Tuesday, 5 June 2012

How to cope when you are retrenched

Being laid off isn't easy but remember: the job does not define your self-worth
By Joyce Teo, The Straits Times, 4 Jun 2012

SLIGHTLY more than a week ago, the chief executive of computing giant Hewlett-Packard, Ms Meg Whitman, announced that she was laying off 27,000 staff.

It was part of her strategy of turning the tech giant around, and will affect 8 per cent of the company's worldwide workforce.

It is a massive layoff - to be completed by 2014 - and will come as a shock to those who are asked to go. Ms Whitman admitted as much, that layoffs 'adversely impact people's lives', but added that they are imperative to the long-term health of the company.

Losing a job is never easy, no matter the reason. And layoffs do not affect just those who are laid off; they affect overall staff morale as well.

People will be wondering if they will be next. Still, no matter how unpopular the move is, it happens fairly often. Hewlett-Packard has done it before; so have many other companies.

So, if you find yourself being asked to go, here is what you should do for a start:

Stay calm; your job is not you

THIS is, of course, easier said than done, but there is no harm trying. After all, the layoff is not your fault.

'Very often, it is not a case of the individual being completely redundant,' said Mr Dhirendra Shantilal, senior vice-president for the Asia-Pacific at Kelly Services.

'Usually, it is a case of a shortfall between the needs of the company and the skill sets that the individual can offer, and more often than not, these are factors outside the control of the individual.'

More importantly, you have to realise that your job does not define who you are or your entire self-worth.

'Retrenchment was traumatic,' said Mr Adrian Tan, managing director of RecruitPlus Consulting, who had been retrenched twice in his work life.

He likens the experience to 'your first break-up', but as with a break-up, time heals.

'Time is really your best friend... Once you get another job, all this will be behind you.'

Gather information

WHEN you are given the handshake, you may want to pack up and leave immediately, or you may still be dealing with the shock: How can it be you?

While feeling upset is natural, do not wallow in grief forever. Instead of letting your emotions get the better of you, go into information-gathering mode, said Ms Stella Tang, director at recruitment company Robert Half.

Listen carefully to what you are being told about the details of the termination, she said.

These include when you are being asked to leave, whether there is a severance package and what paperwork is needed to retain health coverage.

Take detailed notes and ask questions about anything you do not fully understand in a calm, cool and collected manner.

'If you need extra time to process information before signing paperwork, request it,' she said.

Tell your family

THE protagonist in a Japanese movie - made several years ago - was laid off, but he was too ashamed to tell his wife. So every morning, he would get dressed, get his briefcase and pretend to go to work.

He did this until one day, his wife saw him loitering in a park nearby. He was eventually forced to admit what had happened, and he found that his wife was very willing to share his woes.

If you are being laid off, even if you find it difficult to do so, the first few people you should talk to are your family. Explain to your spouse what happened and how it may affect the family.

Your family can share your worries and their support will help you ride out any rough phase.

Reflect and set new goals

IT IS normal to feel unsure about the future after being retrenched. But it need not be a bad thing. In fact, you could see it as a new start.

It's the beginning, not the end.

Being laid off gives you the opportunity to think about whether you want to continue in the same field, and what you really want to do. It may also allow you the chance to spend more time with your family for a while.

For RecruitPlus' Mr Tan, being retrenched jolted him out of his comfort zone. He decided against remaining within the same industry, which he regarded as being in a declining sector. And that ultimately set him on his path to starting his own recruitment business.

'There is a bright light at the end of some tunnel. You just need to find it,' he said.

This is the first of a two-part series on coping with retrenchment. Next week, we look at the steps you can take towards getting a new job after a layoff.

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