This week I lost my job as a result of the COVID19 pandemic. It was not directly due to the disease (no one in my family/acquaintance circle has tested positive) but because like many others, the education sector has been severely affected by the Coronavirus.
Clearly the COVID19 pandemic is still with us. Reports of the devastation take many different tragic forms and continue every day. For me, these stories were always somewhat removed. I knew they were real, and I sympathized in my mind, yet they happened to others. Now it has hit home.
I regret several aspects of how situations like mine have been navigated by myself and others. I would like to present some thoughts on how we might better manage one frequently occurring part of this crisis.
It was always just a number
I am disappointed in myself for being somewhat cavalier about the suffering of so many during this pandemic. I followed the news as the situation grew and worsened but the consequences were abstract, something that happened to others. I actively followed the recommended precautions for myself, my family and my work. But I must admit that these actions always felt a little like an obligation or mandate. I went back and forth with my support or frustration about the actions taken by everyone (including my employer and government) around me. What I now realize is that too many of my actions and beliefs were based on what these steps meant solely for me. I didn’t take the situation to heart because they were just numbers, devoid of real meaning or personal impact.
I am disappointed in myself for being somewhat cavalier about the suffering of so many during this pandemic.
Be Open About What Is Happening
Almost every organization has been stressed in some way by the pandemic. Shutdowns, work from home, workplace physical space and communications have been impacted. This in turn has caused upheaval and challenges to operations, no matter the industry. An employee can do their utmost to stay informed about what their organization is doing to manage the crisis, but unless the entire organization is intent on keeping the team up to speed there will be lapses. It is the lack of sharing accurate and timely information that causes trouble, rather than the specific information shared. If informed and engaged employees from every level are included in decision making, employees could source the ideas and energy to help a company stay afloat and even thrive. Reality surrounds us. Hiding from it will not help you manage it.
Seek a Collective Response
Early in the crisis, our immediate team sat down and shared our thoughts on our situation. As supervisor I shared what the organizational policy was at the time and my understanding of how the policy came about. I then shared my personal views and how I arrived at them. Next, all team members were asked for their thoughts. Some were eager to share, a couple not so much, and we certainly had a range of viewpoints. But when it came time to create consensus, we came together with a shared plan that everyone agreed to. It met all the requirements of the parent plan but was fleshed out in a way which met the street level application required for our work. Throughout the crisis we have regularly revisited and revised where necessary. Sharing input kept us all involved, created buy-in to our approach, and created a strong sense of team. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
Soften the Blow
In challenging times people lose their jobs. This is the truth of the matter. Regardless, parting ways with an employee, especially one with a successful work history, should be done with grace and consideration for both parties. Terminating a job is an inevitable part of employment. The question isn’t will an employee leave, it is how.
...parting ways with an employee, especially one with a successful work history, should be done with grace and consideration for both parties.
In an organization with strong communication and teamwork, the need to downsize or terminate staff will be widely acknowledged. Preparations by both parties can take place, subtly and/or appropriately, to diminish the potential negative consequences to either party. The decision to eliminate an employee involves any number of metrics. The impact on both parties must be fully considered as well. Terminating an employee should be the last mutually successful task that the company and the employee perform for both each other.
Provide Support and Follow Up
A successful termination should put both parties in the best possible position to move on to a successful next step. This doesn’t have to be perfectly equitable. A downsized or eliminated employee is obviously faced with the financial, emotional, professional, and health (stress, insurance, etc.) consequences. The employer should provide appropriate documentation, records, pay info, job descriptions, etc. that can be used by the terminated employee to move on.
Termination of a co-worker will affect the morale and performance of remaining employees, and a successful separation should be seen as a positive for the company. The employee should also seek to behave professionally and politely, and legally, to not sully their record and reputation. The more amicably a company and employee part ways the better for both parties. Animosity hurts both.
Move On and Be Kind
I lost my job, and it is a bitter pill. I now face the challenges, and they are daunting. I am heartbroken, scared, angry, disappointed and worried. But I have not been as impacted by this crisis as many others who face hardship that make mine pale in comparison. My situation is actually helping ;me put those of others in proper perspective.
I hope to find a silver lining to this and be able to recover and rebuild my career. What might that be? I don't know. But I owe it to my family, my community, my profession, and of course myself to try to be better in response. I will move on, and God willing, be kind.