Part 3: The layoff process. What to expect when being laid off

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Ok so you think you are about to be laid off.. how does it happen? What should you expect?

  1. Your boss will book a short meeting with you in  a private meeting room (or by phone). He will likely get there before you.
  2. When you arrive at the meeting he will likely be with an HR person. Now you know for sure whats going on as you weren’t expecting someone else to be there.
  3. He will get to the point fast. No discussion. He will explain that you are being laid off, and provide documentation on your severance package and how long you have to review and sign it. Package will likely include details of severance, benefits, pension options etc etc.  Likely you will be too shocked to hear anything but the big takeaway is get the documents and find out how long you have to sign them – but don’t sign them until you have had your lawyer look at them!
  4. He may then exit the room or wrap up the call. Many companies will recruit an independent third party career counsellor to come in and explain their services.
  5. He will then escort you to pack your desk and collect personal items. Some managers may allow you to come back at a later time to do this. If you are virtual they will expect you to return your laptop and any other equipment. They may provide shipping labels and boxes for this. Note: I cleared my desk of any personal items years ago so that if I do get laid off I can just walk without worrying about packing my stuff in front of people.

Go home, take a breath and call your lawyer and have him review the contract before you sign.

You can if you wish send an email from your personal email to your colleagues to let them know you have moved on and how to contact you. Try to be professional and keep your feelings out of the note – dont share details of the package etc.  You may need a reference from them later and you don’t want to jeopardize your professional reputation – plus you may need them later on .

Then start planning your next move and your future.

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Part 2: How to know if and when you are getting laid off

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In part 1 in this series about layoffs I discussed how my company chooses employees to layoff.  In this part I will review how you can tell if and when are about to be laid off.

What to watch for:  

Company performance and other layoffs: Whats going on at your company? Is it doing well? Are there layoffs in other divisions or departments? What role or tenure of employee is being laid off – and are they equivalent to you? If it’s happening in your office to another department, watch to see how/where and when they do the layoffs.

Timing: In my experience, decisions on who to lay off are made fast. Usually to achieve quarter or year end results  And they want to pull the band-aid off fast… not delay it for months.  So typical times for layoffs are towards the end of the year (November December), the start of the year (January), or start or end of a quarter. Often this is done towards the end of the work week as well – Wednesday through Friday.

Manager behaviour:  Your manager likely will not know until perhaps a week or two out.  A couple of days before the layoff he may start to act a little strange. Distant. Stressed.  He may not give you new projects or may not invite you to meetings that you normally may attend. He may be attending meetings with HR or his boss and come out in a weird mood.

1:1 Meetings: Watch for your boss adding an unusually short meeting  to your calendar with only him – in a small meeting room or by call if you work virtually. This won’t be at his desk or  public place. He may also do this during your scheduled one:one if you have one.

See the signs above and think you are about to be laid off?!

In part 3 next week I will talk about the process and how it typically happens at my company.

 

Part 1: How to tell if you are going to be laid off

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Every year since I started working at my company 20 years ago,  there have been layoffs. Sometimes more than once a year. First time it happened I was so freaked out to see it, but now it’s so much part of the company culture that I just shrug and move on. It’s happened to my friends, bosses and colleagues. One day it will be me. Likely soon.

In this 3 part series I will talk about my experiences with my company – how they decide who to layoff, how you can tell if it’s going to be you, and the layoff process.

In my company start looking at a combination of factors below:

Salary:  if you earn a good amount, especially compared to colleagues, this makes you a target. However this is not the only factor as layoffs can be based on headcount and not salary.

Age + Tenure: How old are you? How long have you been at the company?

  • My company frequently targets people over 50 – and especially 52+ as  they can give them a package to get them to perceived early retirement at 55. (Where I live the package is often 3-4 weeks per month of tenure.. up to about 2 years worth of salary. So if they “retire” you at 53 then your package will last you to 55 when you can in theory start pulling a pension or from your retirement savings if you have any). People over 50 often are earning more as well and as such can be a target of layoffs.
  • Last in first out often applies as the package they would be required to pay you is minimal. So you can be a target if you haven’t been with the company long.

Role + Performance: What do you do and how well do you do it?  Your department may be told to get rid of X people. How do they decide who? My company only pays a cursory glance to this… sadly (and perhaps surprisingly to many) they dont deep dive into what each employee does.
At my company the individual layoff decision can be made by the department VP sometimes in consultation with  the employees boss (but not always). So its important that your boss and, perhaps more importantly boss’s boss understand what you do at a high level, how critical your job is and how good you are at it!
In my company sales people are considered the most important people and will be kept on assuming they are performing well. So low performing sales people, support people such as service, marketing, finance etc are more likely to be layoff targets… who is most important at your company?

Consider these factors together and perhaps you are a target!

Next week  in part 2 find out how to know when you are about to be laid off .

The negative nelly in the square hole

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Ok so you have been working your butt off in your job for months.. years.. and you just arent getting promoted. Or perhaps, as is common nowadays, you are a contractor hoping for a permanent position.. You work hard.. and you know you do a good job but you just aren’t getting promoted or that full time job you wanted..

I have been in this position and seen people in it. And what happens frequently to some people is they start to get jaded and a negative attitude. They start to dislike the job, boss etc and tell their colleagues and work friends. But dont. It shows and people can tell.. including the people who control the strings. Do your best to keep a professional and happy demeanor no matter what.  And stop gossiping.

Meanwhile its time to question why this promotion isn’t forthcoming for you. Perhaps you are a round peg in a square hole or don’t have the skills you need yet.. Here’s how to find out.

  • Is it you or is it everyone? Are you seeing others been promoted and you aren’t? If not and your company is in a slump, it may be time to leave. But if it’s just you then consider, what do others have (or do) that you dont? Watch and analyze other successful people in your company that you aspire to. Replicate what you think is working for these individuals.
  • Dress the part and play the gameDress and act the part of the role you aspire to. At first it may feel weird but people will forget how you were before and will be able to picture this new you in a new role.
  • Find a mentor – if your company has a mentor program then join it. Otherwise is there someone  in your team, or higher up that you respect, that is doing well in their career and that you have some form of positive relationship? Have an  informal conversation with them and see if they are willing to help and mentor you and provide tips.
  • Tell your boss you want to “develop skills” and if they can “recommend training to improve your knowledge base in your current role and help develop you for future positions”. Say you can do it in your spare time if needed. You boss will likely be very happy to recommend. Pay attention to what they advise – likely there will be indicators of what they think your weakness are (but whatever you do dont ask them outright to list out your failings- that never is a good conversation!). Note sometimes their input  can be more a reflection of their own weaknesses than yours.
  • Ask the boss  – Ask what they view as your promotion opportunities and potential roles they see suitable for you. Pay close attention to any feedback they give.  Read between the lines. Does this match up with the role you are looking for?

 

Consider the above but at the same time start looking at jobs outside the company. Job postings and interviews will give you a better feel for what matches your skills and interests and whether you are a fit for these – plus there may be a better opportunity out there!

Managing To Get Up

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Todays tips are crucial if you want to get ahead.. and something I have noticed all higher level managers do within my company! I don’t necessarily agree with these behaviours but they certainly seem to work!

  1. Its all about your boss. Not the company. Not your products. And sadly not whats best for your customers. Do whatever the boss wants whether you think its right or not. When they say “jump” drop everything and do what they want. Your boss makes and breaks your job and your promotion so its key that they are happy above all else. Hang up on that call with a team member, or ignore everything else to immediately respond to your boss. This also applies to anyone who you think is important, or who your boss does, at the company.
  2. Watch your back. The higher you go up, the worse the competition and the backstabbing becomes. Lower level teams seem to work well together more than higher level teams seem to be more competitive and appear to almost hate each other. They step on each other to get ahead.  You want to look your best and definitely better than your colleagues because its them or you for the next promotion! So don’t show any weakness and don’t trust them at all. However do your best to appear like you are best friends.
  3. Attend lots of meetings. The more the better as long as senior management is on the call too.  You want to get maximum exposure and promote what you (rather your team) is doing as much as possible.  You need to seem busy and effective. But try and not have to present at these yourself.. get a subordinate to do it and then chip in to give your valuable input.  Or at a minimum get them to build the slides for you.
  4. Expose yourself. Use the meetings and emails etc to promote what you (your team) is doing – and make sure it makes you look good. Send out emails to your boss and other senior management sharing what a good job you are doing. And ask someone you can trust to talk you up and respond to these emails (being sure to copy everyone relevant) to say congratulations to you for your great work! Conversely never show weakness or failings.
  5. Be flattering.  Even if you dislike your boss you want to treat them like a good friend – treat them with respect, be friendly yet professional, be social. Don’t forget to wish your boss a happy birthday, merry Christmas etc. And even give them a gift. Don’t let your colleagues know this though.

These handy tips appear to work at my company – perhaps they will for you too!

Can you hear me now?

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I work from home full time.  This means all my meetings are virtual using web/teleconferencing software – and more and more companies use it every day.

The use of this technology offers a number of advantages and disadvantages for those looking to get ahead!

Disadvantages

  • My company encourages the use of computer audio instead of the phone connection (despite the fact our PCs are old and slow). This can be tinny and breakup and make you hard to hear – can also slow your connection. And if your PC crashes or freezes, then you lose both audio and visual.
  • Audio is also often bad if you are using a cell phone (whether at home, or even worse on the road with road noise) and it can even be bad if you are on a speaker phone.  Its hard for people to hear you, which means you need to repeat yourself. And if on the road you wont be able to read the slides which means you will miss aspects of the meeting. I have an accent which makes this even worse and I only ever use a hand held landline. I recommend always using a landline telephone if possible.
  • If the rest of the group is in a room together brainstorming or using white boards etc it can be hard to participate. This is solved by having everyone work virtually for the call though.
  • Both in person and virtual meetings frequently start a good few minutes late waiting for people to people arrive, plug in, settle down etc.  Personally I think this is longer when done virtually as people often have technological issues to deal with.   Often they launch the web tool right at the start of the call time and forget there is a few minutes of connection and call in time.

Advantages

  • Unless you use a web camera, nobody can see what you are wearing or the state of your hair/makeup.
  • For introverts, not being seen and just talking on the phone can be easier and more comfortable.  People can’t read your body language or expressions.
  • You can have a talk track or notes to read from and nobody can see it or know you are using one!
  • Above I described how your choice of audio method can make it hard to hear you – but this can be an advantage if you don’t want to be heard – perhaps you are unprepared or don’t want to be on the call. Then this can work in your favour! And you may you appear busier /  more important if you are on the road.
  • Doing a virtual call allows you to record everything said and done- and track who attends.
  • You can put them on mute and do other work or whatever.
  • You can have side conversations easily with a messaging tool.
  • You can sneak out/hang up early if its a big group. Not so easy to do at an in person meeting.

I believe there are more benefits doing virtual meetings especially for introverts – what do you think? Did I miss any pros or cons?

Time for a change?

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So you may have been doing your current job for a while. And you are comfortable with it. Then another job comes up in your company and you are considering applying, or have been invited to apply… Perhaps you think its time for a change, to take the next step in your career?

Before I even go any further, I want to discuss the fact that this is an internal move, so you need to tread lightly. If you were invited to apply for this role, before the role was even mentioned to you there were likely conversations between the hiring manager and your boss. And as soon as you express any interest (or even if you don’t) there may even be an expectation that you will accept the role – no matter what. What will the ramifications be if you turn it down? Can you even turn it down? Try and feel this out with your current boss before making any moves or having any conversations – because as soon as you start to have conversations about this, there may be an expectation that this is a done deal – especially if there are no other applicants.

If you do decide that this is something you may want to considerer apply for  – think carefully as the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  There is a bigger picture to consider here before you jump the fence!

Career development – this is probably the biggest reason you are considering the new role – does  it take you up the ladder? Does it give you more responsibility? More exposure? New tasks? New learnings? This is the big selling point people will use to encourage you to take the role.  Make sure you really delve into this piece:

  • If you can, talk to the current person in the role and understand what they actually do on a day to day basis – their perception of pros and cons. How long were they in the role and why are they leaving now?
  • Talk to a few people who worked with them for their perspective of the role and the person you are replacing – because you will be perceived as doing the same job even if they rework the title/description on paper. I was recently offered a role to replace a colleague – they told me it would be made into a “strategy” position,  however I would be replacing an admin/junior employee. My concern here is that when they introduced me it would be “this is XXX’s replacement” and so despite it now being a strategy role, the perception would be that I am an admin/junior employee.
  • Talk to the hiring manager to see if they plan to change and/or expand the role. My boss expanded my current job role extensively immediately after my taking it – despite what it said on the description.

Salary / grade level –   perhaps you are looking for a grade or salary increase. Some hiring managers will be evasive on this but confirm that in fact there will be an increase as soon as you can. My recent role I told the hiring manager up front I would not accept unless there was an increase – and they said they would do “what they could”. I did get an increase but they also told me at the time nobody else was getting salary increases for new roles so I was lucky (and a colleague confirmed the same thing – he was promoted into a new role with no salary change.. he quit a month later).

Workload – Will this mean more work? More responsibility? Direct employees? More stress? Extended working hours? More travel? Is it worth it… especially if there is no increase in salary?

New manager  – Who is the new manager? What are they like to work for? Are they a micromanager or will they let you be autonomous? If you can, talk to some of their current and even better past employees and get a feel for the manager’s style. Current reports likely wont tell you if they dont like the manager and will dodge round it – but will give glowing praise if they do like them. You can ask the manager for their input too but be wary as managers often talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.  For me, this one is key. The manager makes or breaks the job, not the role itself. So any doubts on the manager, walk away.

Good luck in whatever your decision is!