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How to handle a layoff notice

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I ran into a friend the other day as I was leaving the gym in Charlotte. After the standard "How are you?” he explained that he has received his 30 day notice from the financial services company he has worked at for 20 years. It was clear from talking to him that this is a huge blow. He has always been a good performer and, prior to his company's merger with another large company; he was managing a team of people as well. Life has been good for him until now. Understandably, he is very hurt by the situation. So how does one react to the news that their services are no longer needed? Is it OK to be upset?

First off, it's very understandable for my friend to have the reaction he does. Hey, he has put 20 years of his life into this job! My friend is in his 40's I believe, so it's half his life. The guy is grieving, and it's OK that he is. It's probably not too different from any other relationship where one pours their all, only to see the other person walk away with no real explanation. So, for starters, I want him to grieve for a period of time. During this period, he'll get to reflect on the good times, and to determine all the skills he has developed over these last 20 years. Then it's time to move on.

How many views are there in this situation? Off the top, one could say it's a raw deal for him. This is true to a point, but company loyalty is rare any longer, and his job was eliminated due to a merger of two very large companies. One can also say it's a good thing because he wasn't really doing what he enjoyed, and now he can find another job. This is also true, but are there any other ways to look at this? I think yes. More and more, we see the survivors of these layoffs burdened with more work. They wind up working more hours just to keep their jobs. After all, they don't want to wind up like "him" in this uncertain job market, right?

I think my friend needs to see that this is a new phase in his life, and now he can reflect and pursue his passions. It might lead to an opportunity for self-employment, or to take those skills he has honed to another company. He doesn't have to worry about being tied to his email, smartphone, or laptop. He can separate his work life from his personal life, while the "survivors" are working 50 - 60 hours per week to get the same amount of work done when he was with them.

I see often times that folks who leave a company after many years see an appreciable increase in their salary when they leave. In one sense, loyal employees get "punished" by staying with the same company for so many years. They receive their standard 3 - 5% raise every year because they performed well, and it's enough to keep them happy. However, I have seen many times, individuals receive 10 - 20% raises for switching to a new employer. They are paying for the skills and abilities developed over time with experience, and now they have someone coming on board who they expect to contribute to the bottom line.

I understand my friend's grief, and I know this will pass. On the other hand, I told him that I'm encouraged for his future. He has a lot to look forward to. Getting let go is not a reflection of him, but rather the corporate political environment he is working in. There will be plenty of opportunities available to him in the Charlotte market when he is ready to look for them.

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