Friday, November 21, 2008

Layoffs and the life beyond

You switch the TV on and the news channels are "breaking news" about some company laying off people or some company shutting down (3 days a week or permanently), be it Dunlop in Kolkata or be it a personal loan division of a finance company or some IT company in Bangalore. Finance minister has asked India Inc not to cut jobs and instead take a hit at their bottom line (although he will not reduce fuel prices or tax), chances are his dictum will not be followed, and the layoff process has just begun.

1. Investment and finance.
2. Automobiles and ancillary.
3. Construction and real estate.
4. IT.
5. Textiles, gems and jewelry.

1. Pharmaceuticals.
2. FMCG.
3. Telecom.
4. Education (schools and colleges wont be affected but computer education institutes might be affected).

SECTOR WHICH WILL NOT BE AFFECTED: Government employees and politicians.

After a layoff one might get a new job, change career, or go back to school. The time for this change maybe a few days, weeks, months or even more and going through this process of transition might be hard and involves change.

The process of change involves 4 stages. Denial (job wont be cut, India will grow at 8.5%), resistance (not me, I am indispensable for the company), exploration (start doing background work) and finally commitment (it is coming and I have to get prepared).

Do Not Blame Yourself: The layoffs in this scenario has nothing to do with a person’s skill set or performance, mostly it is on the principal last in first out.

Plan For The Event: If a job cut affects you it is always better to be prepared mentally and keeping a plan B in place. Remember tough times do not last tough people do. Plan B might be changing career in a sector which is going to be least affected by the slow down or take a course where getting a job in those sectors becomes easy or get a higher education.

When you lose a job, you do not just lose the pay and the benefits. You also lose self-esteem, dignity, social status, and loss of control of life.

The stress of losing job is like losing a dear one from the family or even more. The best way to deal is perhaps the realization that it is real (although painful) and making a plan for the future (getting plan B into force).

1. Increased stress (symptoms includes anorexia, insomnia, depression, anhedonia etc).
2. Anger. Being frustrated by the pain it often leads to fights in the house and outside the house. Anger will make the transition to a new job even more difficult and one has to control anger and accept the truth.
3. Suicides. The feeling of worthlessness can lead to suicide.
4. Increased alcohol intake (to wash away the sorrow).
5. Taking your kids off from a premier school to cut costs.
6. Mental breakdown and admission to mental hospital.
7. Anger may lead to do some unlawful activity and thus lead even to imprisonment.

1. Make a financial plan (6 months expenses should always be kept in bank accounts or liquid funds). Also, remember the LIC premiums and/or EMIs. Take a medical insurance if you do not have one.
2. Do not spend on unnecessary items and credit should be strictly taboo (although classical economist will say one man’s expense is another man’s sale and thus the best way of getting out of recession is spending).
3. Retraining or self-employment; make a plan.
4. When looking for a job stay persistent and present your experience in good light (remember packaging is very important to get the first look).

Sourav Ganguly was laid off from the Indian cricket team (on multiple occasions), he fought back into the team and so can you. Remember, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

Getting prepared will not save your job but will help you to control your life better and the transition to plan B easier.


America and the Americans are in trouble today because of their habit of spending on credit. They generally spend the next week’s check this week (credit) on things that they mostly do not need. Most of the Americans spend their paychecks on servicing their credit. It is precisely this reason coupled with speculation (buying a house to sell at a profit) why the present credit crisis has started.

We as a nation were entirely different. We believed in saving (we still do) and hated loans. Our parents and grandparents did not believe in loans, Karz was strictly taboo. Times have changed though, now ask anyone in the cities in the age group of 25-45 and the chances are high that we are paying some EMI or other (servicing a loan on a house, car, Plasma TV etc) for things which were mostly not a necessity and we did not need (except the first house). We copied their lifestyle!

An ordinary American is almost never late for an appointment whereas an ordinary Indian is late for almost all appointments. On a rare occasion that an American is late for his appointment, he apologizes immediately on reaching and you can see the feeling of guilt on his/her face. Whenever (90% of the time) we are late, it is inevitably because of the traffic or reasons beyond our control and we are never apologetic. We did not copy their lifestyle!

Fifty years ago, half of India lived in joint families. Americans were always independent and wanted to live away from parents once they attained 18 years of age (or even earlier). Fifty years later, there are hardly any joint families left in India. We copied their lifestyle!

An average American uses the words “sorry” and “thank you” innumerable times more than an average Indian (like me) does.

Sometimes I sit and ponder why we could not pick up the good things of American society and I have no answers.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Suicide; ways to cope suicidal ideations

Suicide is derived from the latin word suicidium meaning, to kill oneself. Suicide may be commited for one or many of the following reasons including shame or guilt (having failed in an exam), desperation or financial problems (the loan agent running behind), anxiey or depression (as in many psychiatric conditions), and finally for pain from physical ailments (chronic ailments like bone cancer). People also commit suicide because of religious beliefs like Sati in Hinduism and some Japanesse cult groups.

There is another aspect of suicide which not many people take into account, the suicide squads of terrorist groups. Here, the people committing the terror act know well that the end result is his/her death, be it the infamous 18 of 9/11 or the numerous fidayeen attacks that are taking place across India and the globe. This class of people are commit suicide not because of any of the aforementioned reasons, but because they have been brainwashed by someone in the name of religion.

According to WHO, there is 1 attempt of suicide every 39 seconds thus making suicide one of the main reasons for death in the world.

The phrase “Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.” perhaps best explains the causes for suicide in most of the cases.

Suicide rates generally increases at the time of recession and/or depression as more and more people fail financially. This is because during economic crisis people lose their jobs, their livelihood, their home.

Coping with suicidal ideations (thoughts):
1. If you are worried that you might do some self-harm by losing control on yourself, the first thing to do is confide in someone close and always stay with someone so that you are not alone.
2. Keep the house clean of objects that can be caused to self-harm, i.e., razor blades, knifes, pills (phenobarbiturates, benzodiazepines etc), guns.
3. Develop a safety plan and write the plan and keep it in your wallet as suicidal thoughts are generally very strong and the urge seems to last forever. The plan might have points like doing some yoga to calm down, calling a friend, reminding self the reasons for staying alive, go somewhere where you will be safe. Whenever there are negative thoughts, this safety plan should be adhered.
4. Do things that you enjoy.
5. Think of the personal goals and things that you have to achieve.
6. Never take any intoxicants like alcohol as they are central nervous system depressant and will only enhance the negative feelings.
7. Seek medical care, preferably psychiatrist.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Lizard Syndrome

Nobody is indispensable, however good he/she maybe. This is a fact of life that we have to believe as we believe that no soul is immortal. There are many people who live their life participating in a rat race and work for 12 hours a day or even more. One might be having a high paid job or a flourishing business and hardly spend any time with one’s family leave alone participate in childrens curriculum. One might be stretching and thus overtly stressing himself/herself day in and out, attending meeting after meeting, entertaining clients, never ending tours. Each time you might be thinking that this project can be done only by me, and hence the 12+ hour work schedule. If I do not put the extra hours the company will fall just as the lizard on the ceiling feels that it is holding the ceiling if it moves away, the ceiling will fall. Does the ceiling fall if the lizard moves away? The project will still end in time if you do not put in 12+ hours a day as the company can put one more employee in the project.

So get out of the rat race and get your life back.