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Saturday, April 23, 2011

I am in Transition ... "Damaged Goods or An Equally Strong Job Prospect"?

Sometimes good -- and even great -- employees are let go from organizations not as a result of performance, but for various other reasons which I'll get into below.  Strictly speaking, these employees have been "terminated without cause".  You often hear people in such circumstances describe themselves as having been "downsized", "right-sized", "made redundant" or "severed".  In outplacement circles, the more appropriate vernacular is to refer to such persons as being "in transition".

There are a litany of reasons why good, loyal and productive employees may find themselves going through transition, including: 
  1. Organizational restructuring  (i.e., their role no longer exists or the role is not viewed as driving the required organizational value).  
  2. Cost reduction measures (i.e., reduction in SG&A or overhead costs).
  3. A new leadership regime (i.e, new leadership wanting to be seen as making overt people changes without fully realizing its impact). 
  4. Political fall-out (i.e, backing the wrong leader, pushing the wrong issue, not being a "yes person"). 
  5. Falling out of favour with the person's boss or peer group or having "personality conflicts" with these people. 
These are some of there more common reasons why good and otherwise capable people may find themselves working with outplacement firms to re-write there resumes and, at times, re-invent themselves and re-calibrate their career expectations. 

For anyone who finds themselves in these circumstance, it is not uncommon for them to go through a number of emotional stages, including: 
  • shock (of the initial event and related notification);
  • anger (at their boss, organization, un-affected peers and coworkers); 
  • embarrassment (what will people think of me); 
  • self-doubt (will I ever land on my feet); 
  • disappointment (when rejection is experienced relating to positions they have applied to); 
  • excitement (as they receive job offers); and 
  • exhilaration (when they land their next career opportunity).
The question often asked behind closed doors by recruiters and hiring managers alike if a job prospect is currently in transition or has been through transition in their recent past is:  are they damaged goods (i.e., sub-optimal performers, organizational cultural outcasts, problem employees, desperate to accept any job offer and/or in some other manner inept)?

Based on my 20 plus years of human resources experience, I would suggest that while it is still vitally important to do due diligence on any prospect that has gone through "transition" and drill-down into the reasons for their circumstances, these candidates may sometimes be seen to bring a higher degree of professional maturity to a role that may not otherwise be present with candidates who have comparable credentials but not experienced transition themselves.  

Nothing should ever be assumed when recruiting and selecting talent for any search assignment!

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