Sunday, February 8, 2009

Coping with the aftermath of layoffs

Relief, guilt, grief and fear are all typical feelings of the employees who are left behind in an office after a wave of layoffs. It's easy to get mired in the emotions; it takes deliberate thought and action to manage in the workplace after colleagues have been let go. "To be a survivor, you have to act like one,".
People who survive difficult experiences and economic times are able to do so because they can imagine a time when things will change for the better.
Here's how to cope and position yourself in the office after a round of layoffs.

Confirm new business priorities. Not only does the number of employees change after a layoff, but often the direction of the business and the importance of various projects also change. Check in with managers at least one or two levels above you to find out what the highest priority work is now and ask for detailed descriptions of your new responsibilities, especially if you've taken on the work of a former colleague.

Take initiative. Now is the time to get out of your comfort zone at work and stretch yourself. At a time when there are fewer people to do the work, "look for projects and raise your hand for new assignments that need to be done. Managers will see you as someone who is willing to go the extra mile. You might also open yourself up to other opportunities by taking on new projects or picking up new skills.

Promote teamwork and collaboration. This isn't the time to hide out in your office or to try to fly under the radar. "You need to do just the opposite,". Often, after a layoff, two departments will be combined or responsibilities in one group will be shifted to another. Use the opportunity to forge alliances and work as part of a team to create new ways to get work done with fewer people. Find ways to stay engaged that will help you in your job as well as contributing to the overall health of the business. Consider renewing a relationship with a mentor or planning a casual office lunch.

Communicate constantly. During times of change, it's imperative to seek feedback from your managers and colleagues. You'll want to be sure you're doing high-priority work and that you're doing it effectively and productively. Start out with a formal request to get up to speed on what's expected from you, and follow up with face-to-face conversations in the weeks ahead.

Avoid negativity. Layoff survivors can easily fall into "pity parties" where they kvetch about the state of their workplace. "It's essential that you look for the positive things around you and realize that you have a choice about your morale,". Managers look for people they can count on during these times, whether it means handling more pressure, being a team player or being easy to work with. You want your manager to see you as having a personality that brings energy rather than zapping energy from the group.