Surviving the restructure - what to do if you want to stay


In continuation of last week’s installment, it's Tuesday at 10.45am and you've just learnt that the company is about to restructure, and worse, your team and role is in the firing line.

If you DON’T want to lose your job (I’ll cover those who do want to lose it next week), no matter who you are you will go through a range of emotions (except people who have had an injury to the limbic system and lack emotions). You need to prepare yourself for the following range of emotions:

  • Shock – what on earth?
  • Confusion – what’s going on? Why now? I didn't see this coming
  • Panic – oh god, I have bills to pay!
  • Anger - damn the company/boss/department
  • Self-pity – why me, why now?
  • Sadness – sniffle sob

You may not experience them all, they may come in waves or in large dollops, but you will certainly experience some of them. Whilst these are all completely justifiable emotions, unfortunately, only one is going to serve you well - anger, and as that’s normally a manifestation of sadness it’s probably only got short term teeth. So, without wanting to seem unsympathetic, I'll give you a day to let them wash over you.

Done? Ok it’s time to get into action.

First, you need to establish what the company is planning in order to work out your position in the business and your strategy.

1. The company is downsizing across the board.

For example, they're removing 15% of the entire workforce. This tends to be a money saving measure and has probably occurred due to flagging sales/profitability or an over extension elsewhere.

2. The business unit/team you're in is being restructured.

There’s a range of drivers here, but are probably grounded in there being the wrong people in the wrong roles, or the division not performing to expectations.

3. It’s just your role going.

Gulp. It's one of two things here, the first is that your role is no longer required due to being outsourced, excess capacity or some new technology replacing that function. The alternative is a tough one; the business is actually removing you without a formal performance management process.
Strengthen your position in the business.

Spend some time looking back over the last 2-3 years of recent-ish memory and gather together all your achievements. Put them in measurable and quantifiable terms, i.e. "I re-engineered the supply chain saving the division 10% annually". This is a lot better than "I saved the company some money". Write a long list here, and be bold, not reticent.

In addition, outline the key relationships that you hold externally and internally. Relationships and communication are the lubricants of business; without them, the machinery of the knowledge economy ceases up. These, like your achievements, are unlikely to be credibly claimed by another person.

For additional points here, you may consider capturing your unique IP about the business. This COULD be risky, as the powers-that-be may decide that you need to go anyway, and now you've clarified what hand-over and IP download needs to occur prior to you leaving. I.e. you’ve shown your ace early in the game.

To prepare your application for the new role - write a long list of:

  • Your skills (what you can do on the job)
  • Your knowledge (the unique wisdom that you've accumulated in your life)
  • Your experience (the actual work you've done that makes you well placed for a future in the business)

Now apply some thinking of how these things may help you perform more effectively in the new role you'd like to apply for. This second piece can’t be overstated – ideally you’ll need to understand the new role intimately, this way you can position all the above in relation to the new role's needs. By way of explanation, if your current role requires expert usage of spread sheeting tools, but the new one is purely customer facing and requires none of this, don't even mention it. You wouldn't emphasise a redundant (sorry) skill if applying for role outside the business, so why do it for one inside!?

Lastly, and delicately, start forming key relationships with the people that hold the key to your future, such as the HR manager, the new role division manager and the CEO (if at all possible), plus some of those people you’ve listed above. This needs to be managed very carefully if you take the wrong step it will look disingenuous and like you're trying to curry favour. A simple and realistic reason to meet these people is "I am very keen to continue working within the business and would like the opportunity to understand the role in more detail". It’ll be hard to turn this request down. Then at the meeting, you casually mention some of the salient bits of experience you have relative to what the business is trying to achieve.

Simple right?

No, I know it’s difficult and emotional. Both my wife and I have been through redundancy previously; I was lucky as I was preparing to leave anyway (I’ll share this story next week), however my wife had no other option - the whole layer of middle management was removed, she had literally nowhere to go. In both of our situations, we received a cheque and a thanks, and went on to better things. But it still hurts and as she said, regardless of how you've performed, you still feel embarrassed, like it’s your fault. Nevertheless, pressure builds diamonds. Do the hard work and you'll get the result.

Next week - time to go? Exiting in style and hopefully with the cheque.