Sunday, December 07, 2008

Bad words are being used, like recession, downsizing, and fudge

When I heard the news, I said, "Fuuuuuuuuuudge." Except I didn't say fudge. Over the past few days, I’ve found out that several acquaintances have been victims of the dreaded “D” word – downsized. It has really, really, bothered me all weekend, thinking of the situation these families are suddenly in.

These people were the main breadwinners of their family. They have kids, homes, mortgages, and normal lives just like us. Except now they are suddenly unemployed.

These are not people you would expect to be downsized. Their jobs were what we would call “stable”. One was in management and had worked at his company for many, many years – certainly not low person on the totem pole.

So what can we do to protect ourselves in this kind of economy? Sometimes it’s out of the employee’s control, so it’s extra important to make sure you take charge of the things you can control. Some of which are:
  • Have a great attitude about your job. It’s much easier for an employer to let an employee go who has a negative attitude and is bringing down the rest of the team.
  • Make yourself critical to the day-to-day operations of the company. Do you bring the knowledge and skills that would be almost impossible for the company to do without? Let’s say your company produces widgets. There are employees who know how to run the machine that makes the widgets, there are salespeople who sell the widgets, there is the owner of the company, and there are some other people who oversee the operation. Lastly, there are some who just complain about how much they hate their job and hang around trying to do as little work as possible. So when downsize occurs, who gets to keep their job? The critical people of this particular company are the people who know how to run the machines that make the widgets, the people who sell the widgets, and the owner. It won’t be much of a loss to get rid of the people who whine and complain. The “oversee-ers” don’t know how to run the machines to make the widgets and they don’t have the skills to sell, so they aren’t critical either. So the point is – make yourself critical. And fast!
  • Always be in learning mode. If your employer is looking to cut positions, they will keep the employees who have a proven record for being willing to learn new skills.
  • Be willing to take a cut in pay or benefits. The only place I’ve heard this happening is with the government, but I suppose it could happen in regular businesses as well. What would you rather do – take a day without pay or take forever without pay?
And here are a few things you should NOT do:
  • Don’t assume you are safe from layoffs. As I mentioned above, the people I know who have been downsized were not expected at all.
  • Don’t assume that because you are in “management”, you are safe. This especially applies if you are in middle management. Quite often those people are the first to go.
  • Don’t be unprepared. If you were suddenly without your paycheck, how long could you pay your bills? Six months? Three months? Even less than that?
Hang on, friends, because it's going to be a rough ride. Be important, be skilled, and be prepared.