Job Loss – Up in the air

I found the movie “Up in the Air” very disturbing. I was involved in a reduction in force (RIF) at NASA Space Flight Center a number of years ago.  It turned out that information was fed into a computer and decisions were made about which job to eliminate.  All 53 jobs that were eliminated were held by men, ranging from the grass cutter to top executive.  It was horrible for the men—they said things like “It is worse than a diagnosis of cancer,” “How can I face my family?” “This is terrifying.”  However, NASA handled this downsizing in a humane and helpful way. 

Each individual was offered the opportunity to participate in a weeklong outplacement program.  But more important, each individual was assigned to someone in human resources as a “buddy” until the person found an alternative job.  So when we studied these men the week of the RIF and followed them up six months later, we heard things like, “I know now that I can handle anything now.” “Up in the Air” unfortunately shows the inhumanity of letting people go in today’s world.  It reflects a heartless, cynical view of the way things are handled but not the way they could be handled.

Transition Tips:  When you are initiating a transition for someone else, be sure to

1)  Be honest and direct about what you are telling the other person;

2)  Provide several alternatives for the person receiving the news;

3)  Offer to meet again with the person to see how things are going;

4)  Research the topic and suggest some books that might help;

5)  Offer to link the person with someone else in the same boat.

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