Friday, April 24, 2009

Reduction-in-force: Who is really impacted?

A friend had been anticipating a pink slip for weeks. The employees of her company had been told it was coming, but of course no one knew who would be impacted. Over these weeks she experienced all of the common feelings - fear, sadness and anger. She began her contingency planning in-between her sessions of disbelief where she stared blankly into space for extended periods of time. It is shocking at first to discover that you are dispensable, after you've given everything you have to an organization for some of the best years of your life. What did all the evenings at the desk mean now? What if she had spent those weekend hours with family? What had she given up?

She was prepared for the worst. If it happened, it happened. Yes, they probably would lose the house, but she is no stranger to hard work. Someone would give her a job. The family would make it through this.

Maybe it wouldn't even be her who is impacted and all this worrying is meaningless. But what if it impacted someone in her department? They were already working with a skeleton staff. How will they get the work done? Maybe it would be better to be the one who is impacted.

She wasn't the one.

She stood there bawling helplessly as her friend and co-worker packed up her desk and prepared to leave. Memories flashed through her head of all they had been through together - engagements, weddings, pregnancy and the birth and death of family. She thought she was ready to handle whatever happened, but here she stood bawling like a -human being.

It was the moments of shared humanness that flashed through my friend's head as she watched her colleague exit, not last quarter's project. Our workplaces are stages for meaningful human connection and when the connection is broken - we mourn. In the weeks that follow the reduction-in-force my friend carries all of the same emotions she experienced before, but she is now able to add guilt to the list. She feels grateful that she has a job, but the gratitude is laced with fear and she struggles to complete the volumes of work thrown her way.

Who was truly impacted by this reduction-in-force?

The ripple effect of a RIF is far reaching and runs deep. The impact is felt for a very long time and the devastation cannot be ignored.

Look for our next blog posting: RIF Recovery: Healing, hope and health.

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