Dave Ramsey at SHRM 2009 - A Sign of Life...
Should Incentives Be Used If You Aren't Ready to Fire Someone?

Want to Keep the Job and Maybe Get Promoted? Don't Be A Victim...

Seems like the recession is bottoming out and the economy seems to be turning a bit.  Good news, yet I still have friends who are employed, but worried that their company's struggles may mean they'll be let go before the recovery is in full force.

My advice to them is always the same.  Don't be a victim.  Don't be a turtle and retract into your shell until Whineethe danger has passed.  Be proactive, add value others can't, and find the elusive sweet spot in communicating the fact that you're different.  Over communicate it, and you appear needy.  Under communicate it, and you don't market the good stuff you're bringing to the table that others aren't.

Tim Sanders frames it in similar terms, but adds good advice by saying that the best way to lose your job is to be emotionally unattractive.  From Sanders Says:

"Don't be emotionally unattractive.   That's right, be part of the solution (recovery) instead of identifying with the problem (recession).  If you think that layoffs are corporate roulette, where anyone can get whacked -- you are dead wrong.  Layoffs are done by emotional people, not computers. They are often like a prison riot on steroids: All debts get settled. 

When you whine, wring your hands and commiserate about how bad things are, you are raising your hand as if to say, "pick me for the next big layoff!"
Believe it or not, the #1 factor influencing layoffs is your attitude/vibe/outlook.  There is not, as of yet, good behavioral data on this round of layoffs, but the last recession offers some great insight.  In 2003, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas surveyed companies that underwent massive reductions in force.  Based on feedback from managers and executives, the study concluded that "people that are not liked by someone in authority are always the first to go when business conditions become unfavorable. It's not enough to do a good job. You have to find ways to incorporate your likability factors in the eyes of your employer." 
There's no whining in recessions.  At least if you want to keep the job.  Perspective below (warning, some language)...


Creative Chaos Consultant

Good post Kris. It's important at any point in one's career to show why you should be given the best opportunities. In this economic climate, that may be something as humbling as not being laid off. When business turns around it could mean bigger and better things.

My only concern is that when managers are making employment decisions against "people that are not liked" they're being discriminatory. Those responsible for reviewing and authorizing these decisions need to make sure that they're fair and justifiable. Also, thanks to the Lilly Ledbetter Act and similar legislation, these decisions need to be recorded and maintained over the long term.

Tanya Barham

I agree with Creative Chaos that terminations should be well documented and not discriminatory but the truth is that poor fit is not good for the employee or the employer. If there is a recession going on and I have two employees with identical skill sets but one sits in a state of paralysis and complains about how nothing can be done while the other says, "Well as long as I have this job I am going to do SOMETHING." and looks for opportunity where our competitors see nothing but roadblocks then I am keeping employee number two.

Working with principled, scrupulous and pragmatic optimists is a choice that I know many CEOs make. I'd rather hire a trainable, ethical idealist any day over a glum, clock puncher. I'm sure there are exceptions to the rule, but in general that is my inclination.

Jenna Schofield

I agree, Tanya. It's easy to make the argument that someone who is flexible and able to adapt to changing situations is a better cultural fit--which is going to improve morale and productivity. In addition, for many jobs, these are competencies that job-related and impact performance. It's about having the right type of person--most skills or responsibilities are trainable. And while I don't condone discrimination, I am inclined to believe that it's best to do away with the employee who drags the team down as a whole.

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