Posts tagged with: layoffs

One pink slip’s bad. Two to a family? That’s terrible

No one wants to get a dreaded pink slip from their employer. But what if you got one only to find out a few days or weeks later that your spouse was getting one, too?

I know what my reaction would be. I’d usher the kids out of the house for a few minutes and cuss up a blue streak.

Turns out, though, that in this terrible economy there are more dual-pink-slip households out there. The Wall Street Journal wrote this interesting story about this trend. According to the story, which cites statistics from the U.S. Burea of Labor Statistics, both the husband and wife were out of jobs in 124,000 families last year. That’s a big increase from the 87,000 families that faced the same challenge in 2006.

Hard as it may be to believe, there are some advantages to having both husband and wife out of work at the same time. The Wall Street Journal story says that partners can lean on each other support. They can also help each other through the networking process. Moving cross-country for a new job is easier if a spouse is still out of work. Of course, that’s like saying the advantage of being stuck in a tornado is that it’s an easy way to move your house from one county to the next.

If you do face this situation, I feel for you. The stress must be incredible. Hopefully, the families facing this challenge find jobs quickly.

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.

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.

The rise of the unpaid furlough

I heard from my very first editor yesterday. He knows I sometimes write scripts for comic-book companies, and he wanted me to put him in touch with one of the publishers that I sometimes work with.

Seems my former editor needs the work: He’s on a one-week unpaid furlough from the newspaper chain where he works.

He actually feels fortunate. He hasn’t been fired and his newspaper is still in business. That’s rare these days. But he’s taking the proactive approach, and is trying to diversify his writing skills just in case either of those two factors change.

I’m hearing from a lot of people about unpaid furloughs. It’s a pretty nasty sounding proposition. But I suppose if companies pitch it as an alternative to layoffs or firings, it’s not so bad.

Problem is, there are a lot of people out there who live close to the bone. If they miss a week’s worth of work, they may not be able to make their mortgage payments or their rents. That one-week unpaid furlough can really hurt.

Follow my former editor’s path and prepare yourself for the day that you might be laid off. Boost your skill sets in whatever way possible. There are a lot of people out there now looking for work, in just about every field. Do something now so that you will stand out in case the worst happens.

A personal tale of giving up the perks

Last week, I wrote about all the perks office workers are willing to give up to hold onto their jobs. You can read the post here.

In the post, I worried that workers are giving up to much. I also worried that once the recession is over, employers — having grown used to not having to dole out raises or compensate their workers for extra jobs — will not pass those perks back out.

Well, turns out I have a confession to make. I’ve willingly given up a few perks, too.

Last year, I wrote all the stories for a newsletter that my publishing company was contracted to write for a large trade association. The work was tedious, and time-consuming, but my bosses did reward me by paying me a nice bonus to do the work.

Earlier this year, my bosses had to let about half of our department go. Everyone who survived, including myself, has been plenty spooked since. No one wants to lose a job in this dismal economy.

It recently came time to put the newsletter together again. Once again, I wrote stories, edited copy and dug up art. This time, though, there was no bonus. There just wasn’t room in the budget, my bosses explained.

Did I fight this? Did I argue? Did I tell them to find someone else to do the work? No way.

I gave up the perk. Not necessarily willingly, but because I know having a job is better than getting that bonus check.

Sure, I resent my bosses for giving me extra work without pay. And, yes, when the economy does turn around, maybe I will be motivated to look for a new employer.

But for now? I’m simply waving goodbye to that perk. It was nice while it lasted.

Economy recovering? Tell that to the 600,000 who lost their jobs last month

More than 660,000 people lost their jobs in March, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That brings the nation’s unemployment rate to 8.5 percent. It also means that more than 5.1 million people have lost their jobs since the nation’s recession began.

This dismal news comes as other economic indicators seem to be heading into more positive territory: New housing construction recently rose for the first time in months. The stock market has recently begun rising. February home sales came in fairly strong.

But yet, the nation’s employers can’t seem to shake their unfortunate habit of firing their workers.

I’m beginning to wonder if all the layoffs are necessary. I’m beginning to wonder if companies aren’t jumping on the bandwagon. After all, if you want to cut costs by trimming payroll, no one’s going to question you now; Everyone’s doing it.

I’ve harped on this point since I took over this blog last year: Employers don’t really care about their workers. (At least the vast majority of them don’t.) They may say they do. They may talk about their “work family.”

But you better believe: If they can save a buck or two by firing you, they won’t hesitate.

Don’t get reorganized out of your job!

You may think you’re safe at your job. You’ve survived the layoffs, so far. You’re still getting a lot of work. You’re earning praise from your bosses.

But then you hear the news: Your department is going through a reorganization.

Oh, *&$#!

According to this story by the Wall Street Journal, reorganizations are extremely common during recessions. And often further layoffs accompany them.

Fortunately, the same Wall Street Journal story provides plenty of advice on how employees can survive a department reorganization.

The first tip, which I think is the best, is that employees should be bold. This means asking managers what the new department will look like once the reorganization is complete. It means clarifying your new role with your managers. Employees should also evaluate their own strengths. It’s important in a reorganization for employees to focus on what they can do to help the newly reorganized department. For instance, if you’ve led several successful projects in the past, be sure to remind — in a subtle way, of course — your new managers of this fact.

A reorganization can be scary, especially in today’s economy. But it doesn’t have to be disastrous.

Even if you’re out of work, it’s OK to have a good time

This weekend boasted wonderful weather in the Chicago area. That’s a nice bonus, considering that snow and ice storms aren’t that unusual for March here.

Everyone was out. Riding their bikes. Walking their babies. Playing catch. Barbecuing. It was a nice weekend.

I have a friend, though, who’s out of work. He’s been looking, and looking hard, for a job for the last three months or so. He always tells me he has a tough time with days like this.

He wants to ride his bike. He wants to listen to Spring Training baseball on his radio and sip a beer on his front porch. This kind of early Spring-like weather calls for it.

But he feels guilty now that he’s out of work. He should be on the computer, he says, scouring the help-wanted ads. He should be searching for flaws in his resume’. He should be working at the job of looking for work.

That’s a tough one. It’s a natural feeling, I suppose. We need our jobs to enjoy the rest of life, unfortunately. But still, you can’t spend every waking moment looking for work. Sometimes a good bike ride is therapy. Sometimes a Spring Training baseball game offers hope.

It’s OK to enjoy life, even if you are facing the incredible stress of trying to find a job. Remember that. Free yourself from your computer for a bit, maybe a couple of hours, maybe an entire afternoon. You need it.

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.