How to keep your job in a crisis
When the going gets tough, the tough get indispensable. Here's how to hang onto your job in a crisis.
For most of us, this financial crisis goes beyond switching to one ply and Ricoffy. With budget cuts and retrenchments the order of the day, we’re all worried about our jobs. Unfortunately, there’s no Magic Retrenchment-Proof Formula, but there are steps you can take to remain a top performer – and stay off the Downsize To-Do List.
1. Keep your head
With chaos, uncertainty and panic lurking just below the refined surface, being reliable counts. ‘The most indispensable workers are those who handle themselves best in times of turmoil,’ says Jill Hamlyn, MD of The People Business Group. The key? Keep your word and be efficient and professional at all times. The pressure – and urge to overpromise – is on, but remain level-headed.
2. The 10% rule
‘Most people believe that if you give an extra 10%, you’re doing the company a “favour”, but giving that extra 10% actually serves you best,’ says Hamlyn. ‘By doing a little extra, you’ll be more confident in negotiations when promotion time comes around. It’s about taking control,’ she says. ‘Ask yourself ”what can I do to improve the situation?”.’ Doing the little things to the best of your abilities adds up, even if the payoff isn’t immediate.’
3. Stay motivated
Morale is low, but it’s important to exude as much positivity as you can muster. According to Hamlyn, 50% of motivation is internally-driven – and it’s important to remain switched on. ‘You can fight and scream about the situation, but it won’t help. The only resource you really have is you and your ability to think things through and not wallow in concern.’ Even if you were to be retrenched, remaining motivated and positive will go a long way to help you move on.
4. Understand the context
When renegotiating contracts, put off asking for an exorbitant raise or perks, but ensure your boss understands that you expect the benefits accrued to you when the economy picks up. ‘You have to be practical and understand the big picture. It doesn’t make sense to think “I’m going to take as much from the budget as possible”,’ says Hamlyn. ‘Wait for the right time.’ If there’s a good chance you might lose your job and won’t be able to find another position – and if it’s financially tenable – volunteer to take a pay cut. Your sacrifices will pay off later. ‘It shows your maturity. And you deserve the company’s respect.’
5. Be a true leader
If you manage a department that is or will be affected by downsizing, the best strategy is to communicate well. ‘It isn’t just about keeping everyone informed – you also have to discuss how they feel about it and how it affects them. Give them the facts, get their reaction and let them know their opinions matter.’
Hamlyn suggests workshopping the downsizing process with your team – you might all come up with some cost-cutting solutions. You don’t have to wear a manager’s badge or have a corner office to lead. If there’s a leadership vacuum, step in and discuss the issues with your colleagues, who might feel uncertain or vulnerable. ‘But be careful not to throw a pity party ... Instead of creating a forum for complaints, discuss the concerns and try to come up with a plan,’ says Hamlyn.
6. Prepare to be imbalanced
... at least for a little while. If 20% of your department is laid off, chances are the rest of you will have to pick up the slack. ‘If you were on a battlefield during a war, would you take a break? You should be prepared to give up a little balance for a while, but you will get it back. When there’s a threat, everyone needs to take different actions, adapt to the circumstances, and be flexible – but don’t be a doormat,’ says Hamlyn.
7. Keep learning
Being multi-skilled will be to your advantage, so take on tasks and learn as much as possible. Resolve to learn something new about your company, sector or job every day – whether through interacting with colleagues or researching. Budgets are tight but, where possible, take the initiative to find out about and attend relevant workshops or courses. This could save your job! ‘It’s at times like these that great people come to the fore,’ says Hamlyn. And when managers must have a slim team, they want the best team.