Posts tagged with: firings

The stress before vacation

I’m off on vacation at the end of this week. We’re off to Branson, Mo. I don’t like country music. And I know it’s going to be 90 degrees and swampy all week in Missouri. But still, it’ll be nice to get away. And our kids should have a blast.

But there’s a challenge with taking a vacation, isn’t there? Can you do it without working? I know I can’t. I’ll never finish all my due assignments before I take off on Friday morning. That means I’ll be traveling with my laptop. And after the kids fall off to bed, I’ll be tapping away on blog posts and stories.

Friends of mine who work stable office jobs always tell me that they’re more tired after their vacations then they are during them. That’s because the work furiously the week before they leave to get stuff done. Then, when they return, there’s tons of work piled up on their desks, waiting for them.

It’s not easy these days to take a break from work. So many companies are operating on skeleton staffs, which means that vacationing workers have even more jobs looming for them when they return from Magic Kingdoms or Grand Canyons.

But, hey, we all need a vacation anyway. And when you’re gone, try your hardest to at least cut back significantly on the amount of work you do during your family vacation. Remember, your families need you more than your company does. (And if you lose your job, your family will still be there. Your co-workers and bosses certainly won’t.)

Whatever happened to the work-free vacation?

I’m going on vacation with my wife and two sons next week. That’s great, except we’re going to Branson, Mo. It also means that this week has been frantic.

You know the drill: Before vacation starts, you cram in as much work as possible so that you won’t have to do any work on vacation. Then, when you hit the road, you still have way too much work left undone. That means you spend a chunk of your vacation tied to your laptop, finishing up the boring work you need vacation to get away from.

At least that’s how it works for me. As a freelance writer, I have deadlines to meet, vacation or not. Unfortunately, I see it happening to a growing numbr of people.

Part of it is that so many of us tend to be workaholics. We think the world will end if we don’t finish a report before we rush off to the airport for some wind-down time with our families. Then there’s today’s horrible economy. Companies are firing so many people, they’re forcing more and more work on their remaining staffers. This work has to get done, vacation time or no vacation time.

The odds are good, then, that I might miss the Andy Williams show while I’m vacationing next week in Branson. As tragedies go, I suppose that one doesn’t rank so high.

Is this the era of “good enough?”

I’ve written a lot lately about employees having to do more work, for no extra pay, to make up for all their fired or laid-off co-workers.

The other day, a friend of mine finished a big project at work. He wasn’t happy with the quality, but wasn’t able to do much about it. He was juggling three other big jobs thanks to layoffs at the financial-services firm at which he works. He told me that the work was from his best, but that it was “good enough.”

Unfortunately, “good enough” seems to be the new standard.

Personally, I’ve turned in “good enough” work lately, too. That’s because I’m having to take on smaller, lower-paying assignments to make up for all the regular magazine clients who have shut their doors or slashed their freelance-writing budgets.

It’s more than a little depressing. Most employees want to take pride in their work. But it’s not easy doing this when you’re doing the jobs of two other people. It becomes a matter of shoving product out the door.

Like I said, it’s a shame. But companies have to realize, when you fire everyone, you can’t expect top quality.

Does misery love company? Not when it comes to job losses

I hate hearing from my neighbors or friends about their job struggles.

As a freelance writer, I’m struggling to meet my monthly financial goals. My print-magazine clients are all going out of business or cutting back on their budget for freelance writers. The online sources I’ve replaced them with pay far, far less.

This means I’m working longer hours for less money. I’m taking on more assignments than ever, but making less money than I’ve made in three years. And, yes, it does tick me off.

I know some people subscribe to the old “misery loves company” theory. It goes like this: I’m struggling right now. I’m out of work. It sure makes me feel a bit less cruddy that my neighbor down the street just had his hours cut in half.

For me, though, it doesn’t work. Hearing about other’s job misfortunes just makes me more antsy. It’s tough to make it out there these days. Every time someone else gets fired or has his or her working hours shaved, it’s just one more reminder that this recession isn’t nearly over yet.

People still getting fired. Just not as many

This is what passes for good news these days: According to the Wall Street Journal, while companies are still laying people off, they’re not laying off as many as they were earlier in the year.

The Journal points to this as a sign that the economy is finally stabilizing. Though, if you are one of the fewer people laid off in the last few weeks, I suppose you’d not agree.

So here’s the “good” news: Non-farm payrolls dropped 539,000 in April, according to the U.S. Labor Department. That’s better than the 699,000 drop in March.

Still, that’s a huge number of jobs lost in April. In fact, U.S. employers have shed 5.7 million jobs since the recession started in December of 2007.

The unemployment rate hit 8.9 percent in April, the highest that number has stood since September of 1983.

That last number is the key. Until uemployment goes down, the economy won’t begin a true recovery.

Firings not always easy for small companies

There’s a tendency that workers have to think of their employers as rather heartless. In bad economic times, especially, it’s easy to think of your employers as enemies. Layoffs and firings tend to do that.

But an interesting story in the New York Times highlights the human side of companies. Turns out, firing people isn’t all that much fun for anyone.

The story highlights the wrenching decision that officials at Grafton, Wis.-based Ram Tool had to make recently: It took the company three days of discussions to decide to lay off four workers.

After the deed, the company’s vice president ran to her office, shut the door and burst into tears.

It’s good to see this side of companies. Sometimes we all get jaded. We think companies enjoy shedding employees. Most times, it’s a process no one enjoys.

Corporations’ new message: Leave your daughters at home!

I never quite understood the point of Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. If I was a daughter or son, the last thing I’d want to do is spend time at either of my parents’ jobs. I saw enough of my parents, thank you, I didn’t need to see them during their working hours, too, thank you.

But the taking your kids to work thing certainly grew in popularity over the years. So what if you can’t get any work done with a bunch of kids hanging around all day? So what if you can’t swear at your clients once you hang up the phone? You’re teaching your kids an important lesson.

What, exactly, is that lesson? Who knows? Maybe it’s that work isn’t any fun. ‘Course, kids already know that lesson. It’s called school.

This year, though, it seems as if the big event is being scaled down a bit. At least that’s how this story in the Chicago Tribune presents it.

Turns out the sour economic times are causing a growing number of companies to skimp on the field trips, goodie bags and special events for the wee ones. Instead, companies are providing kids with a tour of all the empty cubicles in mom and dad’s office.

This is Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day 2009. It’s grim enough that I wouldn’t be surprised to see our nation’s children petition for a Leave me at Home Already Day in 2010.

How to stay invaluable at work — and still get fired

A friend of mine did all the right things to keep his job at a big banking company.

1. He showed up early to work three days a week, at least, and stayed later just as many.

2. He volunteered to take on extra projets, and never asked for any bonus money for doing so.

3. He brought new ideas to his bosses, ways in which his company could cut costs or earn more dollars.

4. He even brought in donuts or muffins on the odd Friday morning.

Pretty good employee, right? Yes, he was. He even removed all his Christmas cards and decorations from his cubicle before his bosses sent out the annual memo requesting that holiday stuff be trashed.

But none of this mattered. My friend was laid off this week. Another round of cost-cutting at his struggling firm cost him his job.

I’m confident my friend will land on his feet. Like I said, he’s a wonderful employee. But I wonder if this experience will change him. Maybe he won’t be so likely to work extra hours for no extra pay or recognition. Maybe he’ll treat his job more as a 9-to-5 thing rather than a lifestyle. I’m sure his family would appreciate him being home more often.

The point here is that none of us can really protect ourselves from being laid off. We can be the best workers in the world, but if our employers want to shed costs, they won’t think twice before letting us go. It might make more sense, then, to do a good job, certainly, but to not make work our lives. There are better things out there than the office or a presentation to the shareholders, after all.

How to keep your job: Don’t be a jerk

No one’s job is safe today. We all know this. But there is one thing that every employee can do to hang onto his or her job for as long as possible: Try not to be a jerk.

This sounds silly, I know. But at the publishing company where I work, my division recently suffered nine firings. Considering we had a fairly small staff before the moves, the loss of nine people is a big deal.

I was talking with one of my fellow survivors, and he mentioned an interesting fact. Most of the people let go had been doing a lot of complaining. And not just recently; They’d been complaining — about their salaries, working conditions, the jobs they were asked to do — for years.

Apparently, it was easier for the higher-ups to let the whiners go first.

This isn’t fair. A lot of the complainers were hard workers. Most of them did their jobs well. They just complained about it.

But while it may not seem just, it is human nature for bosses to cut people they don’t particularly like and keep those whom they do. I wouldn’t be surprised if bosses do this subconsciously.

So keep this in mind the next time you feel like complaining about that last-minute change you’ve been asked to do on that rush job. Keeping your mouth clamped shut now — save the complaining for your spouse or buddies when you get home — may keep you out of the unemployment line.

When a friend is fired from your company

Layoffs are always tough. Last week, the publishing company where I work fired nine employees from our rather small department. Many of the employees had worked at our company for more than a decade. Some where the type that always made sure their co-workers received cards on their birthdays or brought in muffins on Friday mornings.

They were nice people. And they were considered friends by many in the office.

Like I said, layoffs are rough. And when the people laid off are your friends? That’s even worse.

The skilled writers at the Wall Street Journal’s CareerJournal section addressed this very issue in one of their recent editions. One of the best pieces of advice in the story? When you see a well-liked co-worker packing up his or her desk, act like a normal human being. This means go over and say goodbye. Tell the co-worker how sorry you are. Tell the co-worker that it stinks that so many talented people are losing their jobs in this economy.

But do not pretend that nothing is happening. Don’t scuttle away while the co-worker is packing up. Don’t pretend you’re so immersed at whatever’s on your computer screen that you can’t see what’s going on. That, according to the Wall Street Journal, is the worst thing you can do.