You’ve been hearing the rumors for weeks. Another round of cuts is coming. Unfortunately, they weren’t just rumors – its bad news and you’re on the receiving end. When your boss started the meeting with “I have some bad news…” you thought you were going to faint. Your head is spinning and your heart is racing because you can’t understand how this is possible.
How did you go from a strong contributor, great performance reviews, a key part of the team, a respected leader who understood the business – how did you go from all that to unemployed in what seemed to be an instant?! It doesn’t matter how well prepared you thought you were; when it happens, it hurts. You’re shocked, possibly stunned. It’s going to take some time to recover.
The Best Leader’s Don’t Get Comfortable
Think about this: a company on the S&P 500 in the 1970s had an average life expectancy of 30-40 years. Do you know what it was in 2016? Less than four. The world has changed and we have to change with it. If you are comfortable in your role, feeling secure, then you ABSOLUTELY should look at that as a warning. What are you investigating or exploring in order to improve yourself? The best leaders know how to do what needs to be done while ALWAYS looking for the best ways to change course. How are you stretching yourself to become the new and improved you?
Maybe you avoided the previous rounds of layoffs. Maybe your seniority offered you a reprieve. Maybe your skill set was in such high demand that management thought “We can’t live without her/him!” Maybe you are promotable and decision makers saw you as a rising star with a bright future. No matter how or why you escaped the previous rounds of reductions, you never felt “safe” and no employee should.
Feeling safe leads to complacency and causes us to assume we’ve done enough. When everything is comfortable (or at least I’m not worrying about my fob opening the door at the office in the morning), then the tendency is to stop performing, stop trying so hard, stop distinguishing myself from others. all of the things I do when I’m nervous about my future!
Sometimes, it’s not a good thing to survive the cuts. All that work seven of your former team members used to do is now up to you and the four others that remain. I know this is hard to believe, but sometimes it’s not good being the last one out the door. Sometimes it’s better to be the first to go.
The “You Suck” to the “You Rock” Bell Curve
You don’t want to do this, but trust me, it’s important for you to keep perspective. A uniquely human characteristic is at your disposal and it will assist you through this transition. That characteristic is empathy. It’s nearly impossible for your boss to determine who should stay and who should go. Good team leaders have outstanding hiring practices and vet out the best fit for their teams – you were one of those great hires! This is almost certainly not a reflection on you.
There isn’t a bell curve that has three of the sixteen people in your team in the “YOU SUCK” category and three in the “YOU ROCK” with the other 10 in the “I GUESS WE CAN LIVE WITH YOU” category. Poor performers were let go during the first rounds of layoffs. The dead-weight is gone. Everyone excels at their role. Only key performers, those who have been at the top of their game for several years, remain.
Show Up And Do The Work
It’s difficult. You know the changes are coming, but in the meantime, you have to engage. This is particularly true and challenging when you have to lead in the midst of these complicated circumstances. Your team depends on you and you can’t “make everything better” but you can make a difference in the time that remains. Check out Jon Gordon’s perspective in his book, The Power of Positive Leadership on Pages 175 and 176.
Sometimes, you’re left holding the bag. You’re the bearer of bad news and you were the last person who wanted to communicate this message. Maybe you are inheriting the decision from multiple levels above you or maybe you even support the decision that the company is making, but have the unfortunate situation of having to deliver tough news.
Your Boss Isn’t Enjoying This
He/she is in a difficult position, unable to sleep at night just like you. It’s different, you’re right. Your boss still has a job and paycheck…and you don’t. But that’s not always the case – often, your manager is headed out the door as well. I know, it’s hard to feel for him/her, but it’s necessary. “Why?” you say. Because you are going to rise above this. Remember:
- He/she has to live with the gut-wrenching guilt that comes with knowing how deeply they impacted individuals and families
- Your boss knows that the business feels no loyalty and it’s as likely to be him/her the next time around
- They know the team is not capable of doing without you what can be done with you and your absence will be felt
- Most difficult, they are left to motivate decimated ranks at a time when morale is likely to be at an all-time low
That’s all well and good for them, but the question you are asking is what am I going to do?
While that answer is going to be different for each individual, you can take action that will help you through this. All hope is not lost and the first thing you must decide is that you aren’t going to waste time feeling sorry for yourself – instead, you are going to take charge of yourself!
Make sure to listen to episode #056 of the Leader to Leader podcast where I will share Four Steps To Restore Calm After Losing Your Job!
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