CareerQuest Newsletter
How to Make a Graceful Exit (Take a Bow!)

January 2009
My dear friends, colleagues, clients and students:

Greetings in the New Year!

All of us experienced some temporary turbulence in our personal and professional lives during 2008. Perhaps the same pattern may continue for a little while during 2009. But I am positive and confident that with God's help and our hard work, America will eventually wind up in no place but on top!

January and February may be troublesome months with more layoffs in the offing. This month's main feature is: How to Make A Graceful Exit (Take a Bow!). If life gives us lemons, at least we can make lemonade! The purpose of this article is not to create a morbid atmosphere but to provide tips to survive effectively, when the inevitable hits. Let us have your feedback, which is always appreciated. And yes, rest assured we do respond to your comments and share them as appropriate (with your permission, of course!).

"Career Doctor Don Answers Your Questions" appears as a regular feature in the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) - New Jersey Chapter newsletters. Visit www.ispe.org to read more.

The sixth annual "Boost Your Career" Day, Five-Hour Marathon-Telethon, offered by CareerQuest as a public service on Tuesday, December 30, 2008, was a great success. "Career Doctor Don" provided free career advice on the telephone, limited to five minutes per caller, because of the heavy call volume.

We at CareerQuest published a book in November, 2008, titled Career And Life Counseling From The Heart (Your Career Is A Pathway To Your Soul!). There was no comparable book in the market. This book contains a series of thought-provoking essays and musings. Without encouragement and nudging from you, dear readers, this venture would not have been possible. Our sincerest thanks to all of you. Pre-publication reviews had been fabulous. This book can be ordered from Amazon, iUniverse, Barnes & Noble, or your local bookseller. You can peek inside the book at Amazon. You may even find your name in the Special Acknowledgements section, since I have given credit to almost three hundred of you! Check it out! Also, Andrea R. Nierenberg, President of The Nierenberg Group, and known as the "Queen of Networking," has recently reviewed our book on her blog. Nierenberg calls it: An excellent book....Chicken Soup for Your Career!

By popular request, we are forming Quad Groups, physical and virtual. You should have already received several e-mail announcements about this exciting new opportunity. You won't want to miss your chance to participate in this inexpensive yet unique group experience.

We will also continue our Interactive Teleseminars—a lunch-and-learn program, during 2009. Watch for email announcements in 2009.

Several of our articles will continue to appear on the website, www.biz4nj.com. The mission of this website is to "Help Garden State business grow".

Until we meet again through the magic of email...

Peace! Love! Shalom!

Don Sutaria, MS, IE (Prof.), PE
Founder, President & Life-Work Coach
CareerQuest


How to Make a Graceful Exit (Take a Bow!)

PROLOGUE

If you have been 'laid off,' euphemisms do not make the intense psychic pain to go away! The supervisor doing the firing also suffers somewhat, but not as much as the victim! Be aware that the supervisor would be less than human if that person did not spend a sleepless night prior to the layoff.

I think only Donald Trump can actually say, "You're fired!", in a television program. Typically, the terms used are: sacked, canned, released, let go, axed, ended working relationships, discharged, given a pink slip, relieved of duties, right-sized, down-sized, smart-sized, workforce reduction, reduction in force, mass layoff, attrition, early retirement, redundancy, workforce optimization, simplification, outsourcing, restructuring, furlough, leaving for personal reasons, need to spend more time with the family, looking for an encore career, leaving for health reasons, pursuing other interests, and the like!
Periodic layoffs are here to stay. How well employees and employers manage them will reveal their true characters. And yes, the future morale and financial health of companies will also depend upon how humanely layoffs were handled.
This is a two-way street between employees and employers. We intend to give you a conceptual framework in this article, to balance both sides of the equation.

SUGGESTED STRATEGY FOR EMPLOYEES (The Top 10 Tips)

There are no classes available which teach you how to get fired. I have been laid off before, not once but twice! The first time it happened because of poor personal chemistry and philosophical differences on how to handle some projects. The second time, it was an economic situation, lack of work and drop in profits. So, this qualifies me, I believe, to share some advice with you as a Wounded Healer!
  1. It is quite acceptable to express shock and surprise when you are being laid off.
  2. Ask for at least 24 hours of gestation period before you come back and talk with your supervisor. Actually, the first 72 hours after you have been given the bad news of your layoff are very critical!
  3. Try not to become overly emotional when the news is conveyed to you.
  4. Resist the urge for verbal and physical violence.
  5. The five most common emotions which exude from the person terminated are anger, fear, shame, sadness, and self-pity, not necessarily in that order. Every person may not experience all of the above five emotions. Confide in your spouse or a professional like clergy or a psychotherapist; it really helps!
  6. When you come back a day later, discuss in great depth and detail your severance package with your immediate supervisor and/or a human resources representative. Be sure to check if a good outplacement counseling package is included. Believe me, you will need it! No point in going it all alone, when a professional can guide you. In a low-key way, you can question everything, and remember that almost anything is negotiable (unless it is illegal or immoral!). This may be a good time to discuss if the reference check would be good or at least neutral!
  7. Don't burn out your contacts in your networking chain during the first week. You are not prepared yet for a job search, emotionally and physically.
  8. Resist saying anything negative about your supervisor and/or your company; I know that's hard! Don't forget that an unchained tongue will affect your search for your next job.
  9. Within the first week, file for unemployment insurance coming to you. It is not a dole; you have contributed to it during your working life and you deserve to claim it promptly.
  10. Be prepared to develop a new thrifty lifestyle for you and your family, until you land a new job.

SUGGESTED STRATEGY FOR EMPLOYERS (The Top 10 Tips)
  1. Do everything you humanly can to make the blow as soft as possible, while giving the bad news of termination to an employee. Your body language and your words will mean a lot! You'll be glad you did! There will also be less likelihood of litigation.
  2. Anecdotal studies have shown that the terminated person can rarely recall exactly what you said or what you did, but will always remember how you said it, and made them feel at that critical moment. Their self-image, self-esteem and self-confidence are abruptly shattered! A little show of kindness from the supervisor giving the bad news of termination can go a long way.
  3. When in doubt, let the old American-Indian prayer be your guide:"Help me never to judge another until I have walked a mile in his moccasins." Our Judeo-Christian ethic should also compel us to follow the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
  4. The way people are laid off gives a clue to the corporate culture and the desire of outsiders to join a company. A friend of mine, who was laid off from General Electric, never said a single negative word about his company for ten years. He said: "General Electric is a company with a heart!" Another friend who was laid off from IBM told me:"I am grateful for all that IBM taught me, and I would return to them in a heartbeat! My training has now allowed me to become an independent consultant." See the difference!
  5. After a layoff, what is said to the survivors makes a big impact on the morale and productivity of the company. Openness and transparency of upper management is very important.
  6. Some training may be necessary for the supervisors who have to lay off people under them. Skilled human resources personnel can conduct this training or contract it out to a competent outplacement counseling firm. If not, the whole delicate process of terminating people could be thoroughly botched up. The company can't take chances! Besides the terminator and the terminee, it is good practice to have a person from human resources (or an outside outplacement counseling firm) present in the same room.
  7. It would be very profitable for a company to sit down with the terminators, human resources personnel, and outplacement counselors, after the layoff, to do an audit, and discuss lessons learned.
  8. Allow the terminated employees to say goodbye to their colleagues at their own pace. It will pay rich dividends. Because of this, it is highly unlikely they will steal anything from the company. Personally, I abhor the practice of escorting people out of the building, like criminals, with the police or security. Your employees are not criminals! You would not have hired them if you found they were involved with criminal activities, prior to hire. They have their own moral compass and ethics. This mode of operation will affect the survivors and the future of the company. Some companies mail the personal items to the terminated employee's home, which I think is a disgusting practice! Don't be surprised when the terminated employees file a court case, when you have treated them like dirt!
  9. If a terminated employee calls you, that is a good sign. Keep the lines of communications open by providing a decent letter of reference, and doing small, inexpensive favors.
  10. Be generous with severance pay and outplacement. Along with compassion and maintenance of dignity, it goes a long way!

EPILOGUE

This is not your father's world of work! Periodic layoffs are here to stay. How well employees and employers manage them will reveal their true characters. And yes, the future morale and financial health of companies will also depend upon how humanely layoffs were handled. Amen!



Don Sutaria is Founder and President of CareerQuest (formerly New Life Career Counseling), located in New York and New Jersey. CareerQuest is also mentioned in "What Color is Your Parachute?" Sutaria is a consultant to individuals and various corporations, offering executive coaching and career management services. He has developed unique methods for capturing jobs in the new millennium. He appeared on a Phil Donahue TV special on unorthodox methods of job hunting. Known as "Career Doctor Don", he has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Salt Lake Tribune, The Star-Ledger, The Union Leader, WorkingSmart, SmartMoney, Fortune, Money, and on WINS and WOR radio. He specializes in counseling of international professionals, Generation X (age 20-29), career changers, freelancers, consultants, mid-career executives and people over age 50. He really believes that your career is a pathway to your soul.

Mr. Sutaria has over forty years of diversified industrial and management experience, complemented by training in career development and hands-on experience in career advising. He is an international cross-cultural trainer. He has also served on committees of several organizations, and conducted courses, seminars and symposiums at Columbia University, New York University, Nyack College, Alliance Graduate School of Counseling, Rutgers, and Stevens Institute of Technology. He is a member of the Association of Career Professionals International and the Career Counselors Consortium.

Don earned his MS degree in Management from Kansas State University, an IE (Professional) degree in International Management and Personnel Relations from Columbia University, and obtained New York University's postgraduate Certificate in Adult Career Planning and Development.

Don Sutaria is the author of 
Career And Life Counseling From The Heart (Your Career Is A Pathway To Your Soul!), published in 2008.