Musing #4: Gratitude in an Uncertain Work Environment

Recently, our company laid off a quarter of their employees. For some, perhaps they had already seen the writing on the wall and knew that it was just a matter of time. After all, we’re nearing the completion of a large gas project and the nature of such capital projects is that when you reach this stage, the company needs to transform its mode of operation from development to operations, and this requires a lean human resource profile.

But for other employees, it was a shocker. They had no inkling of their impending redundancy, apart from the fact that the MD gave everyone in the company a clear heads up at the last quarterly meeting that redundancies were being made soon in order to transition from development to operations. An assessment of cost and headcount was summarised and put forward quite frankly to the entire staff under one roof. Yes, most of us left the meeting feeling a bit uncertain of our futures. But that isn’t where this post is going.

A team member, to whom I directly reported to, was among the casualties. And the whole floor, if not more, began to ask why?

To sum it up, he was a major player in the business plan forecasting process, as well as being a key driver in the push for better process automation, reduced manual work and deeper systems integration, not to mention serving a critical function that saw him oversee various inter-departmental tasks that would help lay the financial foundation for operations.

And he worked at the company for ten years.

As you might already be gauging, the pros of keeping him seem to outweigh the cons, in my view. Yes, he was an expat, on a much higher salary package, and a middle manager, so this was probably the criteria being used by the firing squad. Whatever their reasons, I’m not totally convinced.

The whole saga made us think long and hard about our roles in the department, and the company, broadly speaking; a “justify your existence” exercise, of sorts. A few points on how I’ve come to accept this are below:

1. Drop any notion of certainty you have about life

Despite who you know, what you know, how you’ve come to know, and for how long you’ve known *anything*, just remember that very few things are guaranteed in this wordly life (except death and taxes, said Benjamin Franklin). In the context of the above story, company loyalty rarely holds any substantial weight these days, so if you find yourself in a similar situation where you might be among the casualties, don’t sit back and relax: ensure you have devoted sufficient effort to justifying why you should stay with a company. And do it frequently (just don’t look like a try-hard while doing it.)

(the above is quite simplistic, I plan to devote a post to it in future, Insha Allah [God willing] )

2. Hard work really does pay off, just don’t get a big head about it

Remain grateful and humble, always, and for everything, big and small. This does not manifest itself in mere lip service, but through actively striving to ensure your toiling day in and day out creates an impact that has your name all over it, without you having to specify it directly. In doing so, you’re building confidence in those around you that your contribution to the company is necessary and indispensable.

This needs a bit more elaboration because if, for whatever reason, you find that your role isn’t as necessary as you may have thought, it is quite likely that at least one other person knows it too. Remember, you’re deriving income from the work you do for the company, and it is easy to slide into the pitfall of thinking you have a right to that level of income regardless of the actual work you do. Be grateful for the salary you receive, and the knowledge and experience you gain, by sincerely thanking Allah the Almighty for having bestowed these blessings upon you. It is a means by which you sustain yourself, provide for your family, ensure the well-being of others, and contribute to society as a whole.

3. Maintain your Value Proposition

Monitor the value you’re adding to the company. For almost any person out there, there may exist reasons (even if few and flimsy) for them to be assigned to a different role, but by monitoring your self-worth, you’re doing your bit to stabilise your position. It is part quantity and part quality, thus making it a bit more difficult to sum up in a single performance indicator, but if you begin with basic tracking controls like monitoring how you spend each hour of the day, it’s a good start.

The Will of Allah is always accurate, and is always in your best interests, even if you think otherwise. Remember Allah in times of need, and you will be remembered in times of difficulty.

Wassalaam (with peace),


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