I read the news today, oh, boy!

 

What happens when you hear on the morning news that your company is restructuring and there will be layoffs involved? After the, “Oh, *^$% moment,” comes the what-will-happen-to-me time of uncertainty.

 

While most of the time we try not to think about it, job uncertainty is always part of the equation working in industry where the primary responsibility is creating value for shareholders. When times are good, the thought is rarely there. And then one day, boom! Your company is the lead story on NPR and panic sets in.

 

The most important issue in these times of uncertainty is learning how to cope in a healthy and productive manner.

 

In my 19 years in industry, I have been in a company impacted by restructuring efforts more than a few times. In each case, I kept my job, but experienced the stress of watching others being cut from the company ranks. Many of them were traumatized by the experience as they entered a weak job market in search of another job opportunity. My first time, the stress was high. I worried. I stressed. It wasn’t the most productive way to navigate the uncertainty.

 

But, the storm passed and the world settled down for me. Some of my friends were no longer around, but many were. New relationships formed, new ideas, new projects. I came to realize that restructuring decisions were out of my control. I also learned that successfully coping with the uncertainty around my employment future meant focusing on things I could control like continuing to meet my research goals. Remembering to find time to disconnect from the job and focusing on friends and family were also  important ways of dealing with the uncertainty.

 

And then a few years later, it happened again. Having lived through it once, I knew mostly what to expect and this time the stress was less. Subsequent changes brought less and less personal turmoil, although I would be lying if I said I never wondered, “What if this is it? What if I lose my job this time?”

 

As I’ve been through these changes, I’ve learned that restructuring efforts are often necessary for the health of the company, to enable it to continue to do great things. Of course, they also bring about sadness, as some colleagues, FRIENDS, are no longer with us as a result.

 

If you are a people manager during such times, it is of the utmost importance for you to listen to your employees and pass along insights into how to successfully navigate the transition. Importantly, it is absolutely necessary for you to outwardly model a calm demeanor, even if you are scared on the inside. As a leader, you set the tone for your team. Keeping your composure can be challenging in these uncertain times. None of us are very secure about the future and what it holds for those who report to us, our colleagues—or even ourselves.


Help for the Unemployed

We  acknowledge that some of our colleagues have been out of work for quite some time due to the recession and resulting restructuring efforts. Those still struggling to find jobs may find helpful career-related benefits and resources at: www.acs.org/unemployed.

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Jeff Seale is a Science Fellow at Monsanto where he has worked for 18 years building world-class protein engineering platforms and developing the next generation of science leaders. Outside of work he enjoys watching his children's artistic and athletic endeavors, sailing with friends and working to end extreme global poverty with the ONE Campaign. (The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Monsanto.)