How it started.
Regardless of your employment position there will be a time when you may lose your job.
We are, after all, living in uncertain times and being managed by uncertain people. Sometimes it may be your own fault. But the rest of the time it will be the mechanics of corporate life. The corporate life which ultimately will be out of your control. That’s the rules of the game. Understand the rules & life becomes so much easier.
The days of working for a company for 50 years and collecting a gold clock are over. Times have thankfully changed and what was once seen as a sign of instability to have 10 roles on your CV is now accepted as the norm. But what do you do if the grim reaper requests a 9am meeting on a Monday morning and you walk in to find your Manager/Director and HR in the same room with a smile as if your auntie just died?
Well the same happened to me! My employment was terminated. I was served with my employee termination letter. I was head of sales for the whole of EMEA and living in mainland Europe and quite frankly living the dream. A dream that quickly became a nightmare. Why? I had inherited a team that had issues:
- A sales team who were 75% UK based but responsible for sales in mainland Europe
- One sales guy who had not hit target for 3 years and contributed less than $40k in 3 years
- A European sales veteran who had been with the company for 35 years….but didn’t sell.
- A UK sales manager who sold nothing………in 2 years
- No KPIs or weekly reporting
- False reporting of expenses
- Blatant fiddling of holidays
- Discrepancies in the yearly salary appraisals to suit the individual
- Major customer complaints from multi million $ contracts
That really is the tip of the iceberg. But in reality it was a complete disaster! Ahhh behold the white knight in armour. I can turn this lot round. I still think I made major headway and would have continued to have got to the final destination but for one slight issue:
“Total lack of managerial support”
Whats worse than a bad boss? Well I can tell you…..a bad manager who doesn’t support you.
Upon reflection, (and I knew it at the time) I should have run for the hills…..fast! But I didn’t, I stuck it out because:
“I sing the company song and if you cut me I bleed company blue!”
This is what I thought each week when I boarded the company private jet! Yes! Really the company jet!
© Follow The Leader 2020
When I didn’t fly the company jet I flew first class and stayed Monday to Friday in the Holiday Inn Plaza executive room for 3 years. So much so……I had my own room with my clothes laundered from the previous week for my arrival. We ate everything on the menu….even onion rings…….and I don’t even like onion rings! When I left I had thousands of IHG points enough to stay in a Holiday Inn for months free of charge.
How it felt.
So 11 years of my life with a multi-billion, multi-national brand and I was out! Not only out, but made to feel as if I had committed some hideous crime. Shameful, but a great lesson in corporate behaviour. Committed by individuals who lied, bullied and acted totally against the real company ethics. But who was to blame?
ME! I didn’t listen to my gut feel. It would remind me every week but I took the stance that I could turn it around. But in reality I couldn’t. I knew it, my friends knew it, even my MD knew it.
Fail, forward, fast! Indeed I was failing and the blow back was drenching my inner spirit. I hardly ever saw the kids or close family or friends and when I did I fell asleep mid conversation over dinner. My youngest daughter reminded me I had took her to school twice in 3 years. Shameful!
It hit home one night when I met my best man for a drink. We talked initially for about 30 minutes then he said:
” Look I’m not being rude but to be honest you look absolutely dreadful……you look knackered!”
But even then I took that as acknowledgement of my hard work and my own self importance. But during that conversation my good friend made a comment that has stuck with me since. He said:
“If a company wants to get rid of you they will. If they want to keep you they will. It all depends at the time if they need you…..they are the rules. Don’t ever make sense of it…….it will kill you. Just nod to the rules of the game”.
I was exhausted, burnt out, grumpy, over weight, smoking 30 cigarettes a day and stressed beyond belief. I had a full company medical and my cholesterol was 6.2. A heart attack waiting to happen. My Chinese doctor (Mr Chun) rang me in a state of reassured panic:
“Can you come in urgently please…there is no easy way to say this.. but you are a ticking time bomb“.
Some 6 months after that drink and still arguing the toss as why I should take statins I trudged back to the UK in shock.
The official reason was equivocal to say the least and for legal reasons I can’t expand further! I had fought my corner the month previously when I was summoned to head office in Belgium regards recruitment but all the signs were there 12 months previously. All this decided by a senior executive who, quite frankly, had mis-managed the situation despite my continued pleas for help. He had (and continues too with a different company) fire staff when his strategy fails. So he resorts too “its them…not me”! A cute strategy but a dangerous and debilitating trait. Karma kick in please?
How it ended.
Back in the UK I got to work fast. I need to pay my mortgage and feed my 2 kids. Sod the pride, bugger off to what people say………I need to manage this pending situation, manage my health and get a new job.
Time to get back on track I thought. But what the hell do I do? I’ve not had an interview for 11 years. Where’s my CV? Do I have enough money to live on? What will my friends say? What will my colleagues say? Am I too old? Where the hell do I start?
- Arriving back in the UK I documented all the facts in word format. Length of service, positions undertaken, conversations with my managers & a précis of the conversation with HR when I was given the news.
- Within 24 hours I found and booked a meeting with a solicitor who specialised in employment law. My first 30 mins was free and the advice given was exceptional. He would now handle all correspondence with the company on my behalf. I gave him chapter and verse of what I thought the company had failed to adhered too. The company would pay for the compromise agreement.
And so I learned……
- DO NOT SETTLE FOR YOUR STANDARD CONTRACT TERMS……..they will write a bigger cheque.
- Calculate holiday/bonus/expenses pay. If applicable, ensure the deal includes your car for the “garden leave” period.
- Do not listen to your friends or family. NO really don’t….just don’t…..they haven’t been to law school.
- Update your CV…..1 page (both sides) is enough.
- Beware the recruitment consultants. They do not have your interest at heart in any way shape or form. You are a sale. They, like you, have sales KPI’s. I’m not saying all recruitment companies are poor. But pick 2 maximum who come recommended and actually go and meet them personally. Explain where you won’t to go and exactly what job spec you are looking for. (It always fascinates me that recruitment companies don’t realise the reciprocal trade if they place you. Apparently not!). The majority do not return calls.
- The best jobs are not advertised.
- Update your LinkedIn profile. Get it in shape. Read Brenda Bernstein’s book on the 18 mistakes to avoid on LinkedIn.
- Limit your time on job websites. Select 2 maximum as they all repeat the postings. LinkedIn is an exception.
- Keep your own council. Colleagues from work will try to contact you. They are acquaintances in most cases and not friends. This will become relevant after about 1 week…….when the calls stop.
- The company you worked for will lie, will exaggerate and with a straight face allege that you were a mad, crazy fool who was going to be sacked anyway. Do not take it personally. They want rid……and so do you.
- Stay away from social media. Silence speaks volumes.
- Book a session with your GP. Check the basics….you need to be fit to get a new job.
- Establish a routine. Up at the normal time. Shower! Get fit! Long walks……get that important sunlight. Organise your day. Your job now is to find a job.
- Sleep – I slept every afternoon for about 2 hours. I still had no problem drifting off when I went to bed at night. Trust me you will need it. Do not turn night into day. Health is No 1.
- Spend no more than 1 hour a day job hunting. Otherwise, you really will lose interest. You will feel that you’re not doing enough. You are. Research everyday by all means but set a time on it.
- Sort out your finances. Root and branch inspection. Do you really need Sky TV? Do you have an emergency fund? In theory 6 months salary? No….well now is the time to start regardless of the initial amount you save.
- Don’t have goals…have a system. Download and read this book by Scott Adams. It will make you laugh and realise its ok to fail….because of course you feel a failure? It will give you career structure.
- You will hate this part – register your unemployment. All done online initially. The important part is you have paid in….now it’s time to take out.
- Evaluate….what is it you really want to do. I mean REALLY want to do. What job is right for me?
Result? I was 10kgs lighter, stopped smoking, had started an emergency fund, received twice the payout the company initially offered, a personal letter of reference and all bonus, holiday pay and expenses paid up in full. I wasn’t exhausted or burnt out & had quality time for my kids. Oh and I was already planning my next position. Nine months later I started my new role approx £30k more than my previous role and a bonus system of an additional £30k per annum. The first thing that struck me was I had been underpaid for 11 years!
The mantra of my story is…….use your inner intuition. Be brave…..all will be well in the end. If not…it’s not the end. All things change and nothing is constant….you will go on to bigger AND better things.
Structure is the key and gut feel are your signposts.