Being professional in the face of difficult times
We have all been there, when everything in your professional life is going wrong. Maybe you lost your job as part of a mass layoff, or maybe you are one of the ones left tasked with moving on after a massive layoff. Either way you will be faced with difficult decisions that will temp you to do things that are not what a true professional would do. Where you come from and the experiences of your life will be your only guide, but for some those experiences may not be the best one. This is where I would tell anyone, no matter how confident you are in your decision making, step back and look at the big picture while taking your emotions out of the equation.
For the ones let go: The biggest thing I can say as someone who has been responsible for laying people off, IT ISN’T PERSONAL!!! I acquired a medical software re-seller company as part of growing my business. I had 2 choices going into the purchase:
- Buy the whole of the business, liabilities and all. This is always a dangerous proposition. Do you take on everything the company owes, including any and all employee concerns? If it is a public company you are buying via shares your risk is at least known as all information has to be public. But if it is a private company you have a lot of due diligence to do. The selling company has no legal obligation to tell you about things you never ask about. Things like weird debts, contracts, or unusual employee issues can be all be omitted from conversation if you never ask about them specifically. In my case it was a private company and I knew the current owner was deep in debt to many people and looking for a way out. He had try to sell a few times with no takers. He was locked into a lease at a location I had no interest in. Finally he had several employees I would not have wanted nor would I have wanted to pay unemployment for. This made my decision a little clearer…
- Buy only the assets of the business you are interested in. This is where you only buy the valuable parts of the business as a material transaction with no ownership or liabilities transferring. In this case I only needed his client list and for him to let go of his exclusive regional re-seller license as a software vendor for those clients. For this we came to an agreed amount of money. In this situation I knew he would simply file business bankruptcy to get clear of his debts, and would have to let all of his staff go. This was my choice
Now, to anyone who has been on the losing side of this I might seem like the bad guy here. I would be a bad guy if it was about being personal and conducting business for social reasons, but it isn’t, being in business for profit is about just that, profit. Now I will say that I extended offers to all of those employees who I thought would be assets going forward, and they all took me up on those offers. With that purchase I increased the employee base of my company by a factor of 3 instantly, and my client base by a factor of 6. That was good business.
Now here is where we come to the being a professional no matter which side you end up on.
For those who stay behind: One of the employees I took in, as it would turn out, still felt betrayed despite having a job moving forward. They decided to help feed information to one of the not-picked-up employees who went to work for a competing firm. Not enough info to do real damage, but still taking business away from me. They thought they were doing the right thing by their friend, but it wasn’t the professional thing to do, and frankly in this case doing something illegal. I had suspicions and let some fake information go into my system to trace the leak. Once found I had to terminate the employee and deny them unemployment benefits. It created a ton of hassle for my business, and endangered the continued employment of everyone working for me.
For those who were let go: Now for the person who was picked up by the competitor, the very same person whose friend was feeding them my leads, they decided getting help from their friend wasn’t enough. The would come into work every day, pull my company up through a Google search, and search for a product I sold then click on my sponsored ads until my daily Google allowance was used up so my ads wouldn’t show up any more. If you know how Google advertising works you know this can cost a company a lot of money if they have a large campaign going. Well I received my next Google statement and found out my entire budget had been used up in one week, but more importantly all from the same IP address. Unfortunately for the person doing it that made it very easy to find them and go after them. I brought litigation not only against the individual but also the competitor as it was their computers and internet connection this person did this with. The employee was fired and I would think denied unemployment benefits. They were convicted of a crime and fined a large sum of money. The other company settled to avoid a conviction and fine imposed by the state. They never recovered and were out of business within a year.
Now these are extreme examples, and they were exceptions (I hope) to what most people would have done. A true professional will realize business is business and not a personal issue. There will always be those that make it personal, especially in this day and age of Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social sites. I implore people to reconsider going out on a social site and venting about a former employer, it is an extremely bad idea. No matter how “private” you think a group is, your rant is still out there and can never be taken back. Employers now are far more savvy on social media, and want to make informed choices about new hires. If they do a search on you, what will they find? What will your words on the internet say about you. I encourage everybody to be true to who you are and speak your mind about YOU and your beliefs. But remember, others may disagree and have every right to, so unless you are planning on making a living venting negative vibes stick with the positive stuff. Don try to tear down those you believe to be wrong, but instead inspire others and lead by example. If enough of us always remember to always try to do the right thing, then those who are truly wrong-doers will be dealt with organically…people will stop doing business with them, people will stop working for them, and eventually they will fade into obscurity.