DALLAS, Texas (April 4, 2009)- As I entered the elevator yesterday for the quick 39-floor ride to the lobby of my office tower, my only fellow traveler was a young woman holding a white document storage box – the kind employees use for their personal possessions when they leave the office for the last time.
The expression on her face clearly telegraphed feelings of apprehension and sadness. No tears. Just a look of abandonment and probably the realization that she had just become another statistic in America’s severe recession.
These are times that try men’s souls and, sadly, spur sales of these little boxes.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have seen increasing numbers of people in elevators and walking through downtown Dallas carrying these innocuous boxes that seem to scream: I just lost my job!
Yesterday, while driving to a marketing strategy meeting, I thought about that young woman in the elevator and the more than 663,000 other nameless and faceless souls who lost their jobs in March. Losing a job based on poor performance is one thing. Anger is usually replaced with resolve and, within months, a new job. Losing a job caused by poor policy, political miscalculation or the leadership mistakes of others is another matter.
In a deep recession, there is shock, sadness and fear. The victims know that the number of available jobs is shrinking each week. Some industries are hiring – healthcare included – but even the so-called recession-resistant sectors cannot absorb these kinds of unemployment numbers.
There are no quick simple fixes for this mess. I believe that the economy will get worse before it gets better. There will be more months with equally staggering job loss numbers.
There is a growing sense among employees that they are virtually powerless to avoid the consequences of this economic train wreck. However, I would like to suggest that if you have a job, focus on your performance and the value you contribute to the enterprise. Do not become so obsessed with keeping your job that you forget to DO your job. If you are not a team player, it may be too late, however, you might want to quickly convert to that religion. Be flexible. And unless you are bullet proof, update your resume.
One last piece of advice: When you see people carrying these little boxes – leaving their job for the last time -- keep a good thought for them. Abandonment and fear are two emotions not easily overcome. Household expenses – mortgage payments, credit card bills and the cost of utilities, food and care for the family – do not stop.
John G. Self is Chairman and Senior Client Advisor of JohnMarch Partners. He is a Co-Founder of the Firm. A former investigative reporter and crime writer with more than 30-years of leadership experience in public relations, national marketing and business development and as Chief Executive Officer of hospitals, and consulting firms, Mr. Self is highly regarded for his keen insight into business culture and the types of leaders who will succeed. You can contact Mr. Self at 214.220.1234 or JGSelf@johnmarch.com. You can follow John on Twitter.