My days at Coca-Cola are numbered. Cutbacks and reorganizations have led to a number of people, of which I am one, losing their jobs. New chapters, excitement, worries, relief, and risk are ahead for me, but Coke will soon be just a memory.
I won’t say it doesn’t hurt. It does. Anytime you are, in essence, told you’re no longer wanted, it can’t help but sting. I understand it’s part of a much bigger department reorganization, but no matter how many times your leadership tells you it’s not personal, that you’re valued, and stresses how you’ve been a great contributor, it still feels quite personal.
Since the mid-1980's, I’ve been part of corporations, so I am no stranger to reorganizations. I’ve been on all ends of it, from designing new departments to eliminating my own position because it was the right thing to do. I’ve even been laid off once before as part of a dot-com bubble burst. I’ve seen reorgs run well, and I’ve seen them run poorly but never as poorly as the one I’m currently witnessing. This is what gives me relief; it will feel very good to not be around this kind of dysfunction on a daily basis. Seeing the various walking-dead roaming the halls is stressful and depressing. The final day for those leaving will be filled with mixed emotions, but I at least will feel like I can once again breathe.
I know many will view this as a sour grapes story, and they would have a point, but it doesn’t make my observances any less true. I’ve lost a job before, so I have a good reference point, and my previous loss was actually a result of a much better run reorg. Make no mistake, it was a much more poorly run company, but the reorganization itself had the hallmarks of how it should be done. It included honesty, transparency (before it was a buzzword), respect, and fairness. Contrary to what leadership wants you to believe, none of these are present in this latest experience. That these hallmarks are missing is especially galling since the leadership continues to insist they are top of mind!
Here are a few things to keep in mind for anyone planning to reorganize: Saying it is a transparent process does not make it transparent. Telling your people that it will be a fair process does not make it fair. Constantly reminding everyone how hard you’re working into the late hours and weekends is self-serving and makes you look petty as as you toy with other’s lives. Do yourselves a favor, and concentrate on honesty.
Honesty is the single most important characteristic the reorganization process can have. This may sound odd, but I really don’t believe the process needs to be transparent or fair. I would prefer respectful, but even respect is not required. Honesty, however, is an absolute must-have or you lose all other credibility. In this case, it was the near total lack of honesty that encouraged me to end my internal job search. If our leaders had been honest about the lack of fairness, respect, and transparency, I would have ended the search even earlier, but I would have been thankful for not wasting my time in the first place.
For now, I am hurt, but I’ll get over it. For forever, I will feel relief.