Furloughs and pay cuts are a fact of life today. So how does one deal with reduced income and increased workload?
1. Accept reality. This is happening everywhere. Bosses are doing what they think is right for the greatest number, and getting kudos for doing so. Personally, I think it’s great that leaders are doing this – for most people, it’s better to have a job than not have one as unemployment benefits are minimal and certainly won’t cover all one’s living expenses. Also, this will not be the situation forever, despite what you fear. That’s the other reality you need to accept.
2. Don’t complain at work. It will simply annoy the bosses who made the decision to save as many jobs as possible by spreading the pain. You don’t want to stand out as the person who thinks only of him/herself. When you complain, you may mark yourself as the person who will next be laid off. Maybe that’s what you want, in which case go for it. Be aware of the potential consequences, however.
I once had a senior staff person who objected to across-the-board pay cuts because she needed every penny to cover her lifestyle expenses. It soured my opinion of her when I thought that she’d rather sacrifice a couple of people’s jobs so she could continue to maintain her lifestyle. People would perhaps not be able to afford rent, but her concern was overtly for herself. Our relationship deteriorated from there, and I ended up terminating her employment as she no longer represented values I sought in my senior leadership team. Had she kept her concern to herself, she might have kept her job a little longer and had the chance to look for something else. From her perspective, my stance on across-the-board pay cuts may have indicated that our values were already very different, and it wasn’t a place at which she wanted to work any longer.
3. Find a safe place to complain. There is the reality that losing income means a certain amount of hardship. And you are certainly allowed to be upset – in appropriate places and at appropriate times. When you need to complain, find a well-paid friend from outside your workplace who hasn’t been furloughed or taken a pay cut – because many other folks won’t be very sympathetic.
4. Seize the opportunity to build a more sustainable lifestyle. Budgeting and cutting back on your spending is a great way to cope with the immediate implications of a pay cut or furlough. This is the time to bring your lunch, walk instead of ride/drive, watch movies on TV instead of using Netflix or going out, make coffee/tea at home and bring it to work in your insulated cup, learn how to cook, and take a walk instead of going to the gym. It won’t be forever that you’ll be in this situation, and you will probably learn some great new habits that will help you get more secure financially.
5. Plan for your future. This is a great time to think about whether you’d rather lose your job or take a pay cut. If you’d rather lose your job, I’m sure that can be arranged. Remember you won’t get unemployment if you resign, however. Sometimes companies are willing to lay someone off who no longer wants to be there…think carefully before you ask, though.
If you’re like me, you’d rather take a pay cut and consider your options. Here are a few ways to start.
Gather more information about the industry in which you work.
Is it a growth industry or one that is dying? If it’s dying, the pay cut or furlough is probably the first of many. If it were me, I’d start pulling together my resume and investigating other fields/industries into which I could transfer.
If I’m in a growth field already, then why is my particular company having to cut pay? If it’s an industry-wide impact, then I might bide my time and wait for the upturn. If it’s poor management or prospects at my company, then again I’d dust off the old resume and get cracking on finding a new position.
In today’s job market, I’d expect to take minimum 3 months to get a lower-level job, 6 for a mid-level job, and 9-12 months for a high-level job. I wouldn’t count on getting much, if any, pay increase at a new job. However, coming in at your present pay level can lay a good groundwork for pay increases in the future.
Begin your job search by networking.
By all means avoid complaining about your pay cut to people whose help you want. Most people like to refer colleagues and friends who are positive and will reflect well on them. It’s smarter to talk about seeking new challenges, etc.
If you want to change fields/industries/occupations, do enough research on-line to know what you want to explore. Once you’ve targeted some areas, you can begin informational interviews with people in your natural and extended networks. In that case, I do think it’s OK to tell people that you’ve done your homework and realize that there is a limited future for your industry or field, and you’re taking the time to investigate other options so you’ll be prepared when the market improves.