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Keep Your Job Amidst Layoffs

This article was written by in Career and Work. 8 comments.


Despite the fact that my company is squarely within the financial sector, we have so far been immune to massive layoffs taking place around the country, particularly in this industry. While I have something to “fall back” on — and actually, in terms of pure numbers, I could probably do better by leaving my day job and focusing on my independence more — I’d prefer not to be laid off. I like the people with whom I work, and my management attempts to keep me happy and slightly challenged.

I’m not immune to being laid off if the company decides this is the path to take. I could make myself irreplaceable by hoarding knowledge, refusing to delegate responsibilities, and holding my skills hostage. This irreplaceability is often cited as the best way to avoid layoffs. If the business can’t function without you, they won’t let you go. But when it comes down to the way corporations work, everyone is replaceable, from the mail room letter sorter to the chief executive officer. So forget “making yourself irreplaceable.”

Money Magazine has some suggestions for keeping your job amidst layoffs in a manner that will benefit the employee and the organization in the long run.

  • Make sure higher-ups know you by solving problems and taking on high-profile projects.
  • Share client leads or ideas to generate revenue even if that’s not part of your responsibilities.
  • Hang out with the people the boss respects most. The halo of their good reputation may extend to you.
  • Keep on top of advances in your field and expand your expertise beyond your core area.
  • Look for problem spots that you can help fix. And pitch in whenever extra hands are needed.
  • Volunteering to take a pay cut during an industrywide downturn can make you look like a hero.

Notice that all of these tips involve prioritizing the team ahead of the individual. Rather than thinking about yourself and how to protect your job, these tips focus on increasing your value to the organization. You win not by hoarding knowledge, but by sharing, giving, and volunteering, and by being a “team player.”

It’s possible to take these to the extreme. When you give yourself completely to your company, it’s possible to lose a part of yourself. I’ve seen this happen in the non-profit where I once worked. Our small team was a group of individuals highly dedicated to the mission, but none were more dedicated than the executive director. He had very high expectations for everyone’s dedication. In order to success in this organization, employees were required to live and breathe their job, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It’s impossible to avoid allowing your identity to become nothing but your job under these circumstances. And rather than holding onto the best employees, turnover at this organization was high.

Even when not taken to this extreme, concentrating on the Good of the Company makes it more difficult to concentrate on the Needs of the Individual. You can see this when you are sent to attend classes or seminars. If you find yourself at more management seminars run by Tom Peters, who professes management skills that focus on the organization as a whole, than the classes you attend to foster growth in areas that are important to you, you may be losing balance.

The pervailing thought right now is that those of us who have jobs are lucky, and shouldn’t look to employers for anything other than keeping our jobs. This is certainly do to the economic environment — it is an employers’ market right now. This attitude displayed by employers will backfire when the tables turn and companies begin seeking talented employees again. Workers must adapt to the current environment, and right now that may mean sucking it up and following some of these tips from Money Magazine so they are well-positioned when the job market returns.

Fireproof your job, Donna Rosato, Money Magazine, January 15, 2009.

Published or updated January 16, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Jason Kratz

Just a note…nobody is ever irreplaceable. Thinking you are is a *huge* mistake.

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avatar velvet jones

I thought I was the only one who hated the “make yourself indispensible/irreplaceable” advice. One of the many problems with such ideas is that no one really knows what senior management has in mind or where they are going when they do layoffs. That knowledge you’re hoarding could be something the company deems obsolete or not necessary if they choose to move in a completely different direction.

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avatar Craig

It’s tough to know exactly what people want or what they are looking for. Bottom line is you have to make yourself stand out over other, and make them know that you are too valuable to lose. Develop new skills, shine with the ones you have, and make your success be known.

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avatar Unemploymentality

All sounds like solid advice EXCEPT…hanging out with people your boss respects most. That’s code for pucker up and kiss ass. Sure, do that if you can live with yourself I suppose, but the work place is already filled with people that have gotten where they are thanks to that backwards ‘reward your friends’ mentality. Shameful.

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avatar Bee

You make a good point about when your job becomes your identity. Your job is a reflection in some way shape or form of your inner beliefs. If you at some point have asked, either unknowingly or knowingly for some kind of change or shift in your life, then as you begin to change on the inside, your outside will change. It is important to be completely unconditional with what you have asked for because when you do, you allow yourself to receive what you have asked for and you can move ahead quickly.

That being said. One of the changes that may happen is that you may lose your job because it no longer supports what it is that you have asked to have in your life. If you remain unconditional, then Something will open up and support you in receiving what it is that you want.

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avatar Tracy

Not sure it really matters. You can work really hard and do your best and when it comes to layoffs it’s all politics and seniority.
Some people do nothing and stay around forever cause they are friends of the manager or are part of useless social clubs.

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avatar Writer's Coin

I love talking about this stuff. I’ve posted my own set of tips to make you a better employee, which in my opinion is what can make you closer to irreplaceable, thought not totally (of course).

But the more I think about it, the more I draw the analogy with sports: who are the players that are worth so much on a team that you can’t imagine getting rid of them? Bottom line: they have talents and abilities that other players don’t. Some of them work harder than others, which you can do at work, but there’s something about them that everyone pretty much agrees: “Wow, they are awesome at this.”

Now, if you have that at work, you’ll probably survive a few rounds of layoffs. At least.

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avatar Paul

In my case, I was the gogetter and the one solving problems…
But I was also the one most able to find other work in theory.

Though still looking after 3 months……. Im still doing better than the coworkers who followed me.

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