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No shame. Not the end of the world.

For the first time in a long time, in Europe more jobs were cut in the third quarter of 2020 than new ones were added, and the net number of jobs was reduced in the third quarter of 2020. One can confidently assume that the situation is similar in other countries, presumably even worse in some. The number of jobs that are being cut at major employers worldwide is gigantic. And these figures are only half the story, because the many self-employed, freelancers, artists, event managers, restaurateurs – who records them, who knows the unemployment figures in this segment? The number of unrecorded cases is probably gigantic.

According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, HSBC is cutting 35,000 jobs in the UK, Continental in Germany 30,000, the Maersk shipping company in Denmark 27,000, Lufthansa in Germany 22,000. And so it goes on. Here are a few illustrative examples: Nissan Japan (20.000), Renault France (15.000), BP UK (10.000), ZF Friedrichshafen Germany (15.000), GE Aviation USA (13.000).

In most cases, the job cuts are not exclusively due to the pandemic. The economy was already shaky before the outbreak of Corona. And although hire-and-fire is the hallmark of unsustainable business conduct, one cannot seriously blame companies for laying off people when, as with Lufthansa, revenues are down by 80%. This is existential. If anything, the mistakes are somewhere else (at least as far as Lufthansa and aviation are concerned): the growth of the aviation industry over the last 40 years or so was probably one of the most unsustainable ventures in human history. For more than 10 years, in 4 out of 5 cases it was cheaper to fly from Frankfurt to Berlin, than take the train. The same with travelling from Frankfurt to Paris. Flying to New York for Christmas shopping had become a low budget trip.

In the end, it is irrelevant what the driver for job cuts is. The figures are grim – even if some jobs are cut over the next few years, and even if most companies try to solve the problem intelligently, for example through early retirement schemes or rescue companies. If, for example, 20,000 jobs are cut, then many employees, presumably also managers, will find themselves unemployed. What do 35-year-olds and 40-year-olds who have families to feed and for whom early retirement is out of the question do? What does job reduction do to employees who have been climbing the corporate career ladder for decades, who have always been loyal to the company, and who suddenly find themselves facing a big hole?

There is no shame in finding yourself in such a situation as an employee. What is a disgrace is to sit back, whine, feel treated unfairly. Initially, this feeling is natural, and is a perfectly normal reaction to the shock. Yes, it is not fair to be fired after years of commitment. And yes, in times of crisis companies are not squeamish when it comes to “releasing” employees. Everything that has been achieved over the years suddenly no longer counts, doesn’t matter, not even someone there who wants to hear it. But these feelings must not last. Systemic theory teaches that one of the most important experiences of people, perhaps the most important, is to feel effective, to be able to act or to become effective again.

Outplacement counseling helps people in situations of professional change – be it situations that are not their fault, i.e. they have fallen victim to job cuts or have been fired, or be it changes sought out of their own motivation. Outplacement consultants are sparring partners in change, who support specialists and managers in regaining their ability to act, and to engage in new or changed repertoires in the knowledge of their skills and competencies. Most outplacement clients can credibly report that working with outplacement consultants has helped them to get through the crisis quickly. Quite a few report that in the end they found a more interesting job. And they report that in the course of the process the feeling crept in that a career change was probably long overdue. Max Frisch’s old bon mot, according to which a crisis can be quite productive if you take away the whiff of the catastrophe, applies.

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