Did any of those things run through your head? If so, here’s a reality check.
It was your fault. You could have taken steps to reduce your odds of being laid off. Before you get too defensive, bear with me for a little bit.
Revision Note: This type of post is very exciting to me because the conversation continued in comments and depth was added to the discussion – even to the point of changing my post. After exchanging comments with readers and thinking about this a little bit more, I revised the posts’ wording for clarification (note the x’d off words) and want to add this post was written under a couple of assumptions that have a great deal of bearing on the content:
1) You want to keep your job.
2) You work for an ethical company and boss.
I was reading this post by Robyn from Who’s the Boss? blog. She very tactfully lays out questions for you to ask yourself to determine if you are at risk for a layoff. Turn those questions into statements and you find out
why getting laid off was your fault if there are things you can do to improve your chances of surviving a lay off.
- It wasn’t my fault – it was the economy. Really? Were you a key player? Were you adding value to the firm? Were you providing solutions and creative thinking? Did the future vision of the firm include you as a cornerstone employee? What extra something did you provide that set you apart from other employees?
- It wasn’t my fault – they just don’t need a typewriter repair person anymore (replace with any obsolete skill set). Well, no kidding! Were you keeping up with current technology? Were you taking classes to transition to meet the company’s latest needs? Or were you
sitting on your butt with tunnel visionunaware of how the world was changing around you?
- It wasn’t my fault – that guy has always had it out for me. Huh. Did he have it out for everyone? If not, then why you? What did you do to rub him the wrong way or put him on the defense? Were you actively cultivating a solid relationship with your coworkers? Were you participating in the social functions? Asking others out to lunch? Did you try to discuss the conflict with the person to find a solution? Did you give him an opening to air his grievances?
By the way, subtlety such as sitting next to someone in a meeting is not giving him an opening to air greivances. An opening would be going to lunch or coffee and saying something along the lines of “I feel like there may be some tension between us. I value our working relationship or your expertise and guidance or insert what is appropriate for your situation and am hoping we can work through this. I would appreciate any insight you have into things that I do that could use improvement or may be irritating you.”
I realize that for those of you that have been laid off, this post may be just a bit too truthful – just a bit too raw or direct or harsh. But here’s the truth under most circumstances:
Rarely, if ever, is a person selected for a layoff due to workload or economic reasons. Workload or the economy is rarely the reason why one person was selected to be let go over another person. Yes, a company may need to make some cuts – but why they choose one person over another is almost always because they are not performing, there’s a personality conflict, or they are pigeon holed and that niche isn’t needed any more.
All of these are within your control, and – here’s the kicker – you need to position yourself to survive a lay off before a lay off is pending. Conveniently, the same characteristics that will help you survive a lay off are also the ones that will increase your promotion potential and your overall career success – so no matter what your company’s circumstances – you’d be best served by paying attention to Robyn’s questions.
By the way, I was laid off in May. I’ve been there. I get it. And, at the end of the day, it was my fault.
1) It was my fault for not actively cultivating relationships with the few powers-that-be that weren’t my supporters. I used the convenient excuse of “not being a brown-noser” but corporate politics exist and you need to learn the skills necessary to swim in those waters.
2) It was my fault I didn’t find and cultivate a talent or skill that provided unique value to the organization. Oh, I had plenty of unique skills and talents, I just hadn’t done a very good job convincing the powers-that-be of their value.
There were plenty of other ways it was my fault and it really serves no purpose for me to outline them all here, because I did not actively position my self to survive a layoff, and to be honest am very glad of the separation with my old employer; however, ultimately the mistakes I made (primarily allowing personality conflicts to linger) are not the same ones you made (or are making). However, we can both move forward with the same strategy:
- Take a hard look at yourself.
- Eliminate excuses – don’t allow yourself to think of reasons why anything or anyone else is at fault. You are not a victim and can’t allow yourself to think of yourself as one.
- Identify what you are doing wrong, what’s putting you on the front lines of people to cut – they don’t have to be fatal flaws, but areas with room for improvement count too.
- Figure out what you can do to
put things back on the right track.move yourself from the fringe to the core of valued employees.
- Develop metrics – how will you know you’re improving? Were you assigned to lead a team? Did someone invite you to lunch or a meeting? It will vary depending on your situation, but identify your end goal and tangible ways you’ll know you’re making progress.
- Do it!
- Check in periodically (monthly at a minimum) and hold yourself accountable for taking proactive steps to changing.
- Be open to changing your goals or tactics – course correct.
- Consider hiring an executive coach. If they are good, they are invaluable! Ask for references and talk to the people they’ve coached.
- Pretend you are the boss – why would you keep one employee over another? Are you exhibiting the traits that you would look for in others if you were in charge of selecting?
What did I miss? Can you think of any reason why I’m wrong? Why it may NOT be your fault if you’re laid off?