Posts tagged with: layoffs

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.

Losing your motivation at work? You’re not alone

We had a meeting at work today. At least the three of us writers left at the publishing company where I work. Earlier in the week, our boss — who’s a salesman — wrote a stringent e-mail message asking us to do more online work.

See, our Web site is a bit crappy. A lot crappy, actually. A paid consultant came in and told us so. The consultant ran down a long, long list of things that needed to be done with the site: redesign it, connect a blog to it, add video, add more content.

As I listened to that list, I knew that my bosses would focus on just one of those things: add content. You see, that’s the only improvement they can get for free, by throwing more work on us writers.

I agree that we need more content on the site. I understand it. But everyone seems to have forgotten that half of our writers were fired. There isn’t a lot of free time left in the day.

I’ll do what my bosses ask of me. But honestly, it probably won’t be my best work. In fact, I know it won’t be my best work.

Like a lot of folks out there, I’ve lost a large chunk of my motivation at work. I’m tired because of the extra duties being placed on me. I’m resentful because I’m not even getting a token raise. And I’m ticked that our sales staff, which has seemingly forgotten how to make cold calls, blames the editorial content of the magazine for their inability to sell any ads.

I’m sure I’m not alone. How many of you are dragging yourself to work every day wishing that it was already 5 p.m.?

Fewer file claims for unemployment. But why?

Is it good news or just a fluke?

The number of U.S. residents filing initial unemployment claims fell dramatically last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The department reported 565,000 initial jobless claims during the week ended July 4, according to a story on That figure represents a drop of 52,000 from the 617,000 U.S. residents who filed initial jobless claims the week prior.

In fact, the number of people filing for their first claims stood at its lowest since January.

So, fluke or trend? Unfortunately, this news probably falls into the “fluke” category. In the CNN story, economists credit much of the filing drop to a change in the way the automotive industry has handled layoffs this year.

In most years, automakers traditionally idle manufacturing plants in July. This year, though, more plant closures took place earlier, according to experts quoted in the CNN story. This has skewed the numbers fairly significantly.

The bad news, then, is that the number of folks filing for their first unemployment checks will probably jump up again soon. Of course, you’d expect nothing else in this economy, would you?

Emotions can betray you at work

These are stressful times in the workplace. No one feels secure in their jobs. There’s a gloom hanging over most offices. More workers are being forced to take unpaid days off.

It’s easy, then, to let your emotions get the better of you. Maybe the boss asks you to do one more unpaid job. You’re already swamped. So you snap, and tell your boss exactly what you think of this one extra duty.

That may feel good in the moment. It won’t feel quite as good, though, when you’re searching the classifieds for a new job.

The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting story on the perils of letting your emotions get the better of you at work. The author talks about the days when she would cry at the office, openly. She wisely advises against doing this now. No one, after all, wants to work with a weeper.

It’s natural to be ticked off at work. Who isn’t these days? You may want to feel like crying, too. I know I do whenever a mandatory meeting takes up an entire afternoon.

But keep those emotions bottled up. I know therapists — and, often, spouses — say this is a bad thing. But at work, it can save your job.

The unpaid furlough strikes again

A friend of mine took a job with the city of Chicago late last year. He loves his new job. He likes the people he works with. And he’s thrilled that his commute each morning takes about 15 minutes.

He’s not thrilled, though, that tomorrow, the 4th of July, he’ll be taking his first of many unpaid holidays.

My friend is like many other workers out there: He’s being forced to take unpaid days off — furloughs — to help his employer, in this case, the city of Chicago, balance its books. My friend has to take 15 days off without pay by the end of the year.

He’s of two minds on this: First, he’s glad he has a job when so many others don’t. Secondly, he’s ticked that the rules of his employment have suddenly changed. It’s not his fault, after all, that the city of Chicago can’t manage its money.

He’s not too unusual, I suppose. There are so many people being forced to take unpaid days off now. I know it’s a better alternative than firings or layoffs. But, still, it always seems that the employees get screwed whenver there’s a financial crisis. I guess it’s true what they say: You’ll never make a fortune by working for someone else.

Big job losses in Chicago

I call Chicago home. So it pains me to see so many people losing their jobs in the city I love.

According to a story in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago area lost 185,900 jobs last year. In May, the Chicago area saw its unemployment rate hit 10.7 percent.

I’ve seen it firsthand. At the publishing company where I work, the higher-ups fired about 65 percent of our staff. And every time I go to a family party or a friend’s house, I hear about or meet someone who’s lost their job.

I’ve seen people, too, who’ve had to go on forced unpaid furloughs. An engineering friend of mine has to take 10 days off without pay before the summer ends.

Are things getting better? I don’t see it. Is there anything you can do to keep your job? I have no idea. My only advice is this: Keep your resume’ circulating, even if you hold a steady job. You want fallback options in this terrible economy and job market.

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.

Mandatory corporate workshops: Aren’t we all stressed for time?

This week, the publishing company where I work is forcing employees to attend a mandatory hour-and-a-half sexual-harrassment workshop. And here I thought we were actually busy here thanks to all the layoffs we’ve suffered.

Sexual harrassment is a big issue, and a huge problem. But, I’m not sure that forcing employees to attend a 90-minute workshop is going to change anyone’s behavior. The solution to sexual harrassment in the workplace seems obvious to me: If someone’s guilty of sexual harassment, fire that person. Problem solved.

Now, I know that nothing’s really that easy. It just seems that in today’s tough work environment, when employees are doing the work of several of their laid-off colleagues, that mandatory workshops, even if they are only 90 minutes, are a big waste of everyone’s time.

Or maybe I just don’t want to sit through our workshop later this week.

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.

Age can work against you in today’s job market

Are you too old? How about too young? Either way, it might work against you in today’s job market.

At least that’s the news from the Wall Street Journal, which recently ran a feature story about the challenges that both younger and older workers face today. Guess it’s best to be about 35 or so these days.

Labor lawyers interviewed by the Journal say that employees in their 20s and 30s are more at risk of layoffs today because their employers are hoping to avoid age-discrimination lawsuits. To do this, a growing number of them are adopting the dreaded “last one in, first one out” policy.

Some young childless workers told the Wall Street Journal that they worry that they are being targeted in layoffs, while their co-workers with families to support are protected.

For selfish reasons, I like the idea of keeping the workers with families employed. Of course, that’s because I have a family of my own, and I like the idea of keeping my job, no matter how frustrating it can be.

The perfect solution, though, would be for employers to lay off the lay-offs for a while. I think companies have already cut to the bone. Sometimes I wonder if they’re laying off more people just because this seems like the perfect time to cut expenses by forcing remaining employees to work harder than ever.

There’s no proof of that, of course. But I do have my suspicions.