Q. My company is undergoing downsizing. How can I weather the storm, keep my staff (and myself) motivated, even when I know I could be next? I’m worried about finding new employment at my age as well. What’s the best way to behave?
A. This is a very tough situation – to be under scrutiny yourself while attempting to be a motivating and inspiring leader and manager during times of change. I applaud your efforts. The best advice I can give involves two aspects of the situation – managing yourself well in times of unknowing, and inspiring others to do the same.
First, in tumultuous times, it’s most important to bring your highest and best self forward, to be the kind of leader, manager, and colleague that you’ll be proud of, no matter what happens. This means staying as far away from negative behaviors like gossip, back-stabbing, and catastrophizing, and doing your work to the best of your ability. The key is to avoid actions and words that you’ll regret in the future. (For a powerful read on behaviors that support us in tough times, check out The Four Agreements). Find new ways to be of service, and pour yourself into work in a constructive manner so that you will be remembered for your strength, your resilience, and your positive attitude. If you are being evaluated for downsizing, it’s usually because your role is redundant, or there are efficiencies that can be achieved by deleting your position, or you personally have not been deemed essential or beneficial to the team at this juncture. Your behavior now won’t alter how you fare with the first two criteria, but it could shape the third – how others view you and the importance of your contribution going forward.
In terms of motivating others, be open and honest as far as you can, but manage your emotions, and neutralize your negativity, fear or anxiety. Clear yourself of what you’re afraid of – by taking action to understand the situation and by doing your best regardless of the situation. Have regular meetings with your staff, to share feedback, concerns and create a strategic plan that your team can buy into. I’d err on the side of openness – let people share their concerns but also set strong boundaries around how you will hear, and address, these concerns.
If being downsized is a strong possibility for you, engage now in the key steps of planning for your next chapter and/or looking for a new job or role, including: 1) upgrading your resume and LinkedIn profile, 2) building your support network, 3) reaching out to colleagues and peers to get reconnected, 4) requesting testimonials and endorsements for your digital profile, 5) attending organizational and professional events, and 6) determining the top 30 companies you want to work for, and what type of role you want next, and 7) interviewing successfully to achieve that. Share with your support community exactly what you’re looking for, and ask your friends and colleagues if they know anyone with whom you could speak who might be of help.
Over the long arch of your career, it’s vitally important to be realistic – understand with eyes wide open the challenges you face – but also remain positive and upbeat (yes, being positive absolutely affects your career). Engage yourself in co-creating what you desire to happen and do everything in your power to shape the next chapter of your life and work as you truly want it.
Career coach Kathy Caprino is the founder of Ellia Communications and the author of Breakdown, Breakthrough. Her new program, the Amazing Career Project, designed to help women navigate a successful career transformation launches in mid-September.