you’re able to do and even volunteer for some if needed. It might require some adjustment on your part. However, it does help improve your job security.
Last, if you work with customers, be ready to fix the damage caused by rumors. People who are laid off tell people they were laid off. And, if they are married, their spouses tell people about the layoff too. So, even if there’s no formal announcement, chances are, within a few weeks, a good chunk of your customers will know about it and, if it’s anything like our layoffs, there will be plenty of rumors floating around regarding the future of your company.
The best thing to do in this situation is be upfront with the customer and reassure them but still keep the details to a minimum. I’ve found most customers, especially businesses, understand that sometimes job cuts are necessary and, as long as they are reassured they will still receive the same quality of service, the majority will remain loyal.
If you’re unclear about what you’re allowed to say, ask your supervisors to provide you with a pre-approved script or, at very least, a set of guidelines to help you through the conversations.
While layoffs are obviously worse for the people who lost their jobs, they can be almost as stressful for those of us who are still working. If you follow these steps, the transition will be much easier.