Winning or Losing?

Alex Alex Pollock

This quote caught my attention as a Fortune 50 company defended the slashing of thousands of jobs in January: “Our focus on financial discipline, growth opportunities and shareholder value is what will make us a source of new opportunities for our people and partners in the years ahead.”

Numerous organizations are shedding jobs as economic woes combine with the lingering winter chill to cause employees to be nervous and reflective about their futures.  This is a time of emotional whip lash.  As people see colleagues exit, or they leave themselves, the emotions are raw.  The emotions I’m sure we’ve all seen or maybe even experienced include disbelief, anger, despair, self analysis, depression. . . then finally “OK what do I do know?”

One thing I know for sure we can’t get through these tough times on our own strength.  We need caring people around us.  I’d invite you to share your thoughts and experiences with job loss.  Your insights will help others.

At a personal level…how have you dealt with job loss…how have you helped friends and colleagues cope?  What advice have you shared?
At the organizational level….how have you tackled slumping morale and shrinking budgets and kept people focus on noble EHS goals?

Please chime in.  Your perspectives will be helpful to the community.

About NAEM Staff

The National Association for Environmental Management (NAEM), is a non-profit professional association that empowers corporate leaders to advance environmental stewardship, create safe and healthy workplaces, and promote global sustainability. As the largest network for environmental, health and safety (EHS), and sustainability decision-makers, we provide peer-led educational conferences and an active network for sharing solutions to today’s corporate EHS and sustainability management challenges. Visit NAEM online at

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  1. William D'Alessandro

    March 23, 2009

    I have been trying mightly to find out for the subscribers to Crosslands Bulletin what the mood and the situtation are in EHS departments. I am being bumped more than I can remember in 30 years to PR officers and media relations specialists, or being treated with variations of the “no comment” dodge. I am really starting to worry about the fate of the EHS profession in the US (EU corporate EHS managers are much more forthcoming).

  2. Dennis Shelly

    March 23, 2009

    Ah, a chance to vent, just a bit. I have been in the environmental consulting business since the Clean Water Act, always moved for better opportunity, never as part of an economic adjustment. Now, almost four months into my first career transition, a few lessons learned: 1) Your network is your lifeline; 2) The most helpful people are those who have been through the same ordeal; 3) The friendliest people are those in transition; 4) Responses that take longer than two days are an eternity; 5) It doesn’t matter what you say to someone in a difficult position, it only matters that you say something (see “unemployment is not contagious”). There probably are others, but this is my short list.

    I am not a fan of web submittals, although I have gotten a couple of responses. The best way in the door is with an escort. If I don’t know anyone, I use LinkedIn to see appropriate contacts, and see what I can do from there. You need to find a way past the resume screeners first.

    Above all, stay positive.

  3. Mary Ann Bliss

    March 23, 2009

    It seems that a part of the job-slashing may actually be opportunistic by upper management since the doom and gloom outlook is all the rage these days. Cutting jobs is a quick and easy way to make the bottom line look better and the suffering economy is a very safe bet to keep other fearful employees from complaining about being burdened with yet more responsibility or to venture out to look for another job.

    While it is an uncertain time, being paralyzed by fear only blurs the focus on recovering from a job loss. The road back to success after a job loss still has the same steps as ever before and it just may be that another company played the economy card to cut some folks they were simply tired of and have good opportunities to offer.

    And let’s not just become a “nation of whiners”…we still have plenty compared to other countries!

    Regardless of whether you’ve lost your job or are trying to keep one and your mind as well or what the shape of the economy is; the best thing we can do for ourselves, for our families and for our hope is to count our blessings at least as hard as we count our cash.

  4. Rich Fiore

    March 23, 2009

    The famous Samuel Clemens’ quote, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” could also apply to the 2009 job market. The good news is that there are still (as of March 23rd, 2009) a surprising number of jobs available given the onslaught of bad news about our global recession, which, frankly, would tend to make anyone think that the number of available jobs is zero.
    I don’t have any discrete statistics for you, unfortunately, but a reasonable estimate for the various EHS disciplines would be somewhere less than 50%, but definitely more than 10%. Please keep in mind that this is compared to 2007-2008 levels, which were all-time record years for such.

    The inevitable accompanying bad news for job seekers is this:
    1. There are more good candidates applying for the same position than previously;
    2. To the extent that some companies are using internal resources (i.e., their own HR departments, as opposed to paying fees to specialty third-party EHS recruiters) to take the lead and manage the entire recruitment process, that process can be slowed down dramatically. This is compounded by the greatly increased number of people who are looking (factor #1, above). Basically, there are fewer people, and some less qualified to do so, looking at more resumes.

    Nonetheless, people are getting interviews and offers.

    If you are employed and just looking for something better, keep your current job, and choose wisely. If you are unemployed or are about to be, be diligent, be realistic about what the market is telling you and adjust accordingly, and NEVER give up hope—you WILL find another job, it’s just a question of when and where and how.

  5. David Williams

    March 23, 2009

    A few random thoughts here:

    -I came across a great piece of advice from J. Krishnamurti, whom I believe is/was an Indian philosopher: “Do you want to know my secret? This is my secret – I don’t mind what happens.”

    -Change in inevitable – the overwhelming probabilities are that at some point you will need to change jobs and maybe even careers. It might be due to the economy, your age, your health, your interests, etc. This change is a lot easier to navigate when what you do for a living is simply what you do and not the only way you define yourself.

    -Try to be fortunate enough to have a job or career that you actually enjoy. Makes the trip more fun along the way and believe it or not can make a departure less traumatic. Think about your reactions to: a) moving on from a job where you really made a difference and can sincerely list out substantial changes you helped make happen; or b) a job where it was really more about the $ and if you are honest with yourself maybe entirely about the $. Why is “a” better than “b”? If you spent 15 years or so just working for the $ and then get the boot, I think it would be truly depressing. 15 years and your bank account would be the only way to measure what you accomplished.

    -Live well within your means at all times. If the recent economic meltdown in the US has any lessons, the primary one might be that the American dream should not be to live like Donald Trump. Perhaps the new American dream should be to owe as little as possible to as few as possible.

    -Have hope – it’s free and nobody can take it away from you.

  6. Tracy Parsons

    March 24, 2009

    I worked for a multi-national for >30 years and have been through 5 “downsizing” events in the past 15 years. I myself was severanced in this latest round. The best advice I got came a few years ago which helped me be ready: Think and prepare for your Plan B, and if that moment comes when you are severanced, thank your company for the many years of employment, wish them the best and then implement Plan B.

    Many (most?) of these severance situations are business decisions that hurt because they affect us personally. Regardless, leave with no bridges burned and your dignity intact. Leave with “class” and it will help you as you implement your Plan B.

  7. Rick Yabroff

    March 25, 2009

    I was downsized last summer even though I was “unreplaceable”. I had no backup and no one else knew how I did what I did… They just know that I “took care of it”. It didn’t matter and I was let go without any contingency by the company.

    I was hired in September at a different company in a different city because I know how to “take care of it” and could operate as almost a one man shop. If it were not for my network of consultants and collegues, I would not be as attractive to any company or as effective.

    My advise is don’t assume you are not replaceable, have a Plan B, don’t be afraid to commute to different cities for jobs, and maintain your network so you can be the person who knows how to “take care of it”.

  8. Rebecca Seevers

    April 3, 2009

    To piggyback on some earlier ideas:

    To think of oneself as irreplaceable is dangerous. Imagine a hand in a bucket of water, and that hand is you, in your position. When you leave, it is if your hand was pulled from the water. For a short time, the water churns a bit, but eventually calm returns to the surface, and the corporate world goes on as if the hand had never existed.

    Those best prepared for a sudden departure are ones that keep their network intact, and use the network to find new possibilities and places where their talents can be used.

    I really liked David’s comments about living well within your means… I think many of us fail to do that, and then when something threatens our economic well-being, it is devastating! Someone told me once to live as if “this too shall pass…” Most people hear that phrase and think of it only in the context that if things are very bad, don’t worry, because things will eventually improve. I always thought of it as true in the reverse as well. If things are going very well, beware… this too shall pass… things may not always be this good, so be prepared!

  9. David Williams

    April 14, 2009

    Really like Rebecca’s “hand in the bucket” comment – very true. I feel fortunate for the opportunities I have had so far in my professional career. Not only with the types of experiences and skills I have gained, but also for the money I have earned. In the back of my mind I always have this thought thread running – I am lucky to be where I am at and if some day it comes to an end I would truly be saddened if I looked back on it and had not made the most of it. Meaning maintaining a good balance of living life but also taking care of the future.

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