Thursday, May 17, 2012

Day 364: It's An Anniversary!

One year ago today was my last day at my previous job. I got paid through May 18, but my last day on-site was May 17.

As "breakups" go, this one was actually more agreeable than most. I was casually able to clean out my desk, and I consulted with those who would be assuming my duties because my position was eliminated but the work was not. I left pertinent data and contact info, and in general there were few hard feelings (that I know of).

Sometimes it's hard, but mostly I try and look at endings as new beginnings. Yes it sounds new-agey, or even trite, but there is an undeniable truth to it. When something ends -- an event, a job, a relationship, a life -- you must accept it. Lamenting it to a certain extent is normal and OK, but you've got to be able to move on and let go.

If you're the kind of person who often overthinks things and are in touch with your feelings, this can be hard to do. I've been much better at this in theory than in practice. You can be wracked with self-doubt, analyzing every move... "What if I had done this? Who decided my fate? Why did this happen?" That is normal, and can be a "teachable moment." Even Achilles had a weakness, so you've got to be willing to examine your behavior and be realistic about any role you may have had. Be honest with yourself and if there was something you might have done better, make sure and be mindful of that going forward and let it help you succeed in the next situation.

But, don't beat yourself up over it. Most of the time, no one thing is going to do you in. And sometimes, you can do everything right and still things don't work out in your favor. In fact, where job layoffs are concerned, analyst Geoffrey James has a point of view that I have adopted about layoffs.

James thinks that layoffs, which are always borne by the rank-and-file, are actually the fault of management. His view is that management charts the course for a business, making the big decisions about how to allocate money and resources. The staff doesn't make those decisions. The big boss makes those decisions. The big decisions determine if a business makes it or sinks. You've got to look at the big picture and not mikeromanage.

Some Schmo at the big Wall Street firms that went bust in the past few years wasn't making the choices that trashed the world economy. The sign-off for that came at the highest levels. But unless the whole company went down, the executives didn't pay those prices. And in the few cases where they did, they were often given fat payouts in the millions as lovely parting gifts.

James' solution, which I'm totally on board with, is that if a business gets into the sort of trouble that requires layoffs, the first to go should be the management team. They're the ones who made the wrong decisions. They're the ones that ran the thing into the ground. See "Titanic, The." The captain should be the last one who gets saved. It's his (or her) responsibility to be successful. That's why he's the captain.

Good luck seeing this be the norm in business, however. I've only heard of one case of it. 

One of my favorite companies is Pixar, the animation firm that has produced a string of unforgettable movies. But things weren't always so rosy. Before their huge success, in tough times more than 20 years ago, Pixar was a division within Lucasfilm. Pixar's top two managers were told to make layoffs. They resisted until given a deadline. At the deadline, the two managers said, essentially, "Fire us. We're the ones who didn't get it done."

This story was posted on the Harvard Business Review blog:

The managers' leadership inspired their bosses, everyone kept their jobs, and in 1995 Pixar made a splash with a movie called Toy Story. The rest, as they say, is history.

Being out of work for a year has sucked, but it hasn't all been bad. I've been able to do some volunteer work that I might not have had the time for otherwise, and that has paid me in a currency far superior to filthy lucre. I've been able to spend more time with people I love, and with my beloved dogs, even the terrible one who rolled around in poop last night.

She's not terrible. But man, she does NOT need to do that again. EVER.

I've had the support and encouragement I needed, and I've had some near-misses that would have made this a shorter issue. But it is what it is. We've been smart about money, and amazingly other than a few thousand left to go on a car payment, we have no debt. We have a small amount of savings, not enough, but we're not living on hot dog soup.

Monday and Tuesday, I have an opportunity to impress some people and land a job that would fulfill me on so many levels, AND allow me to return to live in a place that I love. It's big. BIG.

And perhaps never would have happened had I not been laid off a year ago. How about that?

1 comment:

  1. I'm so excited for you, Bruce! It's gonna be great.

    Also, wow, I did NOT know that about Pixar. Crazy. in a good way.