Three months ago I learned that my job at the American Red Cross would likely be eliminated.
Nationally, the Red Cross has been undergoing a massive, top-to-bottom reorganization that will affect every person affiliated with the organization. The restructuring will reduce expenses and increase revenues, all with a focus on keeping the mission relevant in a rapidly-changing environment. To their credit, our national leaders have openly shared the unfolding changes via e-mails, online videos and frequent conference calls.
Anticipating that my position would be among those eliminated by the end of the summer, I shared the discomforting news with my wife and family. Then, with the clock ticking towards the start of a new fiscal year, I launched an under-the-radar job search. I first revised my resume and LinkedIn profile. With the full understanding and support of my boss, I shifted my networking into a higher gear and sent e-mails to a couple dozen strategically-placed contacts. I was encouraged by their immediate offers to help.
Prior to launching the public phase of my job search, I developed personal business cards, a career-highlights brochure and an assortment of collateral materials to use when the appropriate time came.
My Contingency Blog Posts
Finally, to explain the circumstances of my transition, I wrote a series of three contingency blog posts.
Sometimes I will write a contingency blog post to express ideas I may want to share at a later time. I will then delay publishing my thoughts until circumstances or events trigger my need to publicly share those ideas.
I wrote three such blog posts to describe 1) what happened, 2) the impact of what happened and 3) what I was doing about it. Nothing I wrote was done to vent anger or to seek revenge. Those who know me best understand that I will never burn bridges because I’m usually more focused on the road ahead than on the path I’ve already traveled.
Disappointed that I would likely not be part of the streamlined organization, I concluded my blog posts this way:
Setting aside the personal and painful impact, I can honestly say:
- I trust the people making these decisions. Led by Gail McGovern, the leadership team is ethical and motivated by a passion to the mission of the Red Cross. Change is never easy, but I admire the transparent way in which Gail and her team have communicated and sought input at every step of the transition. This reorganization was not designed in some dark, smoke-filled room.
- The Red Cross will ultimately be stronger. Overall, it makes good business sense to do what is being done. At times in the past, the culture of the organization focused too much on process and efficiency and not enough on results and impact.
- Respect for the Red Cross brand will grow. Years from now I will still love the organization and will always hold my head high as I tell my grandkids that I used to work there, and in my own special way I helped to make the Red Cross what it is today.
I delayed sharing those thoughts until I knew for certain how the reorganization would affect me. I did not want to publish my blog posts until I was ready to launch the public phase of my job search.
The Reorganization Plan
As the impending reorganization continued to take shape, plans were announced to consolidate the staff functions of finance, human resources, information technology, marketing and communications.
Our national president and CEO, Gail McGovern, convened a two-day session of Red Cross leaders from across the country. My boss was among those selected to travel to Washington, D.C. The group’s mission was not to save jobs nor to protect the status quo, but rather to do what was right for the organization.
To oversimplify their discussions, the group recommended that the communications function not be consolidated. Gail listened to this feedback, wrestled with the implications and ultimately modified her plans. That was good news for me and most of my communications colleagues across the country.
The Good News
When the dust settles from the shakeup, we communicators will remain, albeit with job descriptions that have been revised for the better. Needless to say, I was pleased with the unexpected turn of events.
I recently had the opportunity share my thoughts with our national president and CEO. Gail was visiting the disaster relief headquarters in Joplin, Missouri less than a week after the EF-5 tornado destroyed much of that town. That was the first time I’d seen her in person, though I have always been inspired by her charisma, compassion and vision.
I did not seek her out, but Gail walked up to me as I was standing near our public affairs desk. As she and I were standing there face-to face, I briefly expressed my ideas about the reorganization and told her how much I appreciated her leadership and transparency.
A warm smile spread across her tired face. She thanked me, and then reached out with both arms and gave me a big hug.
I’m proud to work in an organization led by someone like her! I am also grateful that I will continue to be a part of the American Red Cross.