Workers should be prepared for possible unemployment


June 18, 2008|By HANAH CHO

Knowing layoffs or job cuts are imminent in your workplace is a tough place to be. It can cause anxiety, low morale and not to mention productivity declines.

But it's an unfortunate reality of the 21st-century workplace. (I can tell you from experience that if you caught the article June 6 on Tribune Co, the parent of The Sun, hinting at staff reductions at its newspapers as well as reducing the size of the papers in a cost-cutting move.)

For the first five months of the year, there were 394,193 layoff announcements, according to figures compiled by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement firm in Chicago. In May alone, there were 103,522 planned job cuts, many in the auto and financial industries. Challenger found that a bulk of the job cuts were because of closing, restructuring, merger and acquisitions, market conditions and cost cutting.

"Today's worker has to be prepared for this, and the Department of Labor tells us that we'll be unemployed at one point or another by no fault of our own," says Kathy Bovard, coordinator of the human resources development graduate program at McDaniel College in Westminster. "We need to be prepared for periods of unemployment."

Facing uncertainty

So what are workers to do amid such uncertainty?

Instead of playing the what-if game, the smart move is to be active, says Robert Trumble, professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University's business school and director of the Virginia Labor Studies Center.

Trumble says people often mistakenly believe that they will receive a large severance package and parlay that into a big entrepreneurial success.

"There are always stories of people who say, 'Geez, the best thing that happened to me is losing my job, and I did such and such.' That's a rarity," he says.

The important advice: Do networking and start looking at other options. Even if you're not affected, why wait until the ax falls before making any moves?

When to act

"You need to do it relatively soon," Trumble says. "The question is do I run the risk of telling my friends and contacts I'm looking for a job while I still have one, which may offend my employer. Or do I stay on to the bitter end?"

"It's best to take the first advice and start letting people know you're looking," he adds. "The worst that can happen is that your employer finds out and says, 'You're really valuable to us. Even when the cuts come, you're still going to have a job.'" .

Make sure your resume is updated, Bovard says.

Find ways to enhance or develop new job skills.

"That means all through the time you have a job, take additional training," Trumble says. "Any time your employer offers it, take it. It gives you more options if you become unemployed."

Talk to your manager.

Supervisor might help

Your supervisor might be able to dispel rumors if that's really the case or shed light into the situation, Bovard says.

"Keep the line of communications open with your supervisor or boss so you could get feedback about whether your position is at risk," she says.

What advice do you have?

Send your stories, tips and questions to Please include your first name and your city.

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