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.