Unfortunately I think a lot of people in this economy have had the daunting experience of hearing those words. Maybe they were softened by “We’re laying you off.” or “It’s not you, it’s the workload.” but the result is the same – you don’t have a job.
How you handle yourself in this situation is extremely important for your future employment choices and is a true test of your character. You think you’ve been let go, so what those people think about you doesn’t matter any more? Think again.
Have you heard of the concept of 6 degrees of separation? It basically boils down to the idea that if you follow a maximum of 6 steps, you are connected to every person on the planet. My boss has a brother who had an intern who is related to a senator who married so and so… and on it goes. You narrow the field down from the globe to the United States and even further into the specific niche for which you are trained? That degree of separation probably doesn’t get past 2 – maybe 3 – to connect with every single person in your industry. Let me put it another way…Every single potential employer, partner, or client.
So now what?
You can let your feelings of betrayal and angst get the best of you. It may make you feel better to vent about how unfair it all is, how you are so much better than so-and-so, why they made a mistake getting rid of you instead of that other person. You can point out all the faults of your boss and your organization and get sympathy from your friends and coworkers. You may even get some of your colleagues to lash out at leadership for your dismissal or feel so upset they quit in support of you. That would probably feel pretty good. But for how long? And how will that affect your reputation?
Instead I recommend that you gather your courage and your pride and thank them for the opportunity to work for them in the first place. You can ease other employee’s concerns and tell them why this is really doing you a favor to find the right fit and is an opportunity for you to find something even better. You can help the leadership ease the turmoil caused whenever anyone is let go and ease their burden of justifying why this was the best decision for everyone and why the remaining employees shouldn’t 1) be nervous that their job is on the line or 2) hold it against anyone.
It may be the last thing you feel like doing at the moment, but I highly encourage you to find it within yourself to Fake it till you make it for just a little bit longer. All of the employees remaining know someone who knows someone and if you make a positive impression in a difficult situation, they will remember. It is not just your old boss that influences the reputation that follows you in a professional community, but your peers as well. What can be gained by burning bridges? What can be gained by being petty and vengeful? Ultimately the only person you are hurting is yourself.
What should you do?
- Be gracious.
- Be positive.
- Be grateful.
- Be kind.
- Be the kind of person people want to stay in touch with and support.
My recommendation is to send a thank you note to the entire organization. If you can stay composed enough to personally say goodbye to people and thank them for their support, friendship and time together – then that would be great. I would still follow it up with an email so you are able to communicate your personal information so people can stay in touch.
Here’s the note I sent when this happened to me on Wednesday:
I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for your friendship, advice, support and mentoring over the years. This company has seen me through a lot of life both professionally and personally. You’ve been there for me to celebrate milestone events in my life – marriage, kids, passing the P.E., getting my first big contract, etc. I greatly appreciate the opportunities working here has provided to me and hope you all see my leaving as an opportunity as well. Yes, some things are ending, but new things can come too – so thank you for all the past opportunities and this new one as well.
I consider you friends and would very much appreciate staying in touch. My personal email is firstname.lastname@example.org and my cell is ….
Thank you for a great run.
Has this happened to you? If so, what did you do well and what do you regret?