Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Why is it so hard to work less on purpose?

As we continue to work our jobs under the furlough, I've noticed that more employees are expressing anger and frustration over having less time to get work done than over the loss of pay. We are being told to intentionally work less, take days off, and shelve long term projects----and we really resent it! Almost as much as we resent being told to work harder in the non-furlough years.

The trend is interesting, but not really surprising. It's classic reverse psychology. Employees who have earned the right to set their own work schedules are very protective of this right. These employees don't punch a clock. Their workdays were not defined by time before furloughs. But don't tell us what NOT to do either. We will defiantly keep getting the work done simply because you told us we couldn't.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Furloughs Affect Us Like Any Other Tragedy

Furloughs are an absolute tragedy for many of us. So much so that people are processing furloughs under the Kubler-Ross Model, commonly known as the stages of grief and loss, just as they would process the death of a family member. Psychologists find that many people experience 5 different stages as a part of the mourning process:

1. Denial and Isolation. The first reaction is to deny the reality of the situation. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.

2. Anger. As the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge. Pain is expressed through anger.

3. Bargaining. Secretly, we may make a deal with God or our higher power in an attempt to postpone the inevitable.

4. Depression. Two types of depression are associated with mourning: the reaction to the practical implications relating to the loss (for us, the loss of money), or, our quiet preparation for the loss.

5. Acceptance. This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness but must be distinguished from depression.
You can almost always tell what stage a person is in after your talk with them about furloughs. Most of the people I’ve talked to are living somewhere between anger and depression. The wave of furlough lawsuits we are hearing about are definitely expressions of anger and bargaining. Getting through each stage is tough, and going back through stages we’ve already been through is common.

My personal experience hasn’t been any different. I heard about the possibility of furloughs long before they were implemented, but honestly did not think it would happen to me. Attorneys don’t get furloughed, right? This is classic denial. Once furloughs became official, the anger stage began. I chose to move through this stage pretty quickly because it wasn’t productive for me. I don’t feel as if I did much bargaining—the reality of the loss of pay led me straight to depression. At this point, I’ve moved on to acceptance, but depression is still very visible in my rear view mirror.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Five reasons to love Furloughs

1. You Were Not Laid Off.
If you think losing 5 to 15% of your income hurts, imagine losing 100% of your income right now! Furloughs aside, The California EDD's March 2009 labor market report states that 126,762 Californians have been laid off since January of 2009. Consider yourself lucky-- Furloughs means that your employer doesn’t expect the financial storm to be long term, and the work that you do means enough to keep you around during the storm.

2. You can improve your work /life balance.
Once you get over the shock of the involuntary pay cut, getting a few extra days off without using vacation days is not a bad tradeoff. Unless you absolutely need to spend your furlough days working somewhere else to make up the loss in pay, think of all the fun or meaningful things you can do with your furlough days. Spend some time in your child’s classroom. Take a class at your local university, library, park or gym. Start that garden at home you’ve been putting off. You aren’t going to get the money back, and your furlough isn’t going to last forever. Many of us may look back at the furlough years as a time of meaningful discovery and relaxation.

3. You have time for a career makeover.
Furlough days are the perfect time to really think about where your career is going. Many of us get up and go to work everyday doing things we never wanted to do. Some of us are working everyday for people and companies we are not passionate about. Well maybe it’s time to do something about it. It’s a tough job market out there, but don’t be discouraged from using your furlough days to “shop around” for a new career. But be careful--there’s no sense in trading your current heartache for an even worse situation.

4. Financial makeovers.
Losing 10% of my pay really made me have to think about our family’s finances. Just as California did, I implemented some painful budget cuts into order to absorb my loss of income. It’s actually been a good thing. I contacted several of my creditors and told them about the furlough, and even the most subprime of them sympathized with my situation and agreed to reduce the interest rates on several of my accounts. I finally shopped around for homeowners insurance, and found better, cheaper coverage with another company. The process didn’t come without pain—I had to cancel my NFL League Pass and newspaper subscriptions. But hey, no pain no gain right? Just like the furlough, I don’t expect these cuts to be forever.

5. Like or not, your workload just got lighter.
This is especially true for senior executives, high level managers and those workaholics out there. For some of you, this is the first time you have ever been forced to work less. Many of you found ways to work on weekends, holidays and even vacation days. But you cannot work on your furlough days. If you do, you risk a permanent budget reduction to your agency or your employer getting hit with a nasty wage and hour case.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Focus On the Things You Can Control

"When you focus on the things you can control, you give yourself the gift of independence--you'll be unhindered and part of the natural flow of the universe. By contrast, when you waste your energy on things you can't change, it inevitably weakens your sense of connection to the universal current and results in a sense of being enslaved and at the mercy of others. You play the role of the victim and you think, Somebody did this to me."

--Epictectus, The Book of Life

I'm always drawn to the words of Epictetus, especially when the times are hard. Epicetus was a Greek Stoic philosopher who lived from about 55-135AD. Epicetus was born a slave, but was eventually freed and lived an ill life in Rome. He was exiled, along with simliar philosophers, by the emperor Domitian in 90AD. If Epictetus can look at his circumstances and remain positive, so can we. Most of us can't change what's happening with our employer's budget, but we can change how we react to how the budget affects us.