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Love your job? Then save it!
Jia Lynn Yang
February 2009

No matter what your position, contribute to the bottom line.

Don’t wait until your company says it wants to cut costs.
-Career Coach Meredith Haberfeld

If you’re worried about getting laid off, here’s some consolation: So is everyone else. Follow these do’s and don’ts to raise the odds that your job stays, well, yours.

DO take credit but don’t walk around with a big neon sign that says I’M GREAT, says career coach Marie McIntyre. Look for opportunities to let people know what you’re doing. One good strategy: Create a paper trail by copying your boss on e-mail (selectively!). And periodically take the initiative to send a summary of what you’re working on.

DO be a team player No Matter What your position, contribute to the bottom line. Don’t wait until your company says it wants to cut costs says Career Coach Meredith Haberfeld.

DON’T ask for a raise or a promotion. Be patient, and be grateful for now that you’ve got a job.

DO volunteer for more work. Companies are making cuts, so someone needs to pick up the extra work. Do it with a smile, and you’re a dream employee.

DO arrive early and stay late. This is obvious and no longer optional. Make your commitment visible by pulling long hours. Also, lay off the text messaging or personal calls during business hours.

DON’T telecommute. [Bosses] tend to fire people they don’t like or don’t know, says Stephen Viscusi, author of Bulletproof Your Job. Working from home or part-time makes it harder for your boss to know you, so avoid it if you can.

DO chat up your boss and your boss’s boss. If you’re at the cafeteria, strike up a conversation. Executives love to talk about business, and they’re often as uneasy talking with you as you are with them, says McIntyre. Be ready with a question, like I just read about something our competitor’s doing. What’s your take on that?

DON’T be eccentric. Now’s the time to fit in completely. Buy some Crest White Strips. Look like you belong there, says career expert Stephen Viscusi. Don’t wear perfume or cologne, because maybe you’re wearing the perfume of your boss’s ex-wife.

DO feel your boss’s pain. If you feel as if you’re being marginalized, talk with your manager and find out what his or her priorities are these days. Ask your boss, What are your biggest goals right now, and how can I help?

DON’T be high maintenance. Even if layoffs are necessary, they can also serve as an excuse for companies to fire people they wanted to get rid of anyway. Why? The most frequent issue is attitude: People who are demanding, difficult, or whiny, or otherwise take up too much of their manager’s energy, are the first to go.
If you need something from your boss, there’s a right and a wrong way to ask. Use the magic phrase, I really want to make this work,’ suggests Deborah Brown-Volkman, a career coach who specializes in counseling financial services professionals. Be clear you’re committed to finding a solution that helps the company. The worst approach is I don’t have this, I don’t have that,’ Brown-Volkman says. Instead, show how your business will benefit from a fix. If you can’t, then let it go. And always be ready with a solution or two.

The bottom line: Make your boss’s job easier, not harder.

DO stay informed. Set a Google alert for your company so that you’re up on what’s going on. You’ll have a better sense for when layoffs are coming. Plus, smart employees know how their piece of the business fits into the larger picture of what’s happening at the company.

DON’T gossip about the company. It’s tempting to compare notes with co-workers, but obsessing about your fears will only distract you from being productive. It’s a diversion of your energy, and whatever answers you’re coming up with aren’t that helpful, says Meredith Haberfeld.

DO a self-review. Try this exercise: Imagine your boss, your boss’s boss, and the HR director all sitting in a room, categorizing people. What are they going to say about you? How much do they value your work?

DON’T panic! There may still be a way to save your job if your boss tells you you’re being laid off. These are the words you always hear: Listen, we have to let you go – it’s a numbers thing,’ says Viscusi. He suggests negotiating and offering to take less pay or work fewer days in the week.
If they still say no, he says, now you’re calling their bluff, allowing yourself to open a bigger severance envelope. That’s because if a company has trouble explaining why it fired you, there’s room for you to sue for wrongful termination. Some managers might decide it’s easier to throw some money in your direction now than risk losing more down the road.