surviving the downturn…..

downturn mgmtHad a wonderful bunch of college friends over for lunch today. We have had some great times together and such a gathering always makes for a very relaxing afternoon.  

Relaxing it was till Ritu, who runs her own enterprise, made a harmless mention of the availability of talent – or the lack of it – to support the impending business growth. One point weaved into another and soon we found ourselves engrossed in an animated discussion on state of the economy, people struggling to survive  the downturn and into my motivation for another post on the blog.

Economic cycles are inevitable and if you have been around for the last couple of years, chances are you have experienced one yourself. Over the course of every decade or so the economy seems to slump, recover and then boom again. The cycle impacts most careers and either you would have navigated the rough waters well enough or set yourself on the wrong path.

There is a natural law – success breeds excess and excesses have to be corrected. So in a downturn often there is a forced reduction in workforce and people  live in constant fear of being downsized. At the same time employees are less willing to interview for jobs outside due to the uncertainity – the familiar environment of their organisations is far more comforting. They complain a lot less than when the times were good.   

Doesn’t it sound too complex – you do not want to be looking out but then fear downsizing all the same! Quite frequently reductions are not even performance related – roles, functions and departments are abolished altogether in a desire to achieve efficiencies. Well the point is not to get unduly pondering about the situation – it surely is not of your making and hence hardly a reflection of your capability or potential.

The big question then is – how does one manage in these anxious times. Back to basics of responding in the best possible manner to what you can control while not worrying about what you cannot. I can suggest a few tips :

– be the leader, take a leadership role in seeing the company thru the difficult times and do all that is expected of you and more, take initiatives. In these times people often become negatively oriented, protective/defensive and inward looking. You just need to be the opposite – positive, open and externally focussed. In such times, everyone is looking for a leader to guide and help them navigate the tough times.

– downturns also create huge opportunities. Stay focussed and visible, demonstrate the value of the work you are doing. And focus on the future and on actions.

– acknowledge and embrace change. When the environment around you undergoes such a profound change, success will demand an alternate approach. Same input – hard work, strategy, tactical actions – as earlier will produce diminished or zero output in these times and hence the quality of input needs to be altered. Step back and analyse carefully, come up with a variety of new and different list of things to do.

– relationships matter and therefore network like never before. Expand your list and schedule sessions with internal and external contacts. That will open up opportunities and get you a very refreshing perspective.

– the impact will carry over to your personal life as well. So prioritise your family time – they are your real and true support system. Get inventive about how to raise the smiles and the heart warming quotient  of your times together. This will keep you healthy, happy and relaxed, all so important!

– it always helps to have a hobby beyond your work. Good time to cultivate if you do not have one. It is a tremendous stress buster.

Listen, I can go on and on but the above should suffice and then you all can contribute and add to the list. Remember that the people and organisations that come out of the downturn are those that stay in touch with their long term objectives. Never lose touch with your inner self and try not to compromise the value positioning – that can be a huge success mantra!

best wishes


4 thoughts on “surviving the downturn…..

  1. Great note Rajiv.

    As I read through it, I realized these are fairly straightforward things one should do. And as you rightly say, there are probably many more.

    But one thing that I was looking for and didnt find is what if you didn’t survive the downturn? Did you discuss that at all?

    1. Great point Sanjiv and thanks for bringing it up. Some of the ideas/actions in the eventuality of not surviving the downturn are implied in the post above. Let me recap those and a few more :

      – the big battle is of the mind. Internalising that the situation is not of your making and therefore not a reflection of your potential or abilities is a great confidence booster

      – utilise the time to assess your competency, long term desires, inner motivations etc – a real boon as we hardly ever interpret those. Roles/jobs have a way of forcing us to think in a single direction. The accomplishments and all that we have built over the years find ready acceptability in a wide variety of opportunities. Good time to explore newer horizons

      – networking and reaching out is crucial. In times like these when supply far outstrips demand, relationships will be the differentiator. When the going is good we often give this a go by. Believe me, the best time to invest in relationships is when you do not need them at all ….that is in good times

      – this can be stressful period and so spend time with the family, reach out to people, read and further your hobby. You will have plenty of time and hence it is so very essential to stay engaged and occupied. Otherwise negative thoughts can creep in and those will be explosive

      – patience is required, this can be long drawn. Important to make the mind believe so and that is a matter of great self control

      The stuff one can do are far too many. The key is to stay positive and have an open mind. Then success is inevitable.

      Let me know if this makes sense. We can dialogue further.

      best wishes


  2. Good note Rajiv. Many of us have survived 2-3 industry mergers, which changed the landscape of IT. One can never be certain about Org design and selection during a downturn. Usually it’s a combination of both competence and culture fit. Having said that, the best advice I ever got on surviving a downturn or a merger is from one of my earlier bosses. He simply said: “BE EVEN MORE EXTERNALLY FOCUSSED”. Looking back, downturns were the times, when many of us reached out to more and more customers, partners, analysts to tell our company/ portfolio story.

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