Thursday, August 06, 2009

Impending Doom

Remember that book from the late 90s, "Who Moved My Cheese?" These days, it seems like lots of people are moving le fromage everywhere. "I didn't see it coming," one friend lamented to me a couple of days ago. Another friend said to me that she has survived two rounds of Impending Doom(tm) but now can't sleep or eat, she's so stressed because another round is sure to come.

I think waiting is the hard part. Anticipating kind of sucks too. I think the thing to recognize is that the cheese is going to move, whether you want it to or not. You need to always be thinking which way is which, and hopefully stay in front of the cheese.

Or something.

My point is, what's the plan? In situations of Impending Doom, it's rare that you as an individual have any control over what's happening or any influence whatsoever. So the only thing to do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best. And keep a stiff upper lip.

In my case, I made a plan which I hopefully will not have to implement. The plan, in broad strokes, goes something like this:

1) How will I handle myself? What questions do I need to ask?
2) What is my exit strategy?
3) What is next? How will I cope with extra time?

In the first case, I wrote out Things I Need to Know(tm). That way I don't miss anything important. This is the category for things like severance, insurance coverage, confidentiality agreements, non-compete clauses, etc. YMMV, but these are just some of the things to think about.

Second, how did you exit? I visualized what my vision of a dignified departure in the face of bad news would look like. I decided I wanted to be gracious and that I wanted to be sincere in my efforts. I wanted to feel like if I did indeed fall prey to Impending Doom (tm) that I had done everything I could to make myself and my company successful. I didn't ever want to look back and say, "I wish I had done that," or "If only I had done that." So I think about every day, "what can I do to be successful today? What can I do to make the company money today?" That way I don't have to be regretful about anything.

In the third case, I needed a plan for the extra time I might have on my hands. I can't possibly sit around and play word games on Facebook all day long. So I thought about what would I want to do? Do I want to write? Do I want to get back into web design? What about going back to school and acquiring additional skills? Honestly, all of those things sound like fun and I'm at a loss at focusing on just one of them.

Underlying all of this is the budgetary plan. This is the hardest part, and it's scary when you sit down and try to figure out how much your lifestyle costs on a monthly basis. Then you have to think that it could be 6 to 9 months before you find another job. I have friends who were out of work for a couple of years before finding something. YMMV. The point is, you take that Scary Monthly Lifestyle Cost and multiply it by 9. That's what you need to keep going.

Impending Doom, unfortunately, is broadening its reach. People who were safe through the first several rounds of layoffs aren't safe anymore. People talk about how to make yourself invaluable, etc., during this time -- how to keep the job you have. But at the end of the day, that decision isn't really yours, is it? I mean, to an extent you can make an effort, but roles and requirements change in a tight economy. So the idea is to have a plan of some kind so whatever happens, you can deal with it.

And honestly, it's better to plan now and not wait. There's a sense of security in knowing you know what's going to happen if the worst ever happens. Plus, if you've prepared and know how you want to deal with the situation, then you at least have the chance of being dignified and gracious. And remember -- the cheese is being moved because it's a business decision; it's not personal. The crummy part is, I think we understand the business decision part; it's the latter that's just so hard to accept and understand.

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