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: 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? rbrentsJZtpOZGsIJMkEiner@ChaczidWbtVPWlylMxSuoCanyon.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:

Blaming and being blamedIs It Blame or Is It Accountability?
When we seek those accountable for a particular failure, we risk blaming them instead, because many of us confuse accountability with blame. What's the difference between them? How can we keep blame at bay?
President Richard Nixon resignsObstructionist Tactics: I
Teams and groups depend for their success on highly effective cooperation between their members. If even one person is unable or unwilling to cooperate, the team's performance is limited. What tactics do obstructors use?
The reverse side of the U.S. quarter dollar coin issued in 2000, honoring the state of New HampsireHow to Undermine Your Boss
Ever since I wrote "How to Undermine Your Subordinates," I've received scads of requests for "How to Undermine Your Boss." Must be a lot of unhappy subordinates out there. Well, this one's for you.
Navy vs. Marine Corps tug of war in Vera Cruz, Mexico ca. 1910-1915Holding Back: I
When members of teams or groups hold back their efforts toward achieving group goals, schedule and budget problems can arise, along with frustration and destructive intra-group conflict. What causes this behavior?
September 11, 2001 attacks in New York CityLook Where You Aren't Looking
Being blindsided by an adverse event could indicate the event's sudden, unexpected development. It can also indicate a failure to anticipate what could have been reasonably anticipated. How can we improve our ability to prepare for adverse events?

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

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Children playing a computer gameComing July 18: High Falutin' Goofy Talk: III
Workplace speech and writing sometimes strays into the land of pretentious but overused business phrases, which I like to call high falutin' goofy talk. We use these phrases with perhaps less thought than they deserve, because they can be trite or can evoke indecorous images. Here's Part III of a collection of phrases and images to avoid. Available here and by RSS on July 18.
Office equipment — or is it office toys?And on July 25: Exploiting Functional Fixedness: II
A cognitive bias called functional fixedness causes difficulty in recognizing new uses for familiar things. It also makes for difficulty in recognizing devious uses of everyday behaviors. Here's Part II of a catalog of deviousness based on functional fixedness. Available here and by RSS on July 25.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenlnLJxUWOhYuXJZDKner@ChacgeugZFkrPxfPVciUoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, 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

The Race to the South Pole: The Power of Agile Development
On 14The Race to the Pole: An Application of Agile Development 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. Lessons abound. Among the more important lessons are those that demonstrate the power of the agile approach to project management and product development. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about 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.

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.