December brought change.

The VP for whom I worked in Japan moved to another role in the organization. Another VP in Japan upon whom I relied for expat info and insight into our corporate business environment is decamping for Europe in the new year. I hear tell of other possible shake-ups, but I rely on other people’s translations. I should do something about that. Anyway …

I’m inundated w/ queries on my status – what would it take for me to stay? Will I stay? Will the changes impact my staying? It’s all mostly moot as I re-enlisted in mid-November. Yet I can’t help but feel cheated that these significant changes happened so close to my contract date without notification. I thought I was connected in to be in the know. I clearly wasn’t.

My feeling is not rational. My employer & its agents are under no obligation (in the US, Canada, and other areas) to tell me about these things before I sign. In fact, it’s in their vested interest NOT to tell me. They want me to stay. Giving me the “heads up” before I “re-up” is bad business.

You better believe I will be far more critical on my next contract based on what happened in 2017. The problem is I have fewer people to ask for opinion and advice who have little or no vested interest in my action. That is something with which I will deal because I was prepared.

Stoicism has a concept of “negative visualization”, which is basically thinking about possible, probable, or guaranteed events that will happen in life about which we don’t want to think – events like a significant death in the family (parents, spouse, or children) or someone stealing all of your money or if your house burns down – with the idea of starting to deal with the emotions and contemplating what you would do about it. It’s a fantastic exercise, if a bit grim, in that you can think about it somewhat detached. You’re not dealing with the negative event in the heat of the moment with negative visualization. You can come up with a plan for when the bad things happen, especially if it’s inevitable. But how to deal with the emotions? Negative visualization in advance of the event is one way.

In security we have other phrases for this – Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning. The new term is “Resiliency”. Negative visualization isn’t a better name, but it does offer some separation. For example:

When I was laid off from my job in January 2013 I had many pieces in place to find my next position – an up-to-date resume, a strong personal network, a well negotiated severance package, tools, and support from family & friends. Never the less, I was an emotional wreck for days after it happened. I’m five years removed from the event and I still have unresolved issues.

Had I exercised negative visualization about losing my job in 2012 & earlier, Stoicism postulates that I would have handled the transition better and would have fewer or no residual issues now.

Getting laid off would still have been a kick to the gut. But maybe I wouldn’t have been a gibbering sobbing wreck to the degree I was.

Analytically, such changes at work should trigger revamps in all of us. Is my LinkedIn up-to-date? What about my CV? Have I connected lately with folks who I trust and value and (I hope) value and trust me? How’s my education? How’s my information management? If I’m cut off from my employer’s resources like printers and scanners and cell phones and laptops tomorrow, what is my plan? Am I paycheck-to-paycheck?

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