Your Job is in Jeopardy! What Can You Do to Save It?
Is your employer in financial trouble?
Being able to recognize the common symptoms of companies having financial difficulties can provide an advance warning of future layoffs and work-force consolidation.
Episode 17 - Your Job is in Jeopardy! What Can You Do to Save It?
Friends, it’s time to get real. Yes, we want to be positive and optimistic, but we also have to be realistic—especially with what’s going on with our economy. And right now, the current expectations for economic recovery, at least in the short term, are not great.
A couple of weeks ago, In episode 15, we talked about creating a Plan B, and making that plan not only a fall-back strategy but also a plan that incorporated personal and professional goals to advance your career and to move you from where you are to where you want to be.
Since that episode was released, I’ve received a ton of email from folks who have either lost their job or are facing the very real possibility of being laid off. Here are the core issues that have the majority of listeners worried: Even though I’m still working, how do I prepare if the worst happens? Is there anything I can do to show my boss I’m work keeping, and finally, where do we go from here?
Hey, welcome back. This is roger Reid with another episode of success point 360.
There’s a lot of people who have been affected professionally by the pandemic. Some have lost their jobs because the company they worked for has experienced a significant loss of business and the resulting reduction in cash flow has forced their employer to make cut-backs in personnel. So even though many of these people were doing an outstanding job for their employer prior to the pandemic, the economy has been so negatively impacted that the company no longer needs them, or can’t afford to pay them.
Either way, it’s a kick in the pocketbook.
And just because it hasn’t happened to you, there’s the on-going risk that it could. And what you do to prepare for it can make the difference in getting through this in a financially stable position, or losing a significant portion of your savings, your retirement, or other investment assets.
In this episode, I’ll try to cover your questions and concerns, especially the ones that were common to the majority. The most frequently asked question had to do with how to recognize the symptoms of a company in financial trouble. Lots of people wanting to know if there are any obvious signs that an organization is going to have to make reductions in their work-force.
The reason is obvious: If you recognize any of these warning signs, it can be an indication that your job is in jeopardy. And that means it’s time to prepare, to position yourself for a possible layoff, or a consolidation in the work-force.
And I want to widen the net on this one. Because there are lots of other reasons that can put you at the top of the list for termination. And I want to include those as well, because not all terminations over the next few months are going to be motivated exclusively by a downturn in the company’s business.
Because let’s face it, sometimes, the writing is on the wall. And the sooner you read it, the better off you’ll be in the long term. So whether you’re caught in a general layoff, or you’re singled out for termination because of a comment you made to the VP’s wife at the Christmas Party, recognizing the signs as early as possible is key to recovering your professional momentum.
Here’s the first symptom: You’re working for a small company that’s losing money fast. Financial liquidity is a necessity for any organization, but it’s especially vital for the smaller company, which may not have the cash reserves or credit lines of a Fortune 500. Restrictions on expenses, cut-backs on company perks and benefits, and termination of high-salaried “wonder boys,” are all indications of a company in trouble. And waiting for the company to go out of business – to go down with the ship – will decrease your leverage for re-employment, because you’ll need a job instead of being able to negotiate an offer with a new employer who in theory, wants to “steal you away from your current employer.” The old adage is still true: You’re never more professionally desirable than when you’re already employed.
Here’s the second symptom: You’re not getting along with your boss. I’m not talking about the occasional disagreement over procedure or process, or a decision you didn’t like. I’m referring to a relationship of total impasse, where you feel blocked at every turn, when it’s impossible to have a productive conversation or even a simple exchange of ideas. You’re always on your guard, and you’re sure your manager is going to hang you out to dry the first chance she gets.
But not wanting to give up your seniority and the positive relationships you’ve built with others, you hang to the idea that you can wait it out, hoping the boss will be transferred or fired.
Here’s the truth: You’re in a no-win situation. Trying to fight it, out-maneuver it, or outlast it, is wasting your time. Start looking for another job. And, if on the outside chance, senior management knows your boss is a problem and given the choice, would rather keep you and let him go, they’ll let you know after you submit your resignation. If you don’t hear from them, you’ve just received confirmation that you made the right decision.
The third symptom is common to so many of what I will characterize “good” employees. And that is, you continue to be passed over for promotion. Your work is great, and so are your annual evaluations. But despite your desire to move into higher levels of responsibility and compensation, the company continues to choose equally or even less qualified candidates for superior positions.
There are always subjective reasons for someone else receiving a promotion, we’re talking about a promotion that you believed belonged to you—could be, that personal relationship with the supervisor was stronger than yours, or they were owed a favor, or the company has been secretly grooming them for a higher management position in the long term. But why it happens isn’t near as important as the fact that it continues to happen. Being passed over when others in the same position continue to receive promotions is a sign that someone wants to keep you right where you are. It might have been nothing more than an innocent comment taken the wrong way, or a customer who believes they were mistreated or slighted by you or your actions and they’ve retaliated with a constant flow of complaints. The point is, you may never know the real reason, but if middle or upper-level management is your goal, and you’ve been ignored for five years or more, it may be time to consider alternative employment.
The fourth symptom is intentional and organized professional poisoning: If your last job evaluation was fabricated to falsely substantiate sub-standard performance, you’ve received a definite indication you’re being managed out. If you’ve been set up for failure with an impossible to meet quota or some other benchmark, which has resulted in the company fabricating a record of poor performance with negative reviews, you need to realize that your employer is compiling the information they need to substantiate their decision to show you the door, usually sometime six to eight months after your first sub-standard performance review.
And if you receive two negative evaluations in a row, you’re as good as gone, and no amount of reminding the company about your past stellar performance is going to change their mind. There could be all sorts of reasons why the company wants to fire you—they can replace you with a less expensive newbie, or maybe they don’t like the amount of time you’re spending on personal projects, phone calls, or managing your investments,—but regardless of the reason, as soon as you realize you’re no longer in the company’s good graces, your time should be refocused on making your transition to another employer.
Before we get into the specifics of building a contingency plan, I want to address the question of what you can do to improve your chances of keeping your job. And in doing this, I’m going to assume that your employer has the financial ability to continue to pay you. If that’s your situation, there is an approach you can take to your work that can often raise your value in the eye of your employer. It’s simple, it’s straightforward, but so few employees ever try it. Here it is: Even though you’re an employee, adopt the mindset of an entrepreneur, and consider the company you work for as your first client. What do you see that needs improvement? What could you do, what suggestions could you make that would improve sales, or profits, or reduce costs? Looking at your job from a more objective perspective can provide a lot of added value that can produce recognition and reward. And part of that reward could be that you get to keep your job.
Let’s talk about creating a contingency plan. If you listened to the previous episode on building a plan B, that’s great. This will be a little different, as we’re going to focus on how to handle the impact of losing your job in the short term.
I want to preface what I’m going to say with this: I’ve known too many hard-working, well-intentioned employees who believed the company “would take care of them,” only to find themselves caught up in layoffs and takeovers. Maybe they received severance pay, maybe not. But many of them believed their seniority or job status made them “bullet-proof,” and it left them financially unprepared when they lost their sole source of income.
One of the safest assumptions you can make is that your income is going to stop, not if you lose your job, but when you lose it. If you believe your intelligence, professional or personal relationships, or your past performance, or future potential will grant you immunity from termination, listen carefully: Regardless of your seniority, longevity, or past performance with your current employer, you are always two weeks away from needing a job. Whether it results from a takeover or reorganization, or you get stabbed in the back by a co-worker, it can happen with very little warning. Your best defense is simply being prepared by having a game-plan that you can implement when the first salvo hits.
And before we go on, I want to acknowledge those who are shaking their head, fully convinced I’m wrong and saying, “That may be the way it is at some companies, but the one I work for would never treat its people that way.”
I’ll admit this may be difficult for a younger, or less experienced employee to fully understand. But trying to dismiss the economic reality of working for someone else by simple denial will not change the company’s responsibility to maximize bottom line profits while taking steps to ensure the company’s doors remain open for the next ten, twenty, or fifty years.
If you still doubt the relationship between being an employee and being expendable, ask yourself this: If you owned the company, wouldn’t you adopt the same attitude, to protect the financial investment it took you years to build? If your answer is no, congratulations. You’re a great human being and an asset to the planet. But a completely altruistic attitude is just not economically practical, and if you continue to ignore that fact, you’ll be left frantic and desperate on the day you’re told to turn in your employee ID and clean out your desk.
And I know some of you are saying, “But wait, there must be exceptions, right?” We read all the time about companies that provide child care, free meals, commuting transportation, gym memberships, mental health counseling, and all sorts of other employee benefits. These are the companies often show up in lists as being the very best places to work, because they are supposedly building a reputation for being employee-centered.
Here’s the reality: All aspects of the relationship you have with your employer is based on money, on the bottom line.
For example, when times are good—when the money is rolling in and profits are strong—all those great benefits are easy to rationalize, and more important, they can be funded as a small percentage of overall costs.
But when sales are down and cash-flow is tight, or when the industry is in a downturn, the organization is going to revert to survival mode and start looking for ways to cut costs and expenses.
And unfortunately, one of those expenses could be your salary.
Let’s come back to the subject, and review some of the most important actions you can take to prepare for a sudden career disruption.
Number one: The most important thing you can do, is to keep a comfortable cash reserve. This is money you set aside and designate to take care of your on-going expenses in the event you lose your job. Make this your first financial priority, and that means having a sufficient cash reserve in the bank before buying a new car, installing a swimming pool, or taking the family on a cruise.
Start out by setting a realistic target amount. There’s an old adage that estimates the amount of time necessary to replace a job is based on one month for every ten thousand dollars in compensation. That’s a huge generalization, but it is a place to start. For example, if your current salary is 100 thousand dollars annually, total up your household expenses and multiply the number by ten. That’s your savings goal. And you should fund this account right along with your retirement/investment contributions.
Keep in mind that one of the big variables affecting the amount of time that can be required to replace your job is the overall health of your industry. If you’re in a growth industry and lose your job, you’ll typically find a replacement position much sooner.
But if there is a general downturn in your industry, there’ll be more competition and less opportunity, which translates into a longer job search and the need for a larger financial cushion.
Number two: Stay on friendly terms with the competition. Staying current with the competition’s expansion plans, new product offerings, and shifts in the workforce can translate into new job opportunities. Always maintain a professional relationship with the competition’s managers and staff. It can easily cut your job search time half.
Big question: Does courteous and respectful communication with the competition smack of collusion?
In a word, No. I call it enlightened self-protection. Competition is a given. And rather than demonize the competition as the enemy, consider them as nothing more than other companies within the same industry selling similar products and services. The possibility that someday you may need to approach them for a job is a good reason to keep your options and your ears open.
The third suggestion I want to offer, and I really have to call this a rule when contemplating a job transition, is to practice the motto: Silence is golden.
This means you’ve seen the writing on the wall, there’s real evidence or at least a strong indication that your job is in jeopardy. So you begin a search for a new position, and you do it secretly, while you’re still employed –which as I said a few minutes ago, gives you a lot more leverage than trying to sell yourself as an unemployed job seeker.
Silence is golden simply means never revealing your plan or intention to leave your current employer to anyone associated with the company. And that includes everyone from the maintenance guys who take care of the building and grounds, to the UPS gal. And don’t forget about the customers and suppliers, and anyone else who knows who you work for. Casually mentioning that you’re looking for other opportunities can have the same effect as making an announcement directly to the boss. Don’t force your supervisor to give you immediate notice because she finds out you’re making plans to leave.
I’ll bring things to a close with this: The pandemic has most of us facing a real economic challenge. And the worst part is the uncertainty. We don’t know how long this situation is going to last. Our leaders are fumbling around with political and partisan driven suggestions that change from day to day. And the people who are supposed to have a handle on these kinds of things can’t give us anything more specific than to tell us that a vaccine is in the works, and maybe, before the end of the year, there will be an effective counteragent that will allow us to get back to some degree of normalcy. Until then, all we can do is take care of each other. Be more courteous, tolerant, and patient with everyone you encounter. Wear a mask when you do out, if not for your protection, for others. By taking just a few precautions, you can contribute to being part of the solution.
I hope I’ve covered most if not all the questions and concerns that were generated from the Plan B episode. If not, you know the routine: You can leave a voicemail at https://successpoint360.com – just look for the link in the header on the home page. Or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s it for this episode. Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next time.
© 2020, Roger A. Reid