Search This Blog

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pursuing Other Opportunities: It’s Not Personal...

Chris Brady

We’ve had a lot of lightness of being in the 4 Broads blog lately. Mind if I balance the cheer with a reality rant from the world of work?

A co-worker in my department recently learned that her job was being eliminated in a restructuring. She understands the rationale; she had recommended elements of the new model. However, losing her job was not part of her plan.

It’s the first time in her 20-year career that she is leaving a job involuntarily. She is a competent, experienced, intelligent professional.  She will land a good job somewhere, hopefully better than this one, but it still stings.

Every time this happens, we survivors realize that there is no promise of employment.  All it takes is a bad quarter, a change in strategy, a new leader, or another world economic crisis and more chairs come out of the circle.

In this instance, it’s a new leader -- let’s call him “B” so you can follow the story.  “B” joined our company about three months ago, and he appears to be smart, experienced, and a person of high integrity. He succeeds the former VP -- let’s call her “A”, who resigned after 18 months in her role.  “A” changed the structure 90 days into her term, and her plan resulted in four people losing their jobs because of “fit”. “B’s” new structure is almost identical to the structure “A” replaced.  

For the record, the new structure makes great sense and worked pretty well the last time. I don’t question “B’s” decision. I’ve just noticed that the way you organize things doesn’t really make a difference. All that matters is that you have good (and competent) people and effective management. They will make it work. My friend who is leaving in a month is good people. Her departure will be a loss for us. (Note that she was not escorted out of the building; she has 60 days notice. We’re compassionate in managing professional staff changes to give people a chance to land new employment.)

This scene plays out in business all the time.  Is it any wonder that half of the worldwide workforce admits that they are actively looking for another job? And companies spend time and money on employee engagement surveys to get at the root causes of malaise. (Hello?  We got the memo about loyalty sometime in the 1980s.)

Restructuring, layoffs, salary freezes, financial results, pay for performance: these are the inspirational topics I get to write about half the time in my job. The other half is spent marketing to my co-workers that we have a great company, visionary leaders, good people and our work makes a difference yada, yada, yada.

It’s not the great American novel, but it’s a writing life. Until someone figures out that everything has been written a gazillion times already, and you could have a robot pull up the restructuring memo and change the names, I’m holding on. 

Shoot, I heard recently that newspapers are using robots to write copy now. I can see it now:

We are pleased to welcome C3PO to XCo.  C3, the latest in communications technology, will be publishing employee communications, managing our website, and best of all doesn’t care about wage increases, bonuses, or work-life balance. We regret that Chris Brady has left the company to pursue other opportunities and wish her well.

Help me out here. I’m trying to increase my value proposition for at least another five years. Given the changes in employer/employee commitment, do you read anything in your company’s internal communications that motivates you or strengthens your commitment?


  1. well first, love the line (Hello? We got the memo about loyalty sometime in the 1980s.)
    And second, since internal communications isn't fiction (ahem) it's not about what you write, it's about day to day leadership. But, you know that.
    You can be the best writer out there and it's still hard to put a positive spin on the emperor with no clothes--or compassion, questionable ethics, whatever

    1. Carol,

      I smiled at your comment that IC isn't fiction. Of course, you're spot on about leadership. No memo can undo the actions that employees observe.

  2. I'm a positive person, but also a realist. When I stop in Brueggers for my morning coffee on the way to work, I see lots of glum faces. That tells me that companies aren't doing much to motivate employees today. I know in my school district, salaries are frozen and teacher retirees are often not replaced. Of course, that means larger classrooms, more parent meetings/conferences, more materials to make, etc. Then teachers are being asked to improve test scores and get kids reading by mid-kindergarten. Not exactly a formula for success. If the corporate/public sectors are doing the same as the education system, we're in a bit of trouble.

  3. Peggy,

    They call this "productivity" in the business sector, doing more with less. And those of us who are the doers in the system have accepted our lot and kept doing, even as we see our numbers decreasing but the work/expectations remaining the same or even higher.

    I'm not working in a coal mine, so it's not really a big deal. It's more a kind of sadness that people lose their jobs and we just accept it as the reality of business. I think that's what you are seeing at the coffee place.

  4. What I see at work that motivates me and strengthens my commitment are stories of why our work matters. In financial services, in our internal communication, I will occasionally see a story about someone who died unexpectedly, but left behind enough resources for their family because of good planning. That helps to remind me why our daily grind matters, and how it helps people.