So this is the week of furlough.
A concept most of us hadn’t heard of before now.
Whether you have been furloughed, are doing the furloughing, have friends, family or colleagues that have been furloughed or are worrying and waiting to see if it happens to you, pretty much everyone is affected in some way. And every individual will be affected differently so it’s important not to make assumptions about how people feel, why you rather than someone else has been furloughed or what all this means for you in the bigger picture.
The phrase I’m hearing a lot this week is ‘I think...’ I think this is going to be really hard for them, I think they’ll be relieved, I think this will affect my career, I think this makes me seem less valuable... These are all assumptions. They are not facts.
We make hundreds of assumptions every day, filling in the knowledge gaps with our own stories for small things ‘I’m making a cup of tea, x person would like one as well so I’ll make two’ or for bigger things ‘I’ve been furloughed because the company doesn’t value me.’
Let’s take that last one as an imaginary coaching conversation, albeit a simplified one:
Client: I’ve been furloughed because the company doesn’t value me.
Coach: What makes you think that?
Client: Well why else would they do it? They didn’t furlough X who does the same job as me.
Coach: OK but what makes you think it’s about your value?
Client: Well what else would it be? We do the same thing so the company must think they do it better than me.
Coach: Well let’s have a think about that. What else could it be?
Client: I suppose I’m less busy at the moment. My big projects are all in the autumn.
Coach: OK what else?
Client: They know I have two kids at home to look after and I’ve found it so difficult working at home and keeping them happy.
Coach: OK what else?
Client: X is involved in Y project that is live at the moment so they couldn’t really take them off that…
And so on. None of the factual reasons illustrated above are about the value of the employee.
Whether you are the furloughed or the furlougher making assumptions can lead to negative and unhelpful thinking and, frankly, the less we have of that at the moment the better.
If you aren’t feeling great about your own furloughing situation, make a list of all the things you think about it. Leave the list and make a cup of tea (make an assumption if you live with someone that they would like one as well – some assumptions have positive outcomes!)
Come back to the list with fresh eyes and read each statement – is it a fact or an assumption? Do you actually know that a statement is a fact? Where is the evidence for that? Handy hint: ‘my boss hates me’ is not a fact unless your boss has actually said the words ‘I hate you’, it is an assumption!
This can be a surprisingly hard exercise because often we think our long-standing assumptions are facts, but they aren’t, they are something we have decided is true.
It’s only once you can spot the difference between your assumptions and facts that you can begin to think more openly about any situation and gain some perspective about it, because the shocking realisation for most of us is that it’s not all about us! And once we realise it’s not personal we can start to move forward again.
For those of you looking for advice about anything to do with your particular situation around furloughing, there is lots of information online, some of which is listed at the end of this article.
There are many emotions and feelings to explore around furloughing and in 700 words or so I’ve kept it broad by choosing to look at the assumptions we make in order to help you look at your situation through a different lens.
For more information about the coaching process visit www.inkworkscoaching.com
For advice about furloughing, try one of these websites or see if your company has an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) for free advice.