Reorganization Survival Toolkit
During my 15 years of working my “corporate job”, I went through 4 major reorganizations, all driven by M&A activity. Each time a reorganization was announced, it was followed by roughly 3 months of serious job uncertainty. Rumors would float around the office daily, definitively stating that this department was being moved wholesale or another group was being eliminated. Routinely, you’d call peers in desperation to gather their perspective about the future of the company, comparing their outlook to your own as you tried to come up with a coherent picture of what exactly might be happening. It was 24-7 worrying. Productivity slowed to a crawl and everyone spent the months in limbo, stressed out about his or her fate until you saw your name written on an org chart.
Reorganizations like these bring about extreme anxiety because everything that is occurring seems totally out of your control and the only thing you know with certainty is that something is going to change. But what can you do? Surviving four reorganizations may not make me an expert, but the experience gave me some perspective on how to make it through. Here’s my reorganization survival toolkit:
Worst Case Scenario
The first step in surviving a major organizational change is determining what might happen if you don’t make it through. When you learn about the proposed changes, sit down and think through how they will impact your position and career as a whole so you have your bases covered. If the changes are a drastic reduction in salary or loss of job, determine how you will deal with this. Put an action plan in place that you can activate in the event your job is eliminated. I even started looking around at other job opportunities in the area to know what was available. If your company is big enough, take a look at potential opportunities in another state. Make sure your resume is up to date and your LinkedIn profile has all of your most recent information. Go through the steps in your head – or write them down – so you have a firm plan of action when the announcements are final.
It’s important to keep your emotions in check so that they don’t spill over and potentially burn bridges. It’s very easy to get angry at the idea that your job is changing or might be eliminated. But while anger can be an easy outcome of workplace upheaval, don’t let it overtake you. It’s so hard not to be emotional and get stressed out – this is your job, your livelihood we’re talking about here. You’ve got to take care of yourself during this time. Look for ways to burn off the stress and emotion that you’re dealing with, and don’t do it with the bottle or pills! When I needed a stress reliever, I’d take a few short mental breaks to disconnect my mind and I made sure to exercise during my lunch break (even at my desk) or take a walk outside to clear my head. Given that your work routine can definitely impact your health, especially when it comes to stress, it is important to not let the worry and strain get the better of you.
In today’s work environment, reorganization often equals reduction in force. This inevitably means that more work is thrust upon the remaining employees, oftentimes when they barely have the bandwidth to do what is already being asked of them. Even though this can lead to increased stress, resentment of the leaders who are asking more of you and possibly friction with your coworkers, it is vital that you maintain your focus as a team player for a few major reasons. First, never think that the current cuts are the last cuts. Many times only the smallest detail may determine who is safe and who is on the chopping block, so don’t give the powers-that-be any reasons to look your way in a negative manner. Secondly, stepping up to the plate can shine a positive light on you down the road, a move that can definitely be a feather in your cap. While many companies preach the mantra of doing more with less, how you receive that message is what’s most important. I tried my hardest to think positively and adapt to the changes that were coming. I also made sure that I highlighted my attitude to others and projected the image of being a leader in the change. If you do this, you will be better positioned to succeed in the new environment.
Family and Friends
If you are faced with a major organizational change, either in terms of job responsibilities or loss of your job, be sure to continue making your family a priority. All too often, the loss of a job or added pressures at work gets transferred in part to family members. Remember, they had nothing to do with the changes, so don’t direct your anger at them. Instead, they can be an added layer of support as you work through the changes being thrust upon you. I made sure to spend extra time with my friends and loved ones and it definitely helped alleviate some of the stress as well as getting my mind off my work worries.
I’m of the mindset that “it is what it is” and it’s with certainty that the company you work for will have to reorganize at some point or another. I was lucky and was able to find a new job within the company each time there was a reorganization, but that luck was born of preparation and willingness to adapt. Changing jobs always ended up being a blessing in disguise for me. Even when things looked bad while I was in the midst of the upheaval, the change always ended up for the better. So, open yourself up to the adjustment. Those who are able to adapt to change will be better positioned to succeed in the new environment than those of us who find change difficult.