Economic Undertakings

In this red-hot season of layoffs, these 6 tips will help you navigate stress and finances

Almost daily, there are news reports of companies making layoffs and cutting budgets. It is often said that the best companies are built during the most difficult years, economically speaking. That said, this is a time of heightened anxiety and upheaval for employees. Here too, it is worse for working women than for men.

Working women have been the greatest victims of this pandemic. We faced the triple whammy – the sectors we worked in were the most affected, distance learning and working from home increased our unpaid burden and family health management added significantly. disproportionate to our levels of mental stress.

While 20 million women have left the workforce over the past five years, those who have remained are now struggling to cope with the new challenges of a sluggish economy and impending structural changes in their workplaces.

In this column, I focus on some practical tips for coping with that anxiety, changes in the workplace, and dealing with a job loss. I have posed six questions that may confuse you with answers based on my fellowship of shared experiences.

Q1. Will I get fired?

It depends on both the state of the company (it’s its sector) and your relative performance. If your performance rating is below average and the industry is also in turmoil, you have reason to be concerned.

If your performance is average or above, it’s time to dig deeper into your business performance. If you’re at a company that has an open culture, you probably already know something about this. More often than not, there is a select group of people who know the financial and operational parameters of large and small businesses.

The best recourse here is to have a direct conversation with your manager. This may not be your usual style, but you’ll be surprised how open your manager can be.

A direct chat can give you advance information about the company and its issues or, at the very least, you can end the chat with a “Is there anything more or different that I can TO DO ? which demonstrates your positive intention.

I was part of a large media organization going through a massive reorganization of the sales team. There was a lot of anxiety, not everyone felt safe, and looking back and distilling my thoughts on who got held and who grew up, a few things stand out. First, those who had direct conversations around “this is what I do well, this is what I’d like to do” were often given meatier roles. Second, those who have had honest talks with management wanting to move to a new division have been largely satisfied.

Q2. Can I ask for flexibility when everyone else is clinging to their jobs?

There is a clear ‘stigma’ around ‘flexibility’. There are workplaces where it is acceptable as an option for certain periods of time. We are far from normalizing flexibility at work. I recently learned that when flexibility was offered to all employees at a top management consulting firm, more men than women took advantage of it. But the perception remains that the path to flexibility is for women and for those looking to cut their hours.

Honest answer, now is not a good time to have a conversation about flexibility if your company culture is not supportive (policies are one thing, culture is very different). That said, if flexibility is what will keep you sane and on the job, then definitely have a chat. You better do a few things. First, frame your need as a good outcome for the business, for example, if you want to work 3 days a week, frame it as a potential savings opportunity. Two, have a tight structure in mind, are you looking for 2 days a week remotely and rest in the office? Do you want to work entirely remotely for 3 months? It is easier for employers to grant flexibility if the limits are well defined.

Q3. My role just changed, what could that mean?

FMCG companies have this concept of JTBD, i.e. work to be done. When the current task changes, ‘JTBD’ changes. That’s what a role change is. A change in the company’s task list. It is not necessarily a relegation to the niche. Ask yourself these questions. Are responsibilities important to the business? Are you learning a skill that is valuable to you today? Are you learning skills that will help you in 2 years? If the answer to two of these questions is yes, the role change is good.

Q4. Can I still ask for a raise?

Yes. Because it’s a demand, not a ransom note. So please yes. An increase reflects demand for professionals, general inflation levels, role scope and company performance, among other things.

As the founder of a start-up, I can tell you that it’s always a competitive market for the right talent. The raises will be moderate but they will not be zero. They will come to those who ask for them. However, there is a nugget of advice. Ask for them as part of your review cycle, now is not the time to hustle for mid-year fixes, you want to be considered part of the ‘fix’ team and not the a “high maintenance wheel” insensitive to the company’s fortunes.

Q5. I’ve been let go, now what?

It’s traumatic. It’s personal. You probably have a lot of anger and resentment. All of this is normal. Share your feelings with trusted friends and family, but not through social media posts. In fact, now would be the perfect time to take a break from social media.

A dismissal is a new beginning. It’s painful, but it can be a great reset button for those who were too comfortable with their role and really weren’t growing professionally. Here’s how to reset after one:

First, do a quick financial assessment. How many days of savings do you have? Do you have enough cash to last 4 to 6 months? Are there any expenses you can rearrange to do this? It will make you feel more in control. Some people want to do it on an excel sheet, others want to write it in a journal, do it, it’s cathartic.

Second, control the narrative and get your story right. A simple explanation to share so you don’t get stuck at the very beginning of your exploratory discussions. Pro tip, practice with a friend. Your explanation can be as simple as, “My business was acquired and the direction of the business has changed. I worked at XYZ which was no longer the core business and I think now is the perfect time for me to professionally reset myself with all that I have learned in 5 years in digital marketing.

Finally, cast the net super wide. Now that you are about to return to the job market, think of at least 4-5 sectors and 30-35 companies in which you could work. Take at least 10 days to make this list. Reach out to former colleagues, even HR at your old company, as they will be well connected to find out where the opportunities lie. Finally, tweak your resume and make a great cover email, tailored to the industry based on the skills it needs.

If you think you were fired unfairly and because you were a woman, you should know that there are statutory safeguards in place in organizations. There is an external ombudsman and a Vishaka committee that you can connect with. They are usually experts and they have a duty to give you unbiased advice or perhaps help you take action if the need arises.

Q6. Is this a sign to simply take a career break?

If you’re constantly juggling your mother’s guilt or just feeling burnt out, sometimes it’s perverse and tempting to think that now is a good time to really take a break from your career. A dismissal is not a sign of a career break. You may need to take a break to recharge to maybe change tracks or sectors, do it, but don’t give up thinking it’s a ‘sign’.

A long hiatus after a layoff will likely make it much more difficult for you to return to traditional roles. So my advice would be to stay in the job market and look for roles that allow you to develop your skills at your own pace rather than taking a long break.

These may have helped some of you while others will have very specific contexts and these answers may not match your situation. Feel free to DM me your unique questions or challenges and I’d be happy to chat.

Simran Khara is a startup founder. She is an alumnus of ISB, Hyderabad, London School of Economics (UK) and Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the position of this publication.

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