Back To CourseCoping with Workplace Change
7 chapters | 34 lessons
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Scott has been a faculty member in higher education for over 10 years. He holds an MBA in Management, an MA in counseling, and an M.Div. in Academic Biblical Studies.
Layoffs can be depressing to the employees who will be let go, and they inspire fear and trepidation in the employees who remain at the company. Despite the fact that layoffs are so negative, they're usually just business decisions that have to be made in order to survive and thrive as an organization. When the worst happens and layoffs are unavoidable, employees who respond appropriately will find ways to learn and grow during the tough times.
Let's imagine for a moment that you work for a telecommunications company with three primary divisions. The largest division manufactures cell phones. A second division develops and produces mobile devices like tablets, while the smallest division manufactures alphanumeric pagers. If you arrived at work one day to hear in hushed whispers that the company had laid off 300 people in the alphanumeric pager division, would you be surprised? Probably not.
Layoffs are rarely random or arbitrary. They don't always mean that the company has financial woes. Your company's alphanumeric pager division is in trouble because no one really uses alphanumeric pagers anymore, but the company isn't broke: It's simply paring down a business unit that isn't profitable in order to focus on the parts that are. Layoffs hurt, but they aren't fatal.
A layoff is best defined as the elimination of a position whether occupied or not. When organizations create staffing patterns, projections related to staff needs are usually converted into full-time equivalent, or FTE. The term FTE is quantified as one individual employee working 40 hours a week.
During layoffs, managers are usually given a number of FTEs that need to be eliminated. Although in some cases layoffs do indeed mean that currently working individuals will be dismissed, this isn't automatically the case. FTEs can be reduced through attrition, converting full-time to part-time work or sharing an employee between departments.
Although it may sound less than comforting, there truly are many cases where everyone benefits from layoffs. If you think back to the telecommunications company, laying off the employees in the alphanumeric pager division is actually probably good for everyone. Here's why:
Losing a job for any reason is a major life event that can deal a strong blow to someone's pride and sense of self-worth, but this is only one perspective. Layoffs can be seen as offering new opportunities to people who desperately need them. Let's return to our hypothetical company and consider some ways laid off employees might reduce the negative impact - and even benefit - from a positive impact associated with the situation.
If you're one of the 300 people working on pagers, it's time to learn a new skill. These devices are on their way out the door, and nothing is going to change that, since it is pretty unlikely that anyone is ever going to buy one again. Employees in a position like this are often offered opportunities to transfer within the company, retrain for a new job, or leave with a severance package that allows them some time to plan their next professional move. Others may be offered an incentive, like early retirement.
Although people losing their job might argue that their pain is more severe than those who remained at the company, going to work every day in an environment where layoffs are reality can be a very difficult task. Employees who remain with the company often experience a range of powerful emotions, like fear, uncertainty, and even anger or resentment.
The important thing to emphasize to employees who remain with the company is that layoffs are almost never random purges of personnel. Rather, layoffs are usually related to corporate downsizing, reorganization, or outsourcing and ancillary functions.
In our example case, employees who work in the cell phone and tablet division would be wasting their time if they worried that they might be next. While it's true the company did let go of 300 people, it wasn't arbitrary. If you remain with the company following a layoff, don't allow yourself to go to work every day fearing it might be your last.
If you look at the individual reasons for a round of layoffs, you'll be left with only two choices - neither of which should inspire fear. On the other hand, maybe you don't feel safe because of your role. If that's the case, use the layoffs as a motivation to get back in the game. Conversely, if you're offering something of value to the organization, set your fear aside and enthusiastically jump back into doing what you do best.
Let's take a few moments to review what we've learned about workplace layoffs that occur during times of change. Although when many people hear the word ''layoff'' they immediately picture people getting fired on the spot, the truth is most layoffs are quite targeted, necessary in a business sense, and often take place without simply kicking employees to the curb. A layoff is the elimination of a position regardless of whether the position is filled or not.
Since labor is quantified in terms of an FTE (or full-time equivalent), which is quantified as one individual employee working 40 hours a week, managers often have the opportunity to rearrange a department so that positions are eliminated without tenured employees simply being cut with no notice.
Employees impacted by a layoff may deal with a wave of negative emotions, but the occurrence can be thought of as an exciting opportunity as well. Employees who remain with the company following a layoff should refuse to give into unwarranted fear since most layoffs are quite targeted and rarely arbitrary, and hence why an elimination should never be taken personally; it's a business decision.
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Back To CourseCoping with Workplace Change
7 chapters | 34 lessons