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Lessons for Surviving the Recession (from Someone Who Knows)

I graduated from college in the midst of a recession, in 1974, but I’m not sure I fully understood what the word meant. Now, I’ve been through several, and I get it.

I’ve probably seen all the typical recessionary behaviors. Corporately, in addition to layoffs, I’ve watched the free coffee go away, overnight shipments suddenly needing top-level approval, all but essential travel curtailed, training programs scaled way back, expense reports scrutinized even more carefully, and every penny pinched till it screamed. 

I mostly remember the “mood.” It was like an especially dreary, gray, cold winter.  The lights seemed dim, spirits were damp, and people generally kept their minds focused on just getting through the day.

And then one day, maybe a year or two later, it occurred to everyone that business was growing again, the stranglehold on budgets was being lifted, and a new shot of energy was bringing life back to the organization. We had made it to the other side.

What have I learned that might be helpful to those new to a recession?  

  • Most important, understand that this tough time will pass.  As bad as this recessionary storm seems, it will blow over, and the sun will come out.
  • Your company may cut expenses to the point that it seems silly.  Don’t be annoyed. In fact, look for ways to help. This, too, shall pass.
  • Know that your senior management is nervous, maybe even scared, and their stoic appearance is supposed to communicate steady leadership during tough times. Understand that they’re human, and support them, even if they’re acting like they don’t need it.
  • Accomplish more than you thought possible.  You’d never dream you could do your job and that of two others. You may find that you actually can – and that you feel better staying that busy.
  • Celebrate success, even if you’re patting your own back for a job well done.
  • Find ways to lend a helping hand to others. They might be inspired to do the same. Too many folks feel like they’re on their own in tough times, but we’ll all feel better when we feel we’re on the same team.
  • Remember that however bad things might seem, there are a million stories far worse than yours.  Keep a healthy perspective about your situation.  

Until things turn back around, until we’ve all made it to the other side, best wishes …

Tom Eppes, APR, Fellow PRSA, is the 2009 Treasurer of PRSA and a Senior Partner in Eric Mower and Associates in Charlotte, N.C.

3 Comments

  • Well said. This downturn will come to an end. Sounds like there are hints of a “rebound” as I view news clips on Google News. Being that I’m pretty young, this is really the first recession I’ve kept track of, because I’m a full-time worker, and I have bills to pay. The 2001 recession wasn’t so bad for me, I still can pay my bills on time, but the downturn still hurts.

  • Thank you for these insights. Also, I live and work in an adjacent region to yours, do you feel that we are weathering the storm better than most because we didn’t have so far to fall or climb?

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