Austerity

In times of austerity, people are usually forced to make sacrifices. Sometimes these decisions are tough to make and sometimes, you just have to do what needs to be done in order to survive. This is especially true when it comes to the issue of the employee and the employer. To survive thru these austere times, you must stay ahead of the curve; anticipate, prepare, and seize the opportunity.

No matter what, the employee is always expendable. Never take your standing and value to the firm for granted. The bottom line of most architectural practice is to keep the office running, which means letting go of a staff architect or two, sometimes more. Usually, the most senior and high paid are the first to go.

I recently found out a former colleague was laid off. Despite the actions the employers took and the sacrifices the staff made, they ended up having to let someone go. I was glad to have left before the economy turned for the worse but annoyed a former colleague ended up losing his job.

Shortly after I had left to join the current practice, the former employers were hit with the collapse of the economy as did many architectural offices. Instead of adding to the number of unemployed architects already flooding the joblessness, the partners cut salaries, and enrolled in a partial unemployment program designed to aid small businesses stay afloat during these difficult financial times. The only stipulation, the office was not allowed to hire or lay-off anybody while under this program. In addition to a salary cut, the staff was also informed that paid time off was suspended.

It is a shame that even when sacrifices were made, someone was laid off. I realize that this decision was not an easy one to make when the partners looked at their numbers and compared current and incoming projects. The good news because the partners were forced to lay-off one of their employees, they could no longer participate in the partial unemployment program, which meant the remaining staff had their full salaries reinstated.

To avoid having to make sacrifices and then being sacrificed, you must pay attention to what is going on in the office. If you witness your employers say to a client that work is slow, take caution. When your employers tell you in your professional review that money is tight and you get a measly raise after working your ass off, chances are, they aren’t lying. These are some of the sure signs that the worse is to come.

Start looking and line up interviews. I know it may sound counterintuitive because if one firm is struggling, then others maybe in the same situation. This is where you have to pay attention to where you interview and what is discussed. Understand which market or sector is being affected, and avoid firms that specialize in projects where it is heavily influenced by the current state of the economy.

Should you get an offer or two, take a moment to weigh your options. Don’t hesitate to politely ask for clarification before you agree to join a practice. And don’t rush to accept the first offer. If you have multiple offers, review all of them, and then make your decisions.

Resigning is not always easy especially when you get along with your employer(s). Don’t feel bad. It’s a business decision. And keep in mind that loyalty does not exist when it means keeping a business afloat because the employer(s) will do what they need to do to keep their practice.

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