I was fired a couple of years ago. It doesn’t matter if you call it fired, laid off, down sized, or asked to resign. It still feels like being fired. Recently most of my friends from my old job were laid off. Some were given a few months to finish out their jobs, others were escorted out of the building immediately. These next few articles are for them, and for me, and possibly for you. Over the next few posts, I’m going to talk about some of the things I’ve learned through my experience. I’ve come out the other side. It wasn’t luck, it was a process. I’m pretty extroverted, so some of what I did might strike fear in your heart. Use what you can. I’m not you.
Time to Quit?
In my own story, I stayed too long. I had enough money and reasonable benefits, so I felt I had something to lose by leaving. What was happening to me, however, was boiled frog syndrome. The company I worked for gradually became less of a family business and more of a salt mine. Much of this happened after the company became publicly traded. At that point there was an incentive to please the stock holders and consistently increase profits. One of my training classes was centered around the concept of EBITDA. Interestingly enough, I found this Forbes article on EBITDA while I was looking for a link. I remember thinking during this class, that the easiest way to meet EBITDA was to reduce the cost of staffing. When I mentioned that, my instructor became noticeably distressed. She left the company within a few months of that class. Looking back, I think she had a perspective I didn’t at the time.
So many of these things happened gradually, but here is a list (there were so many to choose from) of warnings:
- Every employee was brought into a meeting and given a copy of Who Moved my Cheese? by Spencer Johnson.
- Often and with very little warning, the manager would reconfigure the desk assignments of employees.
- The company no longer matched 401K contributions.
- The company no longer covered any cost associated with education outside of the company.
- The company no longer offered bonuses.
- Raises were nominal.
- The company filed bankruptcy.
- Employees were called into mandatory, after-hours meetings with the CEO, and given a list of questions that were not allowed to ask.
- One manager, clearly demoted into her new position, was removed from her office. She was placed in a cubical which looked onto her former office. That office stood empty for months.
- Employees were frequently given more duties without financial compensation.
- Training changed from formal classes to notes written by programmers.
- When the company emerged from bankruptcy, work conditions and pay did not improve.
Leave Before you Feel Trapped
If your intuition is telling you things are going to get worse at work, they probably are. While profits keep a company in business, good employees keep a company moving forward. If you beat the oarsmen enough, they won’t be physically able to row, and your ship will drift with the currents. Keep your oarsmen fed and rested, and they will help move your ship across an ocean.
Unfortunately, low workplace morale doesn’t just damage employee productivity, it damages people. It’s easy to lose sight of your worth in hostile work environments. This can send workers into downward spirals of one bad job experience after another. A good career counselor can help you recognize your strengths, and restore your faith in yourself. Don’t let yourself get boiled. Jump out, while there’s still time.