Categorized | Workplace

Becoming Layoff Proof

Posted on 21 December 2008

Protect yourself from the cutback curse.

By now, even a successful career professional may pose an internal question: Am I layoff-proof? Recently, economic woes prompted a 25 percent increase in unemployment insurance claims in the first quarter, with 4,500 major layoff announcements resulting in the loss of nearly 545,000 jobs.

While no one is bulletproof, you can take steps to both forecast office downsizing and protect yourself–and monitor your situation for possible discrimination, whether it be age, sex or racially based.

To find out more, I talked with employment attorney John Rapoport, author of The Employee Strikes Back, (Wellington Press). A lawyer for more than 24 years, Rapoport believes workers must prepare as soon as even a hint of rumors surface. Here’s his advice:

Be well aware that discrimination is hardly a thing of the past–especially age discrimination.

Danger Ahead?
Know the trouble signs. A lightened load may be a bad thing: “The signs are there if you look. The closed-door meetings increase, as do the worried looks and seemingly inane questions from managers. Beware the non-review season review discussions with your boss. Watch out for shifts in job responsibilities that appear to lessen your workload or make your job easier–they often mean your job will soon be gone.

“On the subtle side, does your boss avoid you, but speak to others more now than before? Did you suddenly make the list of employees who can’t please the boss no matter what? If so, grab all of those free sodas while you’re still around.”

Conduct regular, honest self-appraisals. How good are you anyway?: “The first day on the job is a good time to start. Put yourself and your peers in the same picture. Who is working smarter? Producing more results? Going the extra mile for the company? Who is on time? Who anticipates the needs of the company and the boss? Remember, you can always wait for the boss to tell you when you’re not up to par. But the boss will tell you when it’s too late.”

Discrimination & Other Concerns
Be well aware that discrimination is hardly a thing of the past – especially age discrimination: “While race and sex get more attention, the EEOC statistics show that there are plenty of age discrimination complaints filed each year–more than 16,000 now. Older employees are the greatest risk category twice because they are more likely to be fired and least likely to be hired later on. Beware the manager who cries ‘diversity, diversity, diversity!’ but really doesn’t much like older people, blacks, Hispanics or–you fill in the blank.”

To avoid becoming a discrimination victim, consider a quiet survey:

“A good set of eyes and a working brain are all you need. Look at the new hires. What do you notice? How about the people being terminated or laid off? Do they share common traits? If they do, you may be on to something that could save your job and change your workplace, if raised early enough. Or it could make you a former employee with a bigger severance package.

Once you develop the profile and see a pattern of behavior, then you need to gather as much information as you can to protect yourself. Document who gets the raises, the promotions, the better assignments – even the most pats on the back and kicks in the rear. Do it quietly and you’ll fall out of favor with no one. Do it effectively, and you may find that you have real negotiating leverage when you are introduced to the ax.”

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