Downsizing’s Silver Linings

I joined Microsoft about three months ago as a result of its acquisition of Nokia’s devices business. Last week, Microsoft announced a restructuring that will result in the loss of thousands of jobs, including many previously held by friends of mine.

When I include my years at Nokia, I have survived layoffs, including last week’s, that have affected tens of thousands of people, probably enough to fill a couple of professional basketball arenas. There’s no sugar coating the personal toll this takes, as lay-offs deprive workers of purpose, income, and a sense of stability.

Each time this has happened, though, I’ve also seen an outpouring of goodwill and signs of resilience in those impacted the most. This time was no different.

While I do not intend to diminish the pain and hardship unemployment can bring, I want to focus here on some of the best things I heard or read from friends and co-workers who were trying to make sense of what was unfolding all around them.

  • “These truly are first-world problems.” It’s true that for many of us, being downsized, while unsettling, isn’t the end of the world. A quick scan of the headlines these days shows what real anguish is. Many of us are fortunate to have useful skills in a job market that increasingly values them.
  • “Worst case, I’ve got a LOT of banked vacation and tenure so I won’t starve any time soon.” While the work of finding a new job will require a full-time commitment, taking a long view is healthy. Right now is a perfect time to take a breather, in fact.
  • “What have we learned so that in 12 month’s time, we are not in a same situation? Change starts at [the] individual level. This is easy to say and easier to implement (it’s mindset).” Never stop learning, especially when that means coming to grips with the things that haven’t worked out as you planned.
  • “Hope you are well.” “I hope you all are holding up OK today.” “Just wanted to send you a humble message of support.” “You and your colleagues are in my thoughts today.” “I hope you are okay.” “Thinking of you during this crazy time.” “Please reach out if there’s anything I can do to help.” These are beautiful sentiments. If we must endure upheaval like this, what better antidote could we ever hope to find than genuine caring and an eagerness to help?

In short, last week’s news exposed some lustrous silver linings. I see perspective, healthy self evaluation, and above all, a kindness born of an urgent desire to lend a hand. I’m sure there are many who will treat this as an excuse to reinvent their careers, too.

I predict our economy will create more sudden and perhaps unanticipated separations from one’s employer. While there are things we need to do to prepare – e.g. keeping our resumes current, investing in professional and personal relationships by giving and helping, never stop learning, etc. – sometimes we may be caught flat-footed, shocked and disappointed.

In spite of a lousy hand you might be dealt, remember that wonderful things are happening all around you. So keep your eyes open to the good stuff, and if you’ve got a friend or colleague you know is in a rough patch, extending yourself just a bit to check in and share your thoughts and well wishes can go a long way to making the afflicted feel more buoyant.

Thanks to all who made me feel lighter last week. I’ll close with this: as a couple of characters from the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel said, “Everything will be alright in the end, and if it is not alright, it is not the end.”


  1. Matt. I love you like a brother. If I can help, you know I will be there. Give my regards to your family!


    1. The feelings are mutual, my friend. Thank you.


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