Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Laying Low When They're Laying Off

The natural inclination of executives during a layoff is to stay as far below the radar as possible.

Ironically, this will only get them fired faster.

When Bill, an executive with Union Carbide Corporation, inadvertently found out he was going to be fired after Dow Chemical acquired them, he made a point of not showing up at the office on the day that both his boss and the head of HR were scheduled to be in the building at the same time.

His invisibility routine went on for several weeks. It wasn’t until the company scheduled a bogus out of office appointment for his boss that Bill went to work and was led to the inevitable termination meeting.

Bill’s actions at that time actually bought him some more time and money. This mini-sitcom went on when email, mail or phone terminations just weren’t done. In today’s wired world, Bill wouldn’t have to show up to be fired. He’d get the message even if he was holed up in a cave.

So what’s your best strategy when layoffs are in the air?

Well, it’s not laying low and making yourself scarce … that only reinforces a lack of value to the company. And while you can’t “fire-proof” any job, these four techniques can improve your chances of remaining on the payroll.

Be Visible…

Make sure you’re working on what’s important to your employer. If you’re not, figure out how to … be up front and vocal about it. It’s a lot harder to get rid of someone whose work directly contributes to the ongoing success of the company than it is to get rid of “What’s his name down the hall?”

Impress the Right People…

In spite of what they tell you, not everyone is equal. Spend some time drawing relationship maps of the key players in your universe. Then dedicate the effort needed to ensure you’re on their radar screen. Get them to understand your value and appreciate your efforts. It’s a fact … life is not always fair. It’s easier to fire someone you barely know than someone whom you’ve built a solid relationship with.

Manage your Boss…

In times of layoffs, most bosses are told what percentage of headcount they need to reduce. No matter what you think of them, recognize that it is 100% your responsibility to effectively manage the relationship with your boss so that they see you as a “keeper.” (When Your Boss Is The CBO)

Know How Others View you…

Feedback, feedback, feedback! Get it, encourage it and live by it. (Moles Are Good For Your Career) No expression in corporate America holds more validity than perception equals reality. What others think of you often dictates not only your level of success, but the strength of your staying power.

So if layoffs are looming, keep your career in focus … increase your contributions … ensure your boss is happy … expand your visibility. And when the axe man cometh, you just might keep your head off the chopping block.

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