Losing your job: Stop Company Layoffs and Downsizing
How to Keep Your Job When Layoffs are Coming
The workplace rumors are rampant--downsizing and layoffs seem imminent. Your Company is cutting back on perks and bonuses. Employee morale is low; job stress is high. You're worried; are you about to lose your job? Here's how to judge the situation, and if job cutbacks are imminent, lower the odds that a pink-slip is in your future.
First . . . Assess Your Workplace Situation
Don't overreact and jettison your job by reacting negatively to rumors. You need to get an accurate picture to gauge if your concerns are justified. Incorporate the following in your assessment.
1. Is your industry undergoing a shakeup? Major problems affecting an entire industry can sometimes spell potential problems. For example, inflated oil prices will affect anyone relying on the travel industry such as airlines.
2. Is your company cutting corners, downsizing or having financial issues? Has the Company stock taken a long-term nosedive? Stay alert if your company is experiencing any of the above.
3. Have your job performance ratings slipped? Do you feel you are being graded on a different performance scale?
4. Do you find yourself on the "no invite" list? Are you excluded from meetings and other important department or company events when previously you were invited?
5. What's your gut telling you. Does there appear to be a change in your relationship with your boss and/or coworkers? Remember, the change doesn't have to be negative. If your Purchasing adversary, who has never been able to muster a friendly gesture, is now all warm and fuzzy, take note.
6. Has your company been acquired or has it merged with or purchased another company? Is the headquarters moving?
7. Is one of your coworkers, boss, subordinates expressing an unusual amount of interest in your job -- projects and/or individual tasks and how you accomplish them?
8. Has your workload changed from manageable to overwhelming or from heavy to scant?
Next . . . Guard Your Territory
Okay, you've taken an objective look at the current climate in your company and feel you should be concerned. Here are some short-term steps you can use to safeguard your job.
1. Have a sit down with your boss.
Express your concerns and ask for feedback. If the company grapevine indicates cutbacks are coming, ask if the info is valid. If the answer is "yes," find out if your job is on the line. Keep in mind your superior may be guarded in what they can or what they choose to express. If you feel your boss's viewpoint of your skills and/or performance has taken a nosedive, try to find out if you are justified. Ask how you can repair any perceived damage.
If you are being excluded from meetings, ask your boss for insight. Maybe, meeting participation is being pared down company-wide. If not, and the meeting facilitator is on your boss' level, he/she can decide if they want to intervene. However, if your boss is aware of the exclusion or is the instigator, don't be surprised if you get the runaround.
If your supervisor discloses the company is downsizing, try to get more details. Ask how soon the job eliminations will begin and ascertain who is making the decision (it may not be your boss) and how the decision on what job eliminations will be made. Companies consider numerous factors including seniority, job overlap, job performance, skill level,employee reputation and connections when downsizing. Ask if there will be lateral job transfer opportunities for affected employees. It's important to remain calm and objective during this meeting. Don't cry, whine, scream or blame. Remember, you want to preserve your job, not help convince your boss you should be the one to go.
2. Don't lose focus on your job and tasks.
If possible, step up the performance level. Double check your work and avoid unnecessary time wasting. Don't eliminate the morning coffee break entirely, just make sure you are not the first to arrive at the company watering hole and certainly not the last to leave. Above all, don't alter previous good work habits -- coming in late, job hunting at your desk, etc.
3. Continue to gather information.
Even if you're told, "don't worry," keep your eyes open and ears tuned. Ask reliable sources if they know what's going on, but be careful of appearances. You don't want to come across as the office gossip. You want to get accurate info from sources you have found to be reliable in the past. But, don't be too pushy or you will quickly become persona non-grata and avoided by all except the gossipers. And, absolutely, positively do not add to the rumor mill.
4. Go the extra mile.
Uplift your company profile by providing improvement suggestions, volunteering at company events and taking on difficult projects. If you stay late to work on a project, make sure your boss and his/her boss knows you're working hard. Stop in to say goodnight as you are leaving for the day. Note, it's fine to work over when needed, but don't spend all your waking hours in the office. You still have other obligations and nothing is a 100% guarantee that you will keep your job.
5. Establish a game-plan for your interactions with others.
Are you considered the office rebel, with or without a cause. Once again, you don't want to paint a target on your back. Perceived company troublemakers are often the first who are shown the door. Do you work well with others. Employers want employees who can meld effortlessly with numerous teams (formal and informal) while providing sustained contribution.
6. Be careful of what you disclose.
But, while you want to considered a cooperative team player, you should remain cognizant of your job territory and incorporate a need to know policy. If someone appears to be training or gunning for your job, they probably are. Tread carefully here; often promotions are gained only after a suitable replacement is available. But if your intuition or investigation, indicates you are not in line for a promotion, don't disclose unnecessary information.
During a downsizing, employees will be jockeying for positions -- particularly if they have an easily replaceable job. Inquire why there is a sudden interest in your job. Start with your boss and proceed on to HR if necessary. Keep in mind that Human Resources department is still employed by and for the Company.
7. Consider the worst case scenario.
Unfortunately, sometimes fears become reality and your efforts to circumvent dismissal will be ineffective. Start to lay the groundwork for a quick transition if need be. Reconnect with your outside company network. Update your resume and start placing discreet job inquiries. "Discreet" is the key word. You don't want your present employer to think you're job hunting if this is going to move you to the top of the expendable list. Take an objective look at your finances and cut back if possible.
Third . . . Employ Your Long-Term Plan
Hopefully, you have survived the job blood-letting without serious injury. Now, begin a sustained campaign to fortify your position. Incorporate the following in your long-term career plan to help ensure that when the Job Elimination Fairy appears again, your name doesn't make her list.
1. Always strive for improvement.
Job complacency can spell annihilation for your career. You should be constantly updating your skills. Take advantage of any tuition assistance your company provides. Do you need to update your software skills, take a class. Having a mastery of more than one language is always a plus.
2. Seek out a mentor.
Many companies have formal leadership and/or management programs. Inquire about the admission qualifications. Let your boss know you are interested in improving your management aptitude. Seek out a career mentor -- someone who is willing to provide advice and career guidance.
3. Join a professional association in your area of interest.
Professional associations provide multiple benefits including peer networking, mentoring. job advice and formal training and seminars.
4. Make a long-term career plan.
There's a reason why "Tell me where you'd like to be in 10 years?" is a popular interview question. Give some thought to how you want to progress and have a written plan with goals. If you need help in this area consider consulting with a career coach. The National Career Development Association maintains a website with a directory of licensed and certified career counselors.
5. Make yourself indispensable.
Become the expert in your field or department. If there is a regulatory agency affiliated with your job or occupation, volunteer for the board. If you need additional credentials, get them.
6. Learn to play well with the band, but don't avoid solo performances.
As started earlier, employers value teamwork and people skills highly. However, sometimes you need to blow your own horn. Document outstanding performances, accomplishments and commendations with emails to the boss and HR. Don't hesitate to frame an accomplishment for display. Keep a list of your accomplishments and compliments for your annual appraisal; keep a copy at home and work.
7. Network . . . Network . . . Network
Attend company functions, professional meetings, business and volunteer associations, etc. Always carry a business card and be receptive to recruiting a new partner for your network. And, once you have established the connections, make sure the effort is reciprocal. Extend and return phone calls, lunch invites and look for opportunities to help one of your network partners in their career.
8. Find out where the power lies in your organization.
Does the executive assistant to the CEO wield more power than the Marketing Manager or the switchboard operator. Organization power is masked sometimes by title. Make sure you align yourself for strength, not fluff.
9. Read the Company culture.
Every company has formal and informal rules or culture. Does everyone participate during casual Fridays -- even the CEO? Is open disagreement permissible during meetings? Is individual professional style valued or discouraged. Get to know the ground rules and adhere (or at least appear to adhere) to them.
10. Understand where your position fits in your department and how your department fits into the Company's Network.
It can be argued that no position in an organization is self-sufficient. Do you report to a manager who reports to a senior manager who reports to a VP. Is any position more expendable? How does what your department does impact the entire organization. Some departments, particularly if easily outsourced, are more vulnerable during cutbacks -- travel, meeting planning, even janitorial departments can fall victim to cutbacks.
11. Polish your image.
Gain a reputation for positivity and develop a focus on solving departmental and Company problems. Offer solutions, not headaches. Offer support to your superior and your co-workers. Don't take the credit for someone else's idea. Learn to play office politics (yes, you have to play) without badmouthing your coworkers, Company or boss!
Unfortunately, job cutbacks are part of the world workplace fabric. But, you can help insulate your career through strategic planning and skillful employment of these job loss weapons. Good luck as you advance throughout your career!
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