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Entries in Patch (1)

Friday
Aug162013

When a Company (like Patch) lays off People

I used to blog regularly weekly for the Westborough Patch and apparently the blog was popular…one of the more popular ones in MetroWest Boston.

The editor and I became very friendly.  In addition to my blog, I would run out and take pictures of current events….fires, a bank robbery, even a drowning.  She moved on, and I had the opportunity to meet some of the other people at Patch.  They are all good people, interested in bringing journalism to the hyperlocal market in the face of traditional media’s decline.

Alas, the company struggled.  Time will let analysts determine why Patch struggled.  Confusing editorial direction?  Unnavigable site improvements?  Bloated cost structure.

Nonetheless, lots of people lost their jobs today.  By some accounts, half the company was reduced.  The CEO did a classic emotional based firing.  Patch became brittle.

Today was when the bell tolled.  The “Go Forward Team” was led to one conference room, while those being declared unnecessary were led to another room to get their walking papers and rumored one week severance.

Frankly, I’ve lived through this many times.  The first layoff I experienced was in high school, when I was laid off at my summer job so the Marina I worked in could show a profit in their last month.  No big deal; I had a job 3 days later.

My next personal experience was with Dennison Stationery Products Company, a division of Dennison Manufacturing Company.  Layoffs were like using drugs for the first time.  The first one was painful, with every name getting reviewed by the executive team.  The next one simply had a review of the number of people per department.  On the last, the President came to my office, and in pain said he needed two names and my name couldn’t be on the list.  I saw how a management team developed callouses to deal with ongoing layoffs.  Nobody was impervious to the pain.

Similarly, at Fidelity Investments there was a period of regular “reductions in force” occurring around October 1.  Fidelity hired some of the best and the brightest, so everyone knew what to expect.  And come October 1, the organization was frozen as managers had brief meetings with individuals and immediately sent them off to human resources for a package.

In a word, this “sucks.”  I can deal with terminating someone because they stole from the company.  Letting someone go because they just are not needed any more, through no fault of their own, is miserable.

So today Patch.

There were meetings at certain times, all planned with surgical precision I’m sure.  There are two groups of people coming out of today…the “go forward team” and those let go.  It’s my view both groups are in pain.  The ones staying feel guilty, and sad for their friends.  The ones let go feel anger, and are scared finding a job in this economy.

My advice for the two groups follows:

Go forward team

You need to let the dust settle for the weekend.  Next week, you need to assess what you have left and move forward.  Those deciding to complain incessantly about AOL (Patch’s owner) need to move on.  This is a time where the expression, “All we have is lemons, we need to make lemonade,” fits.  While being sensitive that a “mass execution” of coworkers just took place, the remaining people need to lead their way to success. 

As I said to one editor today, you need to deal with the emotions of those remaining, and then go home and puke.  It is not fun.  The pain will pass.  The sooner people re-engage around the work the better it will be for the people and the company.

You need to be positive and upbeat while you feel let down.

For the departed

This sucks.  It is a kick in the gut. There are no words to make you feel better.

Now, get off the couch and get to work.

Your job is now finding a job.  Pure and simple. 

“Taking time off,” is bullshit unless you are independently wealthy and don’t need to work. 

 

  • Task one – apply for unemployment.  Yes, you are unemployed.  Those programs are there for people like you.  Take advantage of them.  Consider food stamps, too.  Why not?  You are out of work, and you don’t know how long.
  • Task two – update your resume.  I’ll give you a day for this.  You’re a journalist for crying out loud.  You work with a canvas of paper and a brush of words.  If your resume is not up to date, update it.
  • Task three – change your LinkedIn status, or somehow notify your connections you need work.  This particular reduction is monumental…everyone even tangentially in the industry knows about it.  You have a few hundred other people in the same boat.  There is nothing to be ashamed of….so make it known.  By the way, most people you meet with have been laid off once or more in their career, so get over your embarrassment.  You are not alone.
  • Task four – network your ass off.  Jobs rarely come to you, you need to find them.  You need to make everyone you know understand you are immediately available.  You have a great background now…journalism, new media, etc.  Play off it.
  • Task five – and this is controversial – don’t be too picky or overthink your search strategy.  One of the issues for people leaving Fidelity was it is highly unlikely they’ll get a job at the same pay level.  SO…take something at a level you can afford.  Another thing I’ve seen time and again is people hesitant to send out resumes because they are waiting to find out how that last interview went.  The heck with that strategy, you need to paper the countryside and keep at it until you land.  No breaks.

 

There’s nothing magic here.  It is solely based on my personal experiences.  I’m sure others have experiences they can add and amplify the message.

To both groups.  You are not a failure.  You have challenges ahead of you.  Take this weekend to recoup and screw your head on straight.  Come Monday, hit the ground with a renewed vigor.  Good luck!