Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Left behind

If any of you reading this have jobs right now, chances are you've survived one or more rounds of layoffs. Congratulations--welcome to survivor's guilt. You feel bad for those who went home with their coffee mugs and family photos in a copier paper box, and then you feel even worse for feeling relieved that it was you watching them leave and not the other way around. When you go home that evening, you feel a little guilty again that you're buying dinner on the way instead of cooking at home, and you know you can do such a thing because you're not about to go file for unemployment. You tell your former colleagues to stay in touch, but you're afraid to ask them to go out and hang out because a) that usually involves spending money, and b) it's hard to think of something to talk about when you have somethign extra keeping you busy for eight or so hours a day.

I know it can be hard, but drop the guilt if you haven't already. It's unproductive and helps no one. Instead, be grateful for not just your job but also your health, your friends, and a variety of other blessings. Then, when you get a colleague's new email account, actually stay in touch. A "how you doin'?" email the week after they've been let go, just to let them know you're thinking of them, is perfectly acceptable. If you'd like to hang out with them, there are plenty of free or super-cheap things to do out there, especially in this economy. One of my laid-off friends and I will go to dinner or happy hour on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, when restaurants and bars are less crowded and offer better deals to get people in the door. (Did someone say $1 PBR?) Other former colleagues of mine have organized hikes that end in a picnic lunch.

Meanwhile, back at work, the first priority is to make sure that your firm's service doesn't lag because of a sudden personnel change. Did you work with the newly-laid-off person on any projects? If they haven't sent out the "I no longer work at XYZ Architects" email, then someone needs to do so. Find out from managers or from your colleague(s) if there's anyone that needs to be contacted regarding a project that they might have been working on before they were let go. At the very least, your firm's front desk should have a list of laid-off names, the projects those folks worked on, and the names of those now answering questions and handling those projects. That way, when anyone calls regarding a project, they will be met with a smooth transition of power, not chaos.

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