Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Keeping Your Job in a Tough Economy

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Mass lay-offs are coming across corporate America, and while most of us will remain employed throughout the upcoming recession, millions of us may find ourselves out of a job. While in some cases entire divisions or business units will be eliminated, basically leaving employees no way to escape the axe, in many other cases lay-offs will be more surgical affairs, such as a 10% company wide reduction in force. I am here to tell you that such lay-offs are not random. In lay-offs of this nature, the people who are let go are picked very carefully. In fact, most bosses worth their salt already have a plan in heads for who they will let go if they are asked to cut their team. So how do you keep your job? Here are a few places to start:

Be a Star - the number one thing you need to know is that stars don't get laid off. Bosses will go to almost any length to keep the members of their teams that they consider to be stars. Why? Very simple, your boss only cares about delivering great results (so he or she can keep their own job) and the best way to that is to have the absolute best players on their team. So, if you are the MVP, your job is almost certainly safe. How you can become a star is perhaps a topic for a more extended post, but it involves a lot of hard work, constantly exceeding expectations, and contributing to the organization as a whole, not just to your narrowly defined job responsibilities.

Don't be a Thorn - even the best players can become a liability for their boss if they take too much time and effort to manage. Generally speaking, you want your name to come up in positive contexts, never in bad ones. This means that you don't whine, you don't pick unnecessary fights, you don't break company policy, you don't constantly demonstrate how you are superior to everyone else. In short, don't be an ass...

Be Nice - if people like to work with you, they will keep you around even if you are not the best performer on the team. That's human nature. Wear a smile on your face, have a positive attitude, be optimistic. Make people feel good about themselves - no, I don't mean you need to be a hypocrite or a brown noser, all I mean is that you should just try to be a decent human being who people like to be around. Hey, that's good advice for life in general, no?

Don't be an Easy Target - OK, here's the trick: when it's hunting season, it's generally not a good idea to wear a target on your back... In the context of upcoming layoffs, the following would be considered volunteering for target practice: asking for raises; asking for special treatment; causing trouble or hurting morale. Look, what I am saying is that if you can't distinguish yourself for being a top performer or a particularly cooperative and fun team player, at least don't distinguish yourself by being the guy your boss constantly needs to defend and put out fires for.

Solicit Feedback and Drive Change - talk to your boss and to your colleagues and solicit honest feedback regarding your performance. Ask them to tell you - point blank - two or three things that you can do better. When they give you the feedback you requested, don't get defensive. Thank them for being helpful and go change.


frugal zeitgeist said...

You are totally right. There is nothing random about layoffs right now. (I know my department's short list.)

headknocker said...

Just had a guy in my department come in with an offer from another company. He was hoping for a counter offer, but he didn't get it. Another piece of advice in this economy...don't expect a counter offer. There is always someone looking for your job, who will do it cheaper and (possibly) better than you.

Shadox said...

Headknocker - that might be true, but I bet that if the guy was a superstar he would get that counter offer, regardless of the state of the economy. Really good players are always really tough to come by.

headknocker said...

The guy was good, but not a superstar. He thought he was more valuable than he was.