Still figuring it out? You are NOT alone.

I must’ve asked the same question several different times during the course of this week, “What are your plans after you get your degree?” Many people didn’t have an answer. Some fumbled with their response. Others provided canned statements around wanting to pursue a terminal degree. A couple of them gave me an answer that didn’t justify the need to get the degree but whatever. I guess the one thing that we all had in common was that no one, not even me, ever really gave an answer as to what their plans were for the degree that they worked so hard for, whether it be a Master’s or a Ph.D. I was bewildered. Here I thought that I was the only one in the room that didn’t have my life figured out and come to find out, I’m one of many.

I believe that we as people have a hard time saying, “I don’t know what my plans are.” or “I haven’t quite figured that out yet.” Meanwhile, we’re all feeling it in some way, shape, or form. We don’t do well with being vulnerable, with letting people know that we don’t have it all together which ultimately leads to everyone thinking that they must have it all figured out. Which is sad. Sometimes it’s OK to say, I liked the topic, I felt a connection with the subject but I’m not sure what I am going to do with the information just yet. Or even better, I need the letters or the degree to prove credibility within the field. How much of a relief would that be, eh?

I think the purpose of this post is to say that the people that are walking around, doing “things” with their lives- the ones who you believe have it all figured out – the majority of them don’t. They are out here brainstorming with their life, throwing ideas on the wall to see if it sticks, trying new things and identifying what they like, meeting new people and conversing about whatever comes to mind. I had a full fledged discussion with a group of I/O Psychologists about Vegas and how one lived in Louisiana and have never visited New Orleans – we don’t have it all figured out.

The only difference between you and them is that they are doing. That’s it. I’m currently in Alabama on a trip that might be a waste of time and that’s OK. I had a guy ask me if anything that I’d learned on this trip would be useful to me in the future. I told him that what I’ve come to find is that I can use any and everything that I learn. Maybe not in the near future but possibly in the distant. Even if it’s only to stir up a commonality between me and another person, even if it’s just to make that connection, to be able to relate, to speak with experience – it’ll be something that I use.

I sat with a group of ladies who were talking about submitting to symposiums and writing their thesis. One wanted to write on diversity in leadership and the selection process, the other on bias around online degrees and you know what? It was beautiful. I was sitting amongst potential game changers in the field of IO Psychology and here they were – “figuring it out”. Lol. No one had a concrete plan of action, where pivots were accounted for and purposeful decisions were made. That’s not how it worked. We had a direction and possibly a mode of transportation but the route, the pit stops had not been thoroughly mapped out.

People are still figuring it out. Don’t think you’re behind the curve or that you can’t do what you want to do because life happened. Life is going to happen. If I’ve learned nothing else, I’ve learned that life is… life is hard and confusing. It’s tempting and troubling. It’s angry and upsetting but it’s also beautiful and sympathetic and forgiving and compassionate and hopeful. Life gives you chance after chance to do, to be.

Take advantage of it and figure it out!

XOXO

Managing through layoffs

As a people manager, I understood the fundamental principle that I was no longer an independent contributor.  I had a team that I was responsible for, who looked to me for guidance. So when my company went through a steady stream of layLayoff Image 2off’s, I remember thinking about my team and how best I would handle their concerns. Regardless of whether your direct reports are directly impacted, meaning that they will be laid off or indirectly impacted, being that someone they know or work with will be laid off – as a manager, it is your job to manage the situation.

Inevitably, if you’ve established trust amongst your team,  your people will come to you asking, “What’s going on?”, “Am I safe from layoff?”, “What’s going to happen to our team?” How you choose to answer these questions will set the stage for the type of manager that you want to be.

1. Be Honest.

Sitting in a conference room with 11 eyeballs and a few more sets of ears on the phone waiting for me to answer the outstanding question, tested me in my role as a people manager. “Are there layoffs happening and if so, when?” I knew by the way that the question was asked that they anticipated a lie to tumble into the dense air.

The quickest way to lose respect from your people is to lie to them. At the end of the day, people are feeding their carnal concern of whether they will be able to survive and provide. Lying only prolongs the inevitable and provides another reason for your talent to look for other roles.

At the time, I received permission to confirm that the layoffs were indeed taking place but was told that the date was not to be communicated. When I was asked the question, I confirmed what my team already knew, that layoffs were indeed happening. Regarding the date, I informed them that although I knew the date, I was unable to tell them. I apologized for not being able to give any more information but when I could, I would share. Although they wanted a date, they respected my honesty as their manager.

2. Treat them like adults.

For weeks prior to my potential layoff, I was concerned about whether I would be laid off. The same questions that plagued my direct reports, plagued me when they I faced this dilemma. I wanted to know as much information as possible so that I could prepare for the worst. I was told absolutely nothing however, my workload substantially decreased over time. I went from being overwhelmed to having time to write my blog. I would ask, “Am I being impacted?” and I would get the same response, “No, not at this time.”  I knew they were not being honest and it insulted me.

When you treat your people like adults, they will in return act accordingly. Be as upfront and as honest as possible.  You may not be able to directly tell them that they are impacted but generalize the concern and advise your team to update their resumes. If they need resume assistance, offer to help or point them in the right direction. This prepares all impacted employees, regardless of whether it’s a direct impact or an indirect impact, for whats to come.

If you are able to tell them, do so. Advocate doing so. I had a boss who was laid off and he was told five months in advance of the action. He told me that this was the best thing that could’ve happened to him. He was able to prepare himself and his family for the inevitable, take steps to establish his next career move, and come to peace with his double digit tenure at the company. Instead of being upset with being laid off,  he was thankful and he gave 100% of his effort until his last day.

3. Show empathy.

Take a moment and imagine being in their shoes. Maybe you were on the other side of the table, digesting that there was a chance that you would be laid off. How did you feel? What thoughts ran through your mind? What was the firEmpathy Image 1st thing you wanted to do? If you’ve never been in the situation,  try and read the stories of others before you have the conversation with your direct reports. Imagine not knowing when you will receive another paycheck and the domino effect that that would have in your life.

Showing empathy is something that a lot of people talk about but have a hard time doing. Being able to recognize the feelings of others, communicate understanding and have a genuine concern for them as a human beings can be a bit difficult when you are under a lot of stress as well. Be sure to practice empathy on a daily basis to avoid trying to fake it during the time when you will need to show it the most. You owe it to your team to empathize with the situation.

Before you quit…

You know when it’s time to leave a company. You get that sinking feeling like you’ve overstayed your welcome or that you’re in a bad relationship where neither one of you want to make it work. Every meeting is a waste of time, every email is “WHAT do you want?”, every call is a “Can you call someone else?” – your heart and mind is just no longer in the game. It’s time to move on to greater pastures and explore the open terrain – there are millions of company’s out there looking for a star like you, right? Of course – but before you quit, chuck the deuces and eat your “good luck” cake, think about completing a few of these tasks:

1. Have a job lined up.

Seems like common sense but when your emotions are in high gear- common isn’t so common. Make sure that you’ve spruced up the resume and yes, even the cover letter, sent it off to some potential employers, received a job offer AND accepted the job prior to leaving. The last thing you want to do is walk out of one stress pit and into another.

2. Have a plan.

Maybe another job isn’t for you. You’ve saved up enough money, fell into an inheritance or moved back in with the parentals so that you can meditate with monks until you find your calling. So what? As long as you have a plan that is sustainable – make it work and stick to it.

3. Exit with grace.

Oh how you’ve dreamt of giving your boss the middle finger or tripping your nosey co worker as they come bouncing down the hallway. I would strongly advise you not to do anything that will disrupt your grace. Don’t burn any bridges and keep your vengeful thoughts to yourself. You never know who you might see or need on your way to the top.

4. Stay in the game.

You’re quitting. You know this and everyone else who knows you know this as well but don’t go out like a quitter. Give your best until your very last day. Make sure that the transitions of your work products are smooth and pleasant. Be present and continue to share your thoughts and ideas. Smile and remain friendly. You never know who is watching you. Be sure to leave a lasting impression even if you have your own selfish reasons for doing so.

5. Show empathy.

If you are quitting because the work environment sucks, then it should be easy to show a little empathy towards the folks that you’re leaving behind. They haven’t figured out their way out yet, they’re probably just as miserable as you are, and could probably use a kind word or 10. Stay humble and show some compassion. Quit dropping hints about you leaving, about how “they” will miss you when you’re gone and blah blah blah. Even if the work environment is great, your work will still need to get done; folks will have to increase their workload and their productivity levels in order to stay ahead and fill in the gaps. Translation: More work for them.

Being able to quit a job is such a glorious feeling. You’re able to leave on your own terms and on your own time. Make the most of it and make sure that when you do decide to quit that your plan is solid, your reputation is in tack, and your network is reliable. You may want to come back one day – you never know. 🙂