Involuntary separation – an employee’s perspective

2 termination woman-828886_1920.jpgYou walk into your office building, your head is buried deep in ‘work’ thought. You say good morning to everyone you meet on the way in, reach your cubicle, complete your computer logins and start the daily ritual. You check your emails, respond quickly to the no-brainer ones; thank you, thank you and thank you, accept meeting invites, leave the ones that require longer responses and get up to grab a coffee.

You follow the same routine, more or less for the last 5 years. Except that it’s not a normal day. But you don’t know that yet! You take your first sip of coffee, brewed just right and the phone lights up, ring, ring… Oh gosh, who calls at 8.30 am? The Manager. He must have something really urgent on the go. He’s asking you to come to his office. Nothing unusual, so you take your coffee and a notebook and saunter on, nodding along the way at your colleagues. Your office is not close to his.

You reach the doorway and stop…. The Manager is in there with an HR Rep. and now your heart drops to the floor. The feeling is familiar. You felt it once before when you went up in the Drop Zone at Wonderland. An odd thought at an inopportune time. You toss it aside, the coffee mug becomes a lifeline as you clutch it harder. You look at the somber faces and feel a blow to the gut. You know!

You know what’s next and your brain goes into a mad scramble, your heart feels the pressure and your mind is screaming; be calm, be calm, retain the upper hand. You don’t hear all the sounds, but you follow the motions and struggle to maintain protocol. You sit down, and an envelope/letter is presented to you. You force yourself to pay attention.

You are not a hyper person, not argumentative usually, just calm and professional. You can feel the sting of tears as you strive for control. Anger, sadness, regret and resignation flit through in quick succession. But the voices drone on as you bring your mind to the present.

termination-woman-1253485_1920Done – it’s over. The finality of the moment is unmistakable. You are out of this job. The moment feels surreal. Even though you are in a blurry haze, your mind is actually video-taping the whole incident and it will replay every agonizing detail minute by minute, over and over again at a later date. Believe me, you will go over everything in your head and will be astonished at the things you remember. Should I have said that? Why didn’t I say this? It’s okay. It is what it is and hindsight will always be 20/20.

You take the letter, get through the questions and answers and are ushered out. You can take your bag and belongings, pictures etc. Your Manager stands over you and you have 5, 10, 15 minutes to pack up. Mysteriously a box appears, you can take the things on your desk and the rest will be shipped later.

And then you walk out. Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? Could you have anticipated the layoff? Maybe, maybe not. It doesn’t matter anyway. The fact is, in today’s world we are more apt to go through a layoff, for any reason. A job for a lifetime went out of style a long time ago. The average person moves through a number of jobs and possibly careers in his/her life time.

So what should one be prepared to do? Reactions differ and emotions are unpredictable things. However, once you’re in this situation, your reaction is in your boat and you have the wheel. Take the wheel firmly and steer this boat to shore, gently.

Tips to handle a layoff (from an employee perspective):

  1. You’re in the office and are requested to be seated and the dreaded ‘layoff’ words are sounding off.
  2. Listen, hard to do, but this is one time when you just need to be quiet and really listen, or appear as if you are.
  3. Typically a letter is presented to you and your Manager and /or the HR Rep. will go through the details. The essentials of your severance should be in the letter.
  4. If you have been in the company for a while, or even if you haven’t, the letter should outline all the details about compensation and benefits.
  5. In addition, it should list the company’s and your responsibilities, including the timeline to discharge your obligations.
  6. Do pay attention, if you can 🙂 I say this light heartedly because if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you are relaxed, have the time to take it all in and are obviously not in the hot seat at this very moment!
  7. If you think you cannot respond to the company within the timeline stipulated, you may mention it now, but you don’t have to. Remember a timeline for a specific period is given so that you have the opportunity to consider (and consult others) the package given to you. And there should be sufficient time for a back and forth in communication.
  8. Your letter should give you a contact name and number that you can come back to.
  9. At this point, you probably have questions. It can’t hurt to voice them. But, I have to reiterate, this is a done deal and nothing you say can change it.
  10. Keeping this in mind, try and leave on a good note, with dignity and your head held high. There are many reasons for a layoff, but a job done well is something you can be proud of.

You’ve lost a job. But you still have your skills, knowledge, competencies and experience. You still have YOU! And the best part, you get to take it all. That’s the most important thing. And the next job or career is somewhere out there. But all in good time 🙂

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