For most workers, maintaining employed status is a priority -- if, that is, they want to continue decadently enjoying a roof over their heads and free-flowing electricity.
Unfortunately, there's no inoculation that will permanently render one immune against the threat of downsizing. Short of owning the company, there's really nothing that guarantees continued employment, save for maybe digging up some dirt on the boss.
With blackmail off the table for logistical and ethical reasons, fireproofing your job can be a Sisyphean battle -- especially in uncertain economic times.
In fact, some employers are seizing the occasion of uncertainty to lay off unwanted workers. Recently, Plansponsor.com, a benefits adviser Web site to human resources professionals, took an informal survey of its newsletter readers and learned that 30 percent of the respondents' companies had used the recession as an excuse to trim off dead weight.
The survey results jibe with the observations of Dan Kilgore, a principal with Riviera Advisors, a human resources consulting firm.
"During good times when companies downsize, it's very visible, whereas now if you're not downsizing, you're looked at as kind of off. Some companies are very brazen about aggressively managing performance and continually manage poor performance out. Most are not -- they wait for a down time and lop off the bottom-performing 10 (percent) or 15 percent," he says.
When it's every business for itself, paring down the work force to the leanest and meanest could be the key to survival. That said, you can take some proactive measures to keep your career on track and your head off the chopping block when everyone else is losing theirs.
Fireproof your job:
- Work hard
- Don't be Chicken Little
- Cut costs
- Stay current in education and training
- Avoid not-my-job syndrome
Work hardIt may seem obvious, but when rumors of impending doom are spreading around the cube farm, it may not be the best time to be the office slacker.
Whether one's style of lagging productivity entails online shopping, leisurely reading the newspaper or just staring off into space, now is not a good time to waste time.
Putting in a couple of extra hours per week wouldn't hurt, either.
"If someone is a salaried employee, I would counsel them to work extra hours. Don't be clocking in and out on the hour," says Eric Winegardner, vice president of client adoption with the job site Monster.com. "If you are an hourly employee, you want to make sure that you are effectively using every hour that you are on the clock. Now is not the time to be killing time. Now is the time to be saying, 'What else can I help you with?'
"If people get that into their vocabulary and their routine, they may be surprised by the answer. A simple question could land you an amazing project right now, expand your responsibilities and, therefore, your importance in the organization," he says.