It was Friday morning, 9am. Another seemingly quiet day at Company A. Then the memo went out.
“It is with great excitement that we announce the merging of Company A and Company B. We expect this union to strengthen our position within the industry and create a plethora of new opportunities for all levels of staff.”
The blood rushed from Mike’s face as he finished reading. He was thinking about the house he just bought, the flailing economy, and the baby on the way. Losing his job was NOT an option.
Jenny stopped by Mike’s cube. “Did you get the memo,” she asked. “Pretty cool stuff, eh?”
Mike was dumbfounded. “Yeah, ‘cool stuff’ if you can get by on $405 a week. We’re probably all gonna lose our jobs.”
“Chill out man. First, I highly doubt they’ll touch us, we’re the higher grossing division. Second, they might ask you to head up the entire division! Maybe more responsibility and a larger staff will lead to a bigger paycheck.”
“But what if they tap my counterpart at Company B to run the show? That would leave me out of a job.”
“Hey, anything is possible. I would just keep in mind that now is the time to shine. The number of options before you might have grown – not shrunk.”
Based on the dialogue you would probably think that Mike and Jenny received two different memos. It would be unfair to criticize either, for their initial reactions are little more than automated responses learned by repeat behavior.
Mike and Jenny remind me of Goofus and Gallant, characters part of an educational cartoon that has appeared in the children’s magazine Highlights for over 60 years. It depicts Goofus, who specializes in “bad” behavior and Gallant who is the “good” boy, and it’s designed to teach children basic social skills. Seeing these two guys next to each other, it’s fairly easy to decide who you would rather be. Although that doesn’t always translate into who you become. (I’m willing to bet there’s some dude rotting in prison for murder who once strived to be Gallant).
The point is there are many different ways to react to a myriad of work situations. Based on their conversation, you would probably rather be Jenny, but it might be Mike who appears first. Fear not. There is a way to push Mike aside!
TAKE A STEP BACK.
When you are hit with unexpected news at work it is important to take a step back and process the real effect it will have on you and your job. Without all of the facts, many of us fill the gaps with our own judgments and bias. Not cool. Once you are a bit removed from the situation you can clear your mind and be more realistic about things.
SOLICIT OUTSIDE ADVICE.
Ask someone you trust, who does not work for the company, what they think. Perhaps they have gone through a similar situation. Sometimes the best advice comes from someone who is not under the same tent as you. Conversely, sometimes you need the knowledge of someone who gets your industry (though I find this to be rarer than you might like to believe).
Cease dwelling on those catastrophic thoughts of layoffs, starvation and homelessness. Next time you catch yourself thinking negatively, try one of the following tactics…
– Replace the “bad” thought with a “good” one. Layoffs turn into promotions, why did HE get a raise and not me turns into he deserved a raise and my time will come, and so on.
– Scream the word STOP! in your head. Heck, say it out loud if you have to. Stopping in your tracks will help you from snowballing negativity.
– Ask yourself if you’re being rational. Does Company A have a history of layoffs? A history of lying to employees? What’s the likelihood you will be targeted? Do some research and get fact-based answers; I’ll bet you put yourself at ease.
It won’t happen overnight, but work out a plan to make yourself as unfirable as possible. Get involved in numerous projects that cross department lines. Work harder, better and more efficiently than ever before.
If YOU have tactics on coping with uncertainty at work, share them below.
Are you Goofus or Gallant? Mike or Jenny? I’ve been all of the above at one point or another throughout my career (don’t ask about the Jenny phase. I did not look good in a dress!).
Let’s not be delusional. Sometime bad things happen to good people at work. But if we can all help our coworkers see the bright side, we’ll hopefully get that same support when our time comes.