Friday, April 10, 2009

Recession and Retrenchment

Recession and Retrenchment – Coping with the Crisis

The financial meltdown that whacked the daylight off Wall Street is finally beginning to impact Malaysia. Dec 08 export figures were down 20% and the official number of employees retrenched since Jan this year has exceeded 10,000. Some are even speculating that total retrenched would hit 200,000. Even the Government with its blinkered refusal to accept realities are now admitting that getting a 3% GDP growth is ‘unlikely’…so much for misplaced positivism.

In the midst of all these, it is not surprising if there are those who may despair or others who become stubbornly defiant. Either mindset however is not terribly useful. One should instead be prepared for the eventualities.

Human Response to change
The typical human response to change is three-staged:
  • Hold on
  • Let go
  • Move on

Unfortunately as long as we remain in the state of denial and hold on to a past that is no longer possible and tenable, we would not be able to move forward. The challenge of coping successfully with change is to face and accept reality, let go of the unattainable and move on. The earlier we begin that process the better.

Dealing with the prospect of job loss and lifestyle change in the current environment entails preparations in three areas:
  • Psycho-social preparation
  • Vocational preparation
  • Practical financial preparation

Psycho-social preparation
This has to do with our mindsets and attitudes. For us to develop personal resilience that would tie us through troubled times we need to have a staunch acceptance of reality, a deep belief in the meaning of life and a uncanny ability to improvise. Coming to terms with reality allow us to more honestly assess our current situation in a rational manner and hence adjust more effectively to the changes around us. Despair and defiance are both reactive emotions and prone to distorted responses. Having a deep belief in meaning and purpose enable us to see hope and possibilities beyond the current situation. If God be our anchor, then our faith in our lovely Father who is in control of all things should give us solace and assurance in the face of what is perceived to be meaningless and unfair. It is a fact that those who have faith in a higher Power survives better than those who don’t. Improvising include first and foremost having a shift in perspectives. Reframing, anticipation, acting within one’s control, self care and taking a positive problem solving approach are all part of that improvision.

Vocational preparation
How much are we in charge of our own careers and vocation? Are we a victim, a survival, an adaptor or a master of our own vocational direction? Mastery here does not denote a life without the need for God, or an attitude of self-dependency apart from God. It is one of active consciousness of our calling and purpose in life thus giving us focus and direction for our energies and one where within the framework of a God-dependent life, to be working in such a manner that one is always ready for the unexpected, realistically aware of one’s own strength and weaknesses as endowed by our Father and making the full use of our strengths and talents to capitalise on the opportunities that He makes available. The victim, on the other hand, is one who’s the proverbial ostrich in the sand, unawares of looming change, lacking the skills and know-how to adapt or to capitalise on opportunities, blaming everyone, including perhaps God, for one’s predicament and becoming so fixated with the closed door of missed opportunity that he/she fails to see another door opening before him/her until, sadly that too is missed. It is like the story of the man who prays for God’s rescue during a flood, but when a boat comes along, refused the help because of his fixation with what his expectation of an answered prayer should be.

Vocation preparation includes regularly reviewing our strengths and weakness, opportunities and threats. It involves treating our bosses and colleagues as our clients and value-adding our service repertoire to them. It entails taking time to enhance our skills sets and to stay relevant through continuous improvement and learning. It is about life-long employability instead of the unrealistic notion of long-long employment. It includes taking the active step to anticipate future risks and threats and taking mitigating measures to turn threats to opportunities. How well are we in all these? A highly regarded, value-adding, strategic employee is always highly valued and that itself enhances one’s career options. And one who is anticipating the future and preparing for it becomes master of his/her vocation.

Vocational preparation also means being ready for the worst. What is your worst case scenario? Being retrenched? Are you familiar with your rights and obligations as an employee if such a scenario becomes reality? What can you do or what rights do you have? What can the company do and not do? Have you taken time to learn about these things?

Practical Financial preparation
It is good stewardship that we learn to practice prudent financial management. This is always true but even more so in uncertain times. We should first and foremost learn to live within our means. We should invest responsibly and responsibly provide for the needs and protection of our loved ones. We ought too, to learn to minimise credit living and learn to develop a positive attitude towards living simply. The challenge of our consumerist lifestyles is becoming over-geared. In these financially troubling times, three key things to remember:
  • Parr off your debts as soon as you can
  • Learn to live within less
  • Budget to fend for the long term

It is possible to thrive despite our uncertain times. It is done by developing and practising proactive strategies before we get hit. It is done by learning to lead a God-depending life based on faith, hope and love.

Lai Tak Ming
Managing Director, ASEAN, Australia, NZ,
Human Dynamic Asia Pacific Ltd

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