Monday, May 4, 2009

Layoffs in 2009: A Kenyan Perspective

"Many people quit looking for work when they get a job" - Anon

The global economic crisis has spawned numerous stories of industries laying off workers in a bid to shore up their books and weather the storm. Kenya for the most part has not been deeply affected...till now.

Most of you heard about or read about this story early in April. Well, this post tells the story of a "statistic".

March 31st 2009 - Bloodbath Monday. The story has been played out in different settings around the world. Going through all the emotions would take an entire site and a panel of eminent psychologists. A basic summary of the whole timeline is:

  • The early morning managers meeting resulting in grim faced executives in power suits. (Since the dress code is normally quite relaxed, I guess the execs needed all the armour they could muster)
  • You access card only works on your floor (security guys are instructed to inform affected parties that there is a "problem with the system")
  • You are locked out of your computer network account (see above for excuse given)
  • Affected parties are shepherded into the boardrooms for the coup de grace (The criteria was not "performance based", the dating equivalent of "Its not you, its me")
  • Final settlement and clearing with a gentle reminder that while we can take all the time we need to clear out our effects, it would nice if we could clear off quickly.
So, on the morning of March 31st 2009, I went to work as an employee. By 12.30 pm, i was on the street.

Its not all doom and gloom though. While i do miss the telco freebies (those tied in pretty well with my love of all things gadgetry) I did come out with some unexpected benefits which include:
  • A fully paid off car after only one car payment (talk about being debt free!)
  • A significant amount of corporate goodwill and close relationships with those left behind that can be leveraged in future dealings with said company.
  • A detailed knowledge of how the enterprise as a whole works. I have since discovered that this is information that a large number of suppliers find extremely valuable...
  • An opportunity to take a real holiday and the finances to make it happen
  • The time to start exploring various entrepreneurial projects that I simply too busy to follow up on initially. These will be blogged on later as I crystallize the ideas
  • An opportunity to really touch base with my wife and child in more meaningful ways
In conclusion, there are some do's and don't out of this experience that I'd like to share with all those in similar situations:

  • DO go for counselling and outplacement services (when and if available) - You are out of your comfort zone and its is quite likely that there you may have significant anger issues as a result. Deal with the anger as it will impede progress in other areas of your life
  • DON'T take it personal. Irrespective of the relationship you had with your boss, tough decisions had to be made and your number was called. You are only a victim if you believe you are.
  • DO leverage your contacts. Talk to the people you know. Let them know you are in the market.
  • DON'T burn bridges: You have considerable goodwill and many of your former colleagues will try to help you find something quickly. Nothing kills such initiatives as an ill-timed rant either verbal or written. If you don't trust yourself to say anything nice, say nothing at all is to a fresh start.