As everyone is painfully aware, work force reductions are becoming all too common.
Unfortunately, the pace is going to pick up.
As more and more people face the prospect of a layoff, there is increased potential for a mass conflagration resulting from the many bridges that are going to be torched. If you end up with a pink slip, don't add to the flames.
If you've gone through a layoff, you know it's an undesirable situation that can play out in any number of ways. Things can happen with shocking speed, or it can be an extremely protracted experience - akin to "death by a thousand cuts." You can agonize for weeks or even months as you wait for the shoe to drop, becoming increasingly anxious with each passing day...or find yourself scrambling as events unfold at an alarming rate.
Your employer may be extremely supportive, trying to cushion the blow and assist you with the transition. On the other hand, your company might handle the process poorly.
You and your colleagues may feel you've been kept in the dark...that senior management has committed "sins of omission" or, worse yet, lied about the situation. Maybe you think some of the people whose jobs were saved are undeserving. The whole selection process seems arbitrary.
Sometimes, it just gets to be too much. A person finds out he's going to lose his job, and he blows.
He decides he's going to strike back.
He sets fire to the bridge.
While this may feel good, at least for a moment or two, it's a bad idea. Even after the blaze is extinguished, fires from "hot spots" may break out for a long time to come...and it's not your former employer who's going to get burned.
As difficult as it may be, this is the time to perfect and execute the art of the graceful exit.
No matter how your situation was handled, or how resentful you feel because you lost your job and the guy in the cube next to you didn't, or how frustrated you feel about your job prospects - it's crucial that you be remembered as a class act.
You never know what may happen.
One or more people from the company you're leaving may end up playing a role in your future. Whether it's positive - or negative - will be greatly influenced by how you handle your exit.
Take a deep breath, set the negatives aside, and avoid any temptation to light that fire. Focus on this point forward.
You'll thank yourself in the long run.
Rebecca Metschke helps professionals improve their marketability. The author of The Interview Edge ( http://www.TheInterviewEdge.com ), a comprehensive career guide to career management, she also writes a daily blog posting strategies, tips and advice for those whose careers are in transition. http://blog.TheInterviewEdge.com