Friday, September 24, 2010

Advice for the RIF'd

One of the most important questions I ask unemployed candidates is “what happened?”. (There are more sophisticated and/or subtle ways to approach this issue, but I prefer the direct approach). Most of the time candidates will try to put a positive spin on “what happened”. If I ask enough questions I can generally get to the truth. But that’s a subject for another time and another blog.

For the past two or three years one of the most frequent answers to the “what happened” question, is “reduction in force”, aka RIF, or its cousins “my position was eliminated” or “my department (duties/responsibilities, territory, division, company) were taken over by whoever, whatever, etc.” I still check the “spin meter” when I get one these responses. But, most of the time I find that the candidate is telling the truth. It does beg the question as to why were they RIF’d and someone else was not. But that is also a subject for another time and another blog.

Today’s subject is “Advice for the RIF’d”. What should you do when it happens to you? I’ll not attempt to cover all the bases and potential issues, but I do want to point out SEVEN of the most important things you should do if you get RIF’d.

Number One: Be Nice. Don’t get mad, don’t burn a bridge. Be Nice.

Number Two: Negotiate a severance arrangement. Be nice, but ask for some sort of salary/benefit continuation. In most cases, there may be a company policy on severance or “a package” will be offered when you get RIF’d. Be nice, be reasonable, but if the severance seems a little light, ask for more. And if nothing is offered, be nice, but be persistent in asking for some consideration.

Number Three: Be nice, but don’t sign anything until you’ve had a chance to think it over for at least 24 hours. And depending on your position in the organization and the issues on the table (i.e. severance pay, stock options, non-compete agreements), you would do well to have an attorney look over any documents you’re being asked to sign.

Number Four: Ask your boss for a letter of recommendation regarding your performance and confirmation that your departure was the unfortunate result of a RIF. You may run into company policies against writing letters of recommendation, but you should still press your employer for written confirmation that your departure was part of a RIF.

Number Five: Take it personally. Be nice, but take it personally. Losing a job is about as personal as it gets, whether it’s your fault or not. Pretending that it’s not “personal” only makes it worse, especially if your spouse takes it personally, and they will. It’s ok to be angry, it’s not ok act angry. Be nice.

Number Six: Take a breather before starting your job search. Every situation is different, but at minimum give it 48 hours before you start reaching out to people. A week or two is even better.

Number Seven: Before you start firing resumes all over the planet, work your professional network. And work it over the phone or in person. Email is a wonderful tool, but not for this. (And if a headhunter is part of your network, give them a call.) And remember, Be Nice.

Friday, September 17, 2010


There are over 2 million of them here in Texas. They represent one of the fastest growing populations in this part of the country. And they are not just in Texas. When the authorities attempt to deal with them they are sheltered and supported by people whose motives are questionable at best. They are harming this state and our nation.
They would appear to be unstoppable. Can you guess who they are?

a) Illegal immigrants
b) Muslims
c) Tea-party activists
d) Registered sex offenders
e) All of the above
f) None of the above

If you answered: f) None of the above; then you are correct-o-mundo. The problem we are facing is one that does not get much attention. It’s worse than a BP, it’s a BPP. Friends and neighbors, we have a Big Pig Problem. Seriously, there are over 2 million feral hogs on the loose in the great state of Texas. And they are a growing problem in surrounding states. All they need is some space and a food source (and they are not picky eaters).

They are also smart. A lot of land in the Southwest is undeveloped and used for hunting or just “getting away from the city”. The pigs hang out on these places and then raid crop lands nearby. (Ever seen what wild hogs can do to a field of peanuts? It ain’t pretty.)
The government has special units that go out and shoot the critters. They even hunt them from the air. I am not making this up. They go out in a little Piper Cub with a pilot and a shooter. They fly real low and real slow. Using shotguns loaded with buckshot they can kill a lot of pigs. There is also a year round open hunting season on pigs, so recreational hunters kill a bunch. But it’s a losing battle. A sow can have two litters a year and the population will just keep growing until they run out of space and food. But the problem is more than just crop destruction. There is a serious concern that this ever increasing BPP will eventually be the spawning ground for an H1N1 virus mutation that will cause a pandemic event in the human population.

So what does this have to do with your career, or the economy, or terrorism, or global warming, or any of the other stuff we are constantly told to worry about? Just this, don’t worry so much. There’s probably something out there waiting to get us that we haven’t even thought about yet.

T.S. Eliot wrote:

“This is the way the world will end,
Not with a bang but a whimper”

Perhaps we should add: Or maybe with a snort and an oink-oink.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Most Important Choices

Life is all about choices, right? So they say. Hundreds of books have been written to help people make the right choices. Therapists spend most of their time helping people work through their bad choices or the bad choices of others. Our lives seem to revolve around choices. Choosing the best school, the perfect spouse, the most rewarding career, the right neighborhood, the smart investments, diets that actually work, good retirement plans, caskets that don’t leak.

After many choices, some good and many bad, I’ve come to the conclusion that the most important choices a person will ever make are:
_ What you choose to believe in?
_ How you choose to allow that belief to impact your life?

You’re not getting a sermon from me. As a charter member of Bad Choice Makers Anonymous, I am just saying that what you choose to believe in and how you choose to allow that belief to impact your life, are the most important choices you will ever make. And these are not easy choices. A lot of people say they believe in the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have other do unto you.” But few people actually choose to live out that belief. How many “Born Again Believers” do you know who actually live like they really believe or that they really are “born again”?

What you choose to believe in and how you choose to live out that belief makes all the difference? Beliefs and actions. I actually think that most people believe in the “right things”, but choose to act in ways that are in conflict with those beliefs. That has certainly been the story of my life. Of course, there are those who believe in the “wrong things” and act in accordance with their belief, often with terrible consequences. On this day, 9/11 comes to mind.

But for the most part, we humans choose to believe in the good things. And we choose to believe that we are trying our best to “live right”. That’s the problem. Choosing to believe that we are living right or at least trying to live right is not the same as choosing to allow our beliefs to truly impact our lives, our choices. It’s not easy. You say you believe in the truth. Do you always tell the truth? Most people don’t. You vow to love and honor the person you marry. Will you always? Most people won’t. You say you believe in honesty. Are you always honest? In all of your dealings? Most people aren’t.

What will you choose to believe in? Will you choose to let that belief lead you in all the other choices you will make over a lifetime? I hope you always will. Most people won’t.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Unexpected Rewards - Part II

So how should one use unexpected rewards? In my opinion there are four keys to the effective use of unexpected rewards: Caution, Value, Motive and Timing

Be cautious in using unexpected rewards. For example, if you have ever worked in a union environment you know what the term “past practice” means. I know of one situation where a dock supervisor “occasionally” brought in donuts for his crew. Eventually some knothead decided that donuts and a donut break should become a daily event. A grievance was filed and the union won. No good deed goes unpunished. The same principle often applies with kids and charitable organizations. Once you get on their list, that unexpected gift becomes a pledge.

Value. To be a reward it has to have some value to the receiver. My wife happens to be an avid golfer. If I surprised her with a golf vacation trip she would think it was great. If she did not play golf, it would not be so great. She knows that surprising me with tickets to the opera would be like offering me a free root canal. Make sure that the unexpected reward has real value to the recipient.

Motive is critical. It’s one thing to use unexpected rewards to acknowledge and express appreciation, even love, for others. It can strengthen relationships and build loyalty. Some might say it's manipulative, but if done honestly and in good faith and with no strings attached, unexpected rewards are a great way of just saying "Thank You". It’s another thing all together if unexpected rewards come with a balance due or as penance.
Sending your wife flowers before you tell her about the upcoming fishing trip with your buddies makes the gift about you, not about her. Sending her flowers after you’ve transgressed in some other way may be necessary, but it’s not an unexpected reward. (And depending upon the transgression, it may only make things worse. There’s flowers and there’s bling-bling. Don’t send flowers to do a bling-bling job. Just ask Kobe Bryant. And sometimes there's not even enough bling-bling to make it work. Just ask Tiger).

Timing is everything. It’s a delicate balance. Unexpected rewards must be random and infrequent, but they cannot be just a one time event. Timing is also an art not a science. You either have it or you don’t. I don’t have it and I know it. I am overly cautious and suspicious by nature, so I even have trouble accepting rewards, whether they are expected or unexpected. The same caution and suspicion get in the way of my giving unexpected rewards. Will the person expect me to keep giving? Is this the right reward, will they appreciate it? Will they question my motives? Is the timing right?

So I struggle with it. But at some point, one has to stop over-thinking it and end the debate. Just learning to say "Thank You" may be the first step.