A Therapist Reflects on Being Laid Off

It was a Monday, twelve days before Christmas, and my divorce was to be final that Friday.  The holidays were already pretty tough that year.  Then I got what I thought was the “Poinsettia page”.  You know, the mid December, come down to Administration, get your holiday flower and well wishes sort of thing.  When I walked into the room instead of being greeted with holiday cheer, I saw the long face of my Vice President and our Corporate Human Resources Director.  You can write the rest of my story.  Whether you see it coming, or whether you don’t, whether life has been good to you, or you have other personal stressors, being laid off from your employer can be devastating.  One of my co-workers described it as “feeling like I was shot with a numbing dart!”


In these hard economic times, we are all holding our breath, but what do you do if it happens to you?


Fine tune your ability to focus and be deliberate in your actions:   Ask yourself, “Is this the best use of my…time, money, energy etc.?  What does my future look like?  What steps do I want to take in the next 30 days?  What is the best way to get to where I want to be?


Time Management:  When you are employed your entire daily routine is built around your work schedule.  At first being unemployed may feel like getting some days off or for many of us a much needed vacation.  Denial may creep in and make us too afraid to look at the future.  We may find ourselves frozen in fear.  Instead, pay close attention to your patterns and habits.  Don’t let your days slip away from you.  Your days should be structured and focused.  Make a “to do” list for every day.  You no longer have a boss telling you what to do.  Think of yourself as “self employed” in the business of looking for a job and marketing yourself.


Money Management:  Even though you may have gotten a severance package, or you may be getting unemployment, do not be lulled into thinking you can manage your finances with a “business as usual” attitude.  You should be pro-active, so you can plan for unexpected expenses.  Review your finances, trim out unnecessary items, and stick to your new budget. If you are married, talk openly with your spouse about a budget that both of you can live with, and set a time frame to review it.  Don’t have too much pride to call companies to discuss a payment plan, or to take advantage of community based resources such as food stamps, and health insurance for your children.


Energy Management: James Arthur Ray in his book, Harmonic Wealth, uses the phrase, “Your energy flows where your attention goes.”  Are the things you are doing keeping your attitude positive and positioning you for future employment?  Or is your mind filled with worry and you see only problems on your horizon?  Are you spending all your time looking in the rear view mirror and focusing on anger at your previous employer?  If so, it will show in future interviews. Make conscious choices about how you spend your time, and your emotional energy.  Also remember to do good self care, and making sure you get adequate sleep, nutrition, companionship and exercise. If you are going to drive from the reality of where you are, to where you want to be, get in the drivers seat and take a firm grip on the wheel.  Make a choice to be resilient!

Visionary Leaders Have the COURAGE to Invest in People

It feels like I’ve spent much of my career trying to persuade business leaders they need to focus as much attention on their human assets (their employees) as they do their physical and financial  assets (infrastructure, equipment, facilities, capital, etc.). Said differently, they should focus the same level of energy on managing their human capital as their financial capital. That’s one reason I’ve supported the migration to using the term Human Capital as a descriptor in functions and titles, instead of Human Resources. Set aside for a minute that the term Human Capital may feel a little colder to some (really though?), it more accurately reflects an equal importance to the “other” capital in achieving bottom-line results.

The challenge is, when we invest financial capital (an asset) in purchasing a new piece of equipment, for example, we can see on paper that the new machine produces X number more widgets per hour almost immediately. From there, we can easily calculate the return on our investment. However, when we choose to invest our leadership time (an asset) in building great, trusting relationships with our teams, we will not typically see the results on a specific line item on the P&L – at least not right away. That makes it much harder to calculate ROI, and more challenging to sell yourself and others on the idea.

While you may not be able to see the specific results on your monthly reports, it’s good to know that there is a significant and growing body of evidence that the investment in Organizational Effectiveness initiatives do result in greater productivity, loyalty and retention. These are longer term measurements of the health of an organization. For clarity, I define Organizational Effectiveness as anything relating to the people, that allow the organization to run faster and jump higher! More traditional descriptions may include: alignment of culture, recruiting, training, performance management, recognition and reward, and retention strategies. At the core, greater employee engagement is the ultimate goal. And by the way, greater engagement can reduce the stress level for everyone – management and staff – and who doesn’t want less stress in their life?

In my efforts to convince leaders of the value of investing in Organizational Effectiveness, I have frequently asked that they show courage (one of my favorite words). Specifically, to show the strength and resolution to commit assets (usually leadership time as well as financial capital) for the long-term benefit – and the financial results that will certainly follow. This requires patience and determination, and you may occasionally be at odds with those who only look at the “hard” numbers through a short-term lens. But if you are truly a visionary leader, and working to build something with sustainable success, it will be worth it!