Monday, October 6, 2003

Don't look now, but you're fired


Half in survey never saw their dismissal coming

By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Career management these days apparently includes sand. And lots of heads buried in it.

A new report from Lee Hecht Harrison, a global management firm based in Woodcliff Lake, N.J., with a regional office in Kenwood, suggests that half of the people who were laid off in 2003 never saw it coming.

The firm found in a recent survey of 659 professionals who sought new employment through Lee Hecht Harrison that exactly 50 percent were taken aback by their dismissal - even though three of four respondents probably should have seen it coming because their company was downsizing long before they got the ax.

"People just didn't think it was going to happen to them," said Lee Hoffheimer, senior vice president of Lee Hecht Harrison's local office. "That's even when people sense that their organizations were going to have layoffs."

Two years ago, when the survey was last conducted, only 43 percent of the respondents were surprised by their termination.

Mara Kleinman, a Ph.D. and clinical psychologist in Blue Ash, finds that many people find temporary emotional stability by denying to themselves the inevitability of a lay-off.

Denial becomes a workplace defense mechanism that is necessary because loss of income or employment is threatening.

"Denial works, and that's why we use it," Kleinman said. "People don't want to feel the fear."

Not acknowledging the reality of a workplace situation can be devastating for a career, Hoffheimer said.

People may not be building networks as they should, pursuing skill development programs or updating a resume so it will be ready to mail to prospective employers.

Hoffheimer listed some telltale signs of an imminent layoff:

• There are no long-term assignments.

• Management is not as accessible.

• Normal information channels begin to dry up.

"Many times, all a person needs to do is pay attention to signs and signals - and often, that's just as easy as looking at financial statements and asking questions," she said.

The lesson from the survey? It pays to be prepared.

"In this very tight job market, every edge counts," Hoffheimer says.

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E-mail jeckberg@enquirer.com




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