Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 9, Issue 6;   February 11, 2009: How to Avoid a Layoff: Your Situation

How to Avoid a Layoff: Your Situation

by

These are troubled economic times. Layoffs are becoming increasingly common. Here are some tips for positioning yourself in the organization to reduce the chances that you will be laid off.
A collared lizard

A collared lizard in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona. Most lizards can drop their tails as a defensive maneuver. If a predator has grabbed the tail, the advantage of shedding it is clear. But tail-shedding usually results in distraction of the predator, which can be advantageous even when the predator hasn't grabbed the tail. Shedding a tail is an expensive maneuver, and can result in lower social status and competitive disadvantages. Perhaps these phenomena explain why collared lizards so rarely shed their tails.

Troubled corporations sometimes engage in analogous behavior, selling off parts of themselves to raise cash. Usually we think of these maneuvers as signs of trouble, but selling a business to a competitor can do more than raise cash: it can distract the acquiring competitor as well, providing the seller with the time it might need to reconfigure itself to compete more effectively. This is yet another reason why positioning yourself in the most central parts of your company can be so advantageous. Photo by Marge Post, courtesy U.S. National Park Service.

These are unusual times — few of us have ever seen anything like this. You have a job now, but you're concerned about possible layoffs, and you want to reduce the chances of being laid off. Many career strategies of long standing no longer apply. For instance, a job with room for advancement might have been attractive a year ago, but a very secure job might be more attractive now.

To keep your job, when many others are losing theirs, recognize first that you aren't the only one thinking this way. Many of your colleagues are hitting Google looking for "how to avoid a layoff." Many are already applying what they've learned.

We've already examined tactics for stabilizing your own frame of mind and strengthening your relationships. Here are some tips for enhancing your relationship to the organization.

Be irreplaceable
Normally, being irreplaceable is undesirable, because it reduces the chances of promotion. These aren't normal times. Hang on to assignments that put you in positions the organization cares most about. Strategic importance is less critical than tactical importance.
Work in the most important business unit
If things get really bad, entire units — divisions, product lines, locations, subsidiaries — will be sold or closed. Being an irreplaceable part of one of those units won't matter.
Work in a stable line of business
Some companies serve multiple markets. The more stable the market, the safer you are. For instance, in advertising, serving the automotive market is riskier than serving health care.
Skill up
Acquire any skills, knowledge, or experience that would enable you to take on some of the responsibilities of a co-worker. If you already have such skills, make certain that the right people know. These skills will enable you to take on the duties of that co-worker after the layoff. Not having them makes you more eligible for layoff than someone else who has both those skills and yours.
Tactfully decline re-assignment
Unless a re-assignment puts you in a more secure position, you'll be the newbie when you get there. Newbies are more vulnerable to layoffs.
Hang on to assignments
that put you in positions
the organization cares
most about
Be alert to high-level personnel changes
Any change in personnel in your upward report chain could be significant for you. When you hear of a change or potential change, learn why it might be happening and what the consequences might be. Prepare yourself.
Set Google alerts on your company and your report chain
Google alerts can provide information about conditions and rumors long before any concrete events, by automatically sending you email when Google finds a hit that matches a search string you define. You can specialize to news. By setting alerts for your organization name and the names of people in your report chain, you can be tuned in to changes that might affect your position.

There are no guarantees — layoffs might eventually affect you. What to do then? A topic for another time. First in this series  Go to top Top  Next issue: Four Popular Ways to Mismanage Layoffs: Part I  Next Issue

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenqOiTrtLceKMTofwxner@ChacfKKEeoiUUlxKcXOhoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Workplace Politics:

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin PowellDevious Political Tactics: A Field Manual
Some practitioners of workplace politics use an assortment of devious tactics to accomplish their ends. Since most of us operate in a fairly straightforward manner, the devious among us gain unfair advantage. Here are some of their techniques, and some suggestions for effective responses.
Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud and an early pioneer in the field of Public RelationsCommunication Traps for Virtual Teams: Part I
Virtual teams encounter difficulties that rarely confront face-to-face teams. What special challenges do they face, and what can we do about them?
David Addington, John Yoo, and Chris Schroeder testify before the U.S. House Judiciary CommitteeKinds of Organizational Authority: the Formal
A clear understanding of Power, Authority, and Influence depends on familiarity with the kinds of authority found in organizations. Here's Part I of a little catalog of authority classes.
William Tecumseh Sherman as a major general in May 1865On Badly Written Email
Even those who aren't great writers do occasionally write clearly, just by chance. But there are some who consistently produce unintelligible email messages. Why does this happen?
A dead Manchurian AshWorkplace Politics and Type III Errors
Most job descriptions contain few references to political effectiveness, beyond the fairly standard collaborate-to-achieve-results kinds of requirements. But because true achievement often requires political sophistication, understanding the political content of our jobs is important.

See also Workplace Politics and Managing Your Boss for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

kudzu enveloping a Mississippi landscapeComing April 5: Listening to Ramblers
Ramblers are people who can't get to the point. They ramble, they get lost in detail, and listeners can't follow their logic, if there is any. How can you deal with ramblers while maintaining civility and decorum? Available here and by RSS on April 5.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2016And on April 12: How to Listen to Someone Who's Dead Wrong
Sometimes we must listen attentively to someone with whom we strongly disagree. The urge to interrupt can be overpowering. How can we maintain enough self-control to really listen? Available here and by RSS on April 12.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenwymVaEIKpOxXUHAEner@ChacEDIGpxEFzTiyLqecoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

Changing How We Change: The Essence of Agility
MasteChanging How We Change: The Essence of Agilityry of the ability to adapt to unpredictable and changing circumstances is one way of understanding the success of Agile methodologies for product development. Applying the principles of Change Mastery, we can provide the analogous benefits in a larger arena. By exploring strategies and tactics for enhancing both the resilience and adaptability of projects and portfolios, we show why agile methodologies are so powerful, and how to extend them beyond product development to efforts of all kinds. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Creating High Performance Virtual Teams
Many Creating High Performance Virtual Teamspeople experience virtual teams as awkward, slow, and sometimes frustrating. Even when most team members hail from the same nation or culture, and even when they all speak the same language, geographic dispersion or the presence of employees from multiple enterprises is often enough to exclude all possibility of high performance. The problem is that we lead, manage, and support virtual teams in ways that are too much like the way we lead, manage, and support co-located teams. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you how to change your approach to leading, managing, and supporting virtual teams to achieve high performance using Simons' Four Spans model of high performance. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
On 14The Race to the Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
Please donate!The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
21st Century Business TravelAre your business trips long chains of stressful misadventures? Have you ever wondered if there's a better way to get from here to there relaxed and refreshed? First class travel is one alternative, but you can do almost as well (without the high costs) if you know the tricks of the masters of 21st-century e-enabled business travel…

Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics!
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
My free weekly email newsletter gives concrete tips and suggestions for dealing with the challenging but everyday situations we all face.
A Tip A DayA Tip a Day arrives by email, or by RSS Feed, each business day. It's 20 to 30 words at most, and gives you a new perspective on the hassles and rewards of work life. Most tips also contain links to related articles. Free!
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.