My phone is ringing off the hook. My email box is flooded. Every few minutes or so, my Twitter notification pops up with an update from @adagencylayoffs. I am reading Facebook status update after status update about another friend losing their job. Vendors hurting for business, willing to offer any sort of deal to just get something going. Third party partners pulling out the big guns by saying, “Did we do something to personally offend you? If so, what can we do to make it up to you?” Gut wrentching pleas from all corners of life - from my own mother, to my high-school friend who's husband just had to shutter his construction company (their lifeline) because "nobody's building anything these days."
God, this is getting depressing. Even for a serial optimist (read: idealist) like myself.
I feel so very fortunate that my agency hasn’t gone through any layoffs. We have tried to control our staffing levels over the last 18 months so that we don’t have to. Planned ahead, ran lean, all that. But it is impossible for this economic downturn of epic proportions not to affect even those of us who are still thankfully employed.
I dread having to tell a candidate “sorry, we’re just not that into you.” Or “Yes, I know you have every single qualification we could ever want, but we simply cannot hire you right now.” I dread having to tell a vendor with a really great product that “Yes, I would LOVE to make my life easier by using your company, but I simply don’t have the budget.” I DREAD it. It makes me not want to open my email or answer my phone ever again. There are so many talented people and great companies to partner with out there right now, and the recruiter in me wants to hire everyone. But the HR Director in me knows that isn’t possible.
You’ve probably heard of survivor’s guilt, right? That term 100% applies to those spared during these days of economic toiletry. I really don’t like to tell people no. And I really hate lying. Actually, even in my personal life, I have a hard time saying no and I am the worst possible liar there is. But honestly, having to reject folks that are already down on their luck – well that seems like kicking a man when he’s down.
Now, for the real confession?
I’d rather just not say anything and hope they go away. There, I said it. I know that is horrible. Probably the most horrible thing I could ever say, but it’s like being the guy on the Titanic that says who gets to get on the life boat and who doesn’t. It’s an excruciating process. Ok, maybe I am being a tad bit dramatic, but seriously it is not fun. Not the least bit fulfilling.
So, what do you do? Do you give a canned automated response – become cold and callous to the people reaching out to you for a lifeline? Do you try and help everyone you can – have 30 minute “counseling sessions” to let them down easy to the detriment of your own job? Do you give them the old "we'll keep you on file for future opportunities?" I am running out of ideas and can see it from all sides.