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Unsolicited Advice to FOX Employees

Roger Ailes, President of Fox News Channel attends the Hollywood Reporter celebration of "The 35 Most Powerful People in Media" at the Four Season Grill Room on April 11, 2012 in New York City.
Stephen Lovekin—Getty Images Roger Ailes, President of Fox News Channel attends the Hollywood Reporter celebration of "The 35 Most Powerful People in Media" at the Four Season Grill Room on April 11, 2012 in New York City.

Dos and don’ts during a big corporate realignment.

Is Roger Ailes in or out at FOX? Will there really be a walkout of star employees if he leaves? How many more stories from the opposing camp will emerge?

The unfolding news doesn’t just make interesting reading. There is a huge potential impact on people’s jobs. Even if you’re a FOX employee many layers down, you’re not immune to the repercussions at the top ranks.

Effects trickle down — if another executive walks out in support, his or her team is affected (if not outright displaced), and then those middle managers’ direct reports are affected (or displaced). Distraction and morale issues can spread quickly. Talented employees may decide to leave rather than put up with the chaos.

Of course, these consequences can happen at any company in a restructuring or realignment, not just FOX. How should you handle a sudden, uncertain change at your employer? Here are 6 do’s and don’ts during a corporate realignment:

Do focus on your job

It will be tempting to stay glued to the internet to catch the latest and greatest. When I worked at a client who was rumored to be in the midst of an acquisition, even the rank-and-file were checking the stock price each minute. FOX employees probably have a second browser running in the background, watching for breaking updates.

You don’t know how long the drama will go on, and it often takes longer than you expect to unfold. Restructuring takes time – the exits, the internal moves, the new hiring, the new processes. If you end up sticking around through the drama, you will be woefully behind on your work unless you maintain focus on your job. You also want to stay productive so that, if cuts happen as a result of the restructuring, your work quality never comes into question.

Don’t gossip

You also don’t want your commitment to come into question, so don’t take sides, don’t offer your opinion (even if your colleague asks) and don’t tell people what you “heard.” Don’t fan the flames of uncertainty with more gossip. As much as you think you know what’s going on, you don’t know the whole story – even if you’re tight with the Chief of Staff, even if your specific department is in the thick of the activity.

You don’t want to be responsible for distracting others and jeopardizing other people’s livelihoods. You don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable, so just because the issue happens to be sexual harassment (at FOX), this doesn’t give you license to get on your soap box. You need to stay neutral, so that whichever way the restructuring goes, you have the opportunity to stay. You may decide to leave if you don’t like how things resolve, but at least you’ve given yourself the choice.

Do pay attention

While you’re better off to stay away from every piece of breaking news, you still want to pay attention. As facts start to unfold – this person is leaving or this subsidiary is being sold – take note of these developments and what the downstream effects might be for you. Let’s say a senior executive is confirmed to be stepping down. That person’s immediate team might be in jeopardy, but also the teams below. Even if you don’t work in that department, perhaps you work closely with that department, or your mentor is there, or you’re partnering on an initiative and now that might be in question. You need to pay attention to how any known changes will affect you.

Don’t panic

That said, once changes are confirmed and you see possible negative consequences for you, don’t just message your whole network and post your resume on every job board. You don’t want to rush into your job search and present a haphazard brand to the marketplace. You don’t want to rush headlong into any job – you want to find the right one. You don’t want to appear desperate. Don’t panic immediately after a restructuring. You will have time to plot out a thoughtful and proactive job search.

Do have a plan

You can start planning now – even if it turns out you never have to implement it. Update your resume and online profile. Reconnect with your network, so when you do start looking for a job, you’ve already rekindled the relationship. (Besides, they’ll be excited to hear from you if your company’s situation is as interesting as what’s going on at FOX!) Look through your company’s internal mobility process so you know how best to make a move if something happens to your group or subsidiary. Review your company’s severance policy if layoffs are a possibility – you might find that you’re entitled to a soft landing, and this can ease some of the anxiety.

Don’t lose sight of the big picture

Whatever is happening at your company, you are the CEO of your career. You want to continue doing a good job and do right by your company in its time of turmoil, but you also need to do right by your career. This could mean staying or going. Perhaps you stay because the restructuring gives you a stretch role or you get a retention bonus. Perhaps you go because the restructuring causes a change of heart — maybe you don’t like how your company handled something even if it didn’t directly impact you. Depending on how the restructuring plays out, you may stay for now and decide to go later. Or you might leave and then come back. Don’t get so distracted by what’s happening at the company that you lose sight of your career plans.



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