On a recent business trip to Adelaide I found myself  riding each day on packed rush hour trams. One evening on the way back to my hotel, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between two work colleagues who were clearly going through rough times at their workplace. Apparently, a recent round of redundancies had surprised many, sending shock waves through the system. Over the past two days, friends and colleagues had  been removed from their work stations and escorted from the premises. Those left are now burdened with extra work while restructures are put into place. Many of them are confused about what they were supposed to be doing and upset about the loss of their colleagues. And there was talk of more staff losses to come.

“I’m just waiting for the axe to fall on me now”, said the young woman in the tram to her colleague.

“Keep your head down”, advised the older woman, “and hope they don’t notice you. I’ve been through things like this before, and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to who goes or who stays. It’s a lottery” she said, shaking her head.

Not only did this conversation highlight the ineptness of many organisations in managing significant changes like this, but also the range of reactions of individuals as they come to terms with sudden, unexpected workplace changes.

I have worked with many people who have been made redundant, helping them to come to terms with their situations and move into a new phase of their career. People who do this most successfully are those who tend to be active career managers – thinking ahead, considering a range of options, upskilling, and most important of all knowing they have to take care of their own careers. If and when the axe falls they adapt more quickly and move on with their lives. They are in charge. Good career managers are also the ones who often do best in their workplaces, as they seek out new opportunities, develop their skills, become  flexible thinkers and work at good workplace relationships.

What would you do if your job ended tomorrow?  Do you have a Plan B? Axe or no axe, you will be in better shape with one.

Until next time, go well