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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 06-Sep-06


Wednesday 06-September-06

Job threat

Not so long ago, my job was under threat. There were big cost cuts and the axe was hanging by a thread. This had happened around six times across a number of years, which may seem like a lot or not much to you, depending on where you have been. Working in change as I do, it is par for the course.

A big question for many people faced with the axe is what to do. Do you put your head on the block with dignity? Do you kick, scream and fight every inch of the way? Can you negotiate your way out of trouble?

The kicking and screaming approach is usually more likely to hasten your departure unless you have some real power. Empty emotional outbursts lead to being classified negatively and you can easily lose any credibility you once had. If you have to go, don't burn your bridges: one day soon you may need a glowing reference.

If you do have power (and most of us have much more than we realize), then you can optimize your chances with a more rational method. Organized resistance can help, but if you are trying to turn back the tide, you risk drowning. Friends in high places can be helpful and, even if you do not pull on this chain, when the shortlist of who is to stay or go is drawn up, others who remember this may cautiously stay their hand when they come to your name.

I have faced redundancy several times and use the best method possible: I demonstrate my worth--not only on when the cuts appear but on an ongoing basis. I prefer to be a part of the change rather than a target of change.

Although I will stick my neck out when I think it worthwhile, I take measured risks with my career, seeking jobs where I can develop broad skills and add unique value. It is hard work but pays off. Long ago, I found that being an ordinary soldier also meant that one day you would be undifferentiated cannon fodder. You cannot hide in the crowd forever.

Another area on which I work is trust. In times of threat, everyone wants to know: who can I trust? Over the long term there are no short-cuts here and people will trust most those from whom they have good evidence of reliability, honesty and real concern. There is no escaping the power of integrity (which is nice, because I like it anyway).

Hedging your bets further can be a good idea, especially when your job is threatened. I do this first by actively maintaining a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. When I have lost my job in the past, I found work through this group. I also sustain an external reputation, for example giving institutional seminars and through my writings. A further hedge is in ongoing study, which I have turned from a chore into a passion.

It can also be a good idea to look at the current job market. If you have financial commitments and your job is threatened, it is better to have the job-hunting process well under way than suffer a longer money vacuum between losing one job and getting the next. Nowadays I play the long game, but in the past I have jumped before I was pushed.

In the end, there is nothing as certain and unchanging as uncertainty and change (as I believe JFK said), which can include losing your job through no fault of your own. Another quote: to fail to prepare is to prepare to fail. If you do not sustain your ability to work elsewhere, you risk a sudden and long fall.

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