Life after Layoff: A Leader’s Sense of Duty and A Series of Good Conversations with Marni Coffey (3/3)

When a people leader is laid off, they have a choice – stop everything, or continue to lead, even as you exit. Marni Coffey continued to model strong character and supportive leadership for her team until the end of her last day with PepsiCo. This is the mark of a great leader…a leader whose greatest skill is empathy.

After taking time to recharge and reset, Marni needed some help to move forward. This week in episode 280 Marni Coffey will share how she processed the layoff event’s impact on her and the former members of he team, the support she received during her job search, reflections on stress, and the series of good conversations that led her to McKesson.

Original Recording Date: 05-19-2024

Marni Coffey is the Senior Manager for Business Systems and Indirect Sourcing and Procurement at McKesson. If you missed our previous discussions with Marni, check out part 1 in Episode 278 and part 2 in Episode 279.

Topics – A Forced Job Search, Addressing the Layoff in Interviews, Noticing Stress

3:14 – A Forced Job Search

  • When asked about joining McKesson, Marni tells us it’s about the way things “just happened” to get her there.
    • “I knew who I was. At Pepsi, I finally knew who I was in that people manager role. I knew what was important to me, what I wanted to do. And I knew I wanted to elevate people. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to make them successful and get them where they were going. I wanted to be the one to work on that employee experience and navigate across a global company to get those things done for our employees, not just my employees…all of the employees…I want them all to have a good experience. And I know that sounds like some utopian wish, but that’s what I mean by continuous improvement. You’re never there. You just keep doing the next thing to make it better for them.” – Marni Coffey
    • Marni knew what she wanted when working for PepsiCo. But the company went through a global transformation, and Marni was laid off. Her husband, who also worked at PepsiCo, was laid off as well.
      • When Nick heard about what was happening at PepsiCo, he reached out to Marni to see if she was impacted. It turned out Marni was impacted, and her plan was to take the severance package and figure out her next move.
      • “I had not been hunting for a job in so long I didn’t even know where to start…. I had really thought I was going to retire with Pepsi, so I thought I was just done with this job hunting stuff.” – Marni Coffey
      • Marni mentioned Nick and others helped her get her resume into a format accepted today. She also took time to update her LinkedIn profile. Once both were updated, Marni began her job search.
    • Marni took every interview she was able to get and went in with the mindset that many were just practice. Taking this approach made her feel more relaxed.
      • For some companies, Marni knew after the first interview it was not the right place for her. If Marni was not passionate about what the company did or didn’t like the culture, it wasn’t a company for her.
      • The style of an interview can turn off potential candidates. Marni shares the story of an interview style that made her not want to continue with the process.
        • “It was unpleasant. They didn’t take the time to find out who I am and what I’m looking for, which I think is an important part of interviewing. You need to know who you’re interviewing. Are they a motivational fit for you? …Are they going to be happy with you? Are they going to fit in with you? Are you going to be happy with them? And those are things you size up in an interview, and it’s a small space of time to try to get to that.” – Marni Coffey, speaking to an interview experience
    • Before McKesson, Marni interviewed with Progressive Insurance and was extremely excited.
      • Marni recounts getting to the 5th round of interviews for a role at Progressive. It came down to her and one other person.
      • Talent acquisition called Marni to let her know the company had chosen to go with the other candidate. It was not personal. The candidate offered the role had more recent experience with developers whereas Marni’s most recent experience was with operations. The talent acquisition person said they wanted to keep Marni in mind for another role in the future and felt she would be a great fit at the company.
      • It was difficult to accept not getting the role after coming so close, but Marni feels it happened for a reason. Marni tried to keep herself from getting as excited about the next interview processes, feeling she was able to relax a little after the experience with Progressive.
    • Marni’s husband suggested they take a trip to Hawaii since she didn’t get the job at Progressive, feeling Marni could use it. Around this same time, McKesson got back to her.
      • Marni had applied for a role at McKesson 3 months before receiving the call from their talent acquisition group. They had called to ask about her experience working with managed service providers. She had experience working with 3 of them concurrently while at PepsiCo. But her responses to questions about previous experience were not overly enthusiastic. Not getting the role at Progressive was still impacting her.
      • A couple of weeks later Marni was asked to interview with a senior director.
      • “…Really liked her. More than anything, it was just a good conversation. That’s kind of how I handled all those interviews with McKesson. It was a good conversation.” – Marni Coffey, recounting her first interview with a director from McKesson
      • At this point Marni was still thinking about the conversations as practice, which allowed her to remain calm.
      • Next Marni interviewed with 2 directors that worked with the team she would be managing at McKesson. The conversations were candid and very good, covering her experience and general feelings about things.
      • Next in the process Marni spoke to a senior vice president. She had to take this conversation from a hotel with poor wifi, which caused some technical glitches. The conversation was light and still a good one. Her interviewer was understanding of the situation with wifi.
      • Marni then interviewed with the CIO and VP of Operations for Transformation. It was a familiar conversation since Marni had come from operations.
      • Marni mentioned the people who interviewed her were very different and each brought something unique to the conversations. She liked that aspect of the process.
      • The last interview was with a VP between the senior director and senior vice president she had spoken with already. During that interview, Marni made a comment about continuous improvement that her interviewer decided to write down.
      • “I thought it was so cool that this vice president who had it all together was writing down something I said. And so if nothing else I felt really good about myself after those interviews…. If the only purpose was that I have my confidence built back up and I feel good about my abilities and my skills and talents, this was worth it.” – Marni Coffey
      • Marni had not gone out to research McKesson because she did not feel they would offer her the job. It was also in finance, an area where she had no previous experience.
      • Marni felt surprised when McKesson called to offer her the job. That morning before the call is when she found the McKesson socks in her drawer and started reading up on them, cementing in her mind how awesome the company was.
      • “It was great experience overall. I mean, it was ups and downs interviewing when I hadn’t interviewed in so long. But having so many people willing to step in an help me, people I’d built relationships with…see, even after you’re no longer at your company, all those relationships that you build pay off…. I was very humbled by home many people wanted to be part of my journey, to elevate me on my journey, to develop me and my skills while I really needed it.” – Marni Coffey, reflecting on the power of relationships she had built and her gratitude for it
        • Marni cites getting help with her resume, LinkedIn, and even interview tips from others in her network from the time of being laid off throughout her job search process.

15:06 – Addressing the Layoff in Interviews

  • Was Marni asked about being laid off during her interview processes? How should others handle this scenario?
    • Marni would advise we be honest but gracious.
    • “I know it’s really hard not to take it personally when you get laid off, but most of the time when you get laid off that decision has absolutely nothing to do with your value, your contribution to the company.” – Marni Coffey, on layoffs
    • Marni’s senior director was the one who had to deliver the news to her about being laid off. It was a business decision and had nothing to do with her. This is hard to hear and really believe in the moment, and should this happen to us, we should remind ourselves it has nothing to do with our value as a person.
    • If the company vision no longer includes you, it’s an opportunity to go and do something better or different. Marni tells us we should understand there is a better fit for us out there.
    • By the time the decision was made, Marni felt like she wasn’t really able to contribute as much as she would have liked, a bit like her ideas were not elevated as much as she had hoped. But that directional change in the business is not a reflection of her ideas.
    • “It was just time. Time to move on to the next thing, time to find something better to do, time to grow again. If you haven’t looked for a job in a long time…find people that will help you navigate that process….” – Marni Coffey
      • People can help us navigate a job search by giving resume feedback, sharing what to expect during interviews, help with LinkedIn, etc.
      • While filling out LinkedIn, we can reflect back on time spent at a company and toot our own horn a little. We can reflect back on what we achieved together with others and document our skills and accomplishments.
      • Even if there is not room for something on our resume we should write it down anyway in a place that is easy to find. Marni reminds us we need things to talk about in interviews. We need to know our stories.
      • Marni is grateful for her time at Pepsi.
      • Marni felt like she had worked through a number of challenges and with many different people at Pepsi. She tells us the ramp up into her job at McKesson was much easier than her day to day job in operations at Pepsi.
      • Marni’s time at PepsiCo stretched her, built her skills, taught her patience, taught her the value of partnerships, etc. Because of that experience, Marni feels like she is worthy to support her team at McKesson in the way they need to be supported.
      • We need change to avoid getting stale.

20:30 – Noticing Stress

  • Nick remembers talking to Marni about the decrease in stress she experienced after the layoff.
    • During those last few days at PepsiCo, Marni was very stressed. The offshore team remained in place. But she was able to remain positive for her team.
    • Marni remembers her support lead taking a day off to deal with the news due to being so upset at her departure. Marni got on a call with this person and his wife and learned just how big of an impact she had made as a manager. Marni continues to maintain the relationship with that support lead and his wife to this day. They are friends who keep in touch.
    • Members of Marni’s team reached out to her as soon as they heard what had happened. Every one of them connected with her on LinkedIn.
    • Members of the team have told Marni if the opportunity every arose, they would be very excited to work for her again.
    • “When you’re gone and they no longer have to care what you think about them, for them to say things like that, or for them to call you and say ‘hey, I’m in charge of that area that you used to be in charge of. And I always ask myself…what would Marni do?’” – Marni Coffey, reflecting on her team and their growth even after she had left the company
      • Marni was humbled and touched that so many people thought so highly of her.
      • “It made me feel like I did it right, you know, to the end. I did it right. I didn’t bad mouth the company. Even though I was hurting and I was feeling rejected, I didn’t do that. I was still there for them in the way I always wanted to be.” – Marni Coffey, on leaving the company and supporting her team on the way out
    • The first Monday after she was officially gone from PepsiCo, Marni felt a weight lifted off her shoulders.
      • Marni realized she used to get up each day and wonder what she might have to resolve that day.
      • “And I was already ready for the day. I was like suited up with armor the minute I got out of bed every morning. And this was the first day I didn’t have to do that.” – Marni Coffey, on the first day she didn’t have to get up and go to work
      • Marni tells us she by nature isn’t someone who can sit around and do nothing.
      • “I took the time to re-energize and to do things for myself so I started to feel like myself again…. I did not realize how stressful it was until I wasn’t doing it anymore.” – Marni Coffey
      • If you get laid off, Marni would encourage you to take some time to notice things. Take the time to notice the stress you were under in your previous role. Take the time to recover a little.
      • “Take time to say, ‘wow, I was really stressed. Maybe that wasn’t the right place for me, and the next place I go, it’s going to be different.’ For me it was.” – Marni Coffey, on noticing the stress of her previous role
  • Was the mismatch between what Marni wanted or felt was needed and how things went before the layoff causes of the stress she was under?
    • Marni thinks it was. She didn’t know she was going to be impacted but was trying to make things better in her work environment. Not being empowered as an individual to make things better was stressful.
      • But you don’t realize how stressful things are when you’re in the middle of it.
      • Being in operations, things are constantly moving.
      • Marni says her team was not the typical IT Operations team. When someone came to them needing help, instead of saying something was not their responsibility, they would try to connect the person who needed help with someone they knew could help. Marni’s team knew different people inside the organization and would direct traffic or make a connection based on the nature of the request.
      • “We didn’t drop people. We were at the center…. I worked with exceptional, smart people and they went above and beyond for that customer experience and that employee experience. And they really wanted to make it better. We cared. We cared. It was our company…not the company…our company. And we had accomplished all these things together. We were family…and we weren’t anymore after that.” – Marni Coffey, on her role as part of an operations team leading up to the layoff
      • Marni mentioned she recently spoke to her former boss at Pepsi and has spoken with many others she worked with while at Pepsi since leaving. Marni thought the bond with her coworkers would be lost after the layoff, but she says it has become even stronger.
    • Marni felt like she wasn’t getting the go ahead to do things that could improve the environment for her employees and other employees, and that was part of the stress near the end of her tenure at PepsiCo.
      • “While I still worried about the people who were still there and I still wanted it to be better for them, I knew it wasn’t my responsibility anymore. So I didn’t have to suit up to go in there and find a way to make it better.” – Marni Coffey
      • For the people managers out there, Marni would encourage you to take the time you need in the event of a layoff and not feel guilty about not being there for the team or having to move on to the next place. The decision made was out of your control. It’s ok to do what is right for yourself.
      • Marni could tell breaking the news of layoffs impacted her senior director. In that final meeting, Marni’s director encouraged her to take time for herself, emphasizing she did not have to do anything for the last few days of her employment.
      • “I still did. Up until the time that I couldn’t login to the system anymore, I still did.” – Marni Coffey, on giving full effort until the end of her tenure at an employer
      • If anyone ever called Marni after the fact, she would help them. It was no longer her responsibility. But she felt a release in all of this.

Mentioned in the Outro

  • There is a clear sense of duty from a people leader perspective in Marni’s story.
    • Once Marni knew her job was ending she was under tremendous stress but still wanted to be there for her team (all the way until the point her systems access was deactivated). This is an extension of “you work for them” as a people leader rather than “they work for you.”
      • Good managers continue to care for their team even when it is hard.
    • This sense of duty creates a weight on the people leader.
      • When the duty to lead has been removed, it’s ok to care for yourself.
      • We need to keep in mind those leaders who care for us and our peers need time to recharge and care for themselves because they are human just like all of us.
  • Have you ever thought of interviews as a way to have a good conversation with someone else so each side can learn?
    • Marni thought of her interviews as good conversations and used them to build confidence.
  • We need to have stories to tell in interviews. Marni emphasizes we can only know our stories by documenting our accomplishments (and that means documenting beyond what will fit on a resume)!
  • If you’re looking for additional perspectives on the interview process, check out these episodes:

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