Protect Yourself From Lay-Offs in 2024

Protect Yourself From Lay-Offs in 2024

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From LinkedIn to the media channels, it’s hard to escape the news of layoffs. This year has started with an ominous sense of uncertainty for many professionals, as economic woes are fuelling the corporate axe.

The worldwide tech sector is feeling the brunt of the redundancies so far. A ComputerWorld report showed tech employers collectively laid off more than 150,000 people in 2022 — and in just the first three weeks of 2023, layoffs have reached more than 30% of that figure. Over 59,448 tech workers have already lost their jobs this January.

Here in New Zealand, we’re headed for a recession, and MediaWorks just announced their plan to axe 90 jobs in a bid to cut costs. 1 news reported that “chief executive Cam Wallace said two-thirds of the company's costs were labour related.”

These layoffs are not unexpected, as job cuts and hiring freezes tend to come hand in hand with a recession – yet for many of us there is a niggling fear in the back of our mind saying “am I next?”

Layoffs are often well beyond our control. Yet there is a lot that can be done on an individual level to prove your worth to the business or organisation and ensure that when management is considering who to cut, you aren’t on the firing line.

Tips to Keep Ahead of the Axe

Survivor Mentality – Think Positive

Acting like a survivor will have more impact on your performance than you realise. As Janet Banks and Diane Coutu of Harvard Business Review write “studying the thinking of survivors reveals a surprising paradox. Though creating a plan to weather layoffs requires an almost pessimistic realism, the best thing you can do in a recession is lighten up.”

This may seem like an unrealistic oxymoron, but thinking like a survivor means thinking positively. It is believing that you will get through this and planning for the future. As The Association for Talent Development, research suggests positive people are more successful and have higher levels of job performance, review and perceived customer service. There is an array of social, psychological, mental and general health benefits that being positive can have. Positivity opens our minds to be more innovative and perceptive, it allows us to be more resilient in the face of adversity and leads to greater connection with people. All these traits are crucial to success at work. note "those who are not socially connected are typically the first to get laid off when staff cuts happen. Work on your attitude, your energy, and your enthusiasm."

Positivity is infectious, people want to be around others who make them feel good, remember that.

Take Responsibility

Take full responsibility for your outcomes and your results, and you’ll feel a lot better.

Taking responsibility for your actions involves owning up to the positive and negative consequences of your choices and behaviour, rather than attributing them to external factors or others’ actions. Acknowledging the effects of certain behaviours is often more difficult than blaming circumstances or other people for negative situations. It’s easy to blame a bad economy or cutbacks, it’s hard to accept that you weren’t performing so you were one of the first to be laid off.

In the long run, taking responsibility for your own actions demonstrates a strength of character and a willingness to grow.

A part of this approach in the workplace can mean taking full responsibility for how others perceive you.

It’s not other people’s job to find out what’s interesting, valuable, or great about you. It’s your job to show them!

You should also:

  • Honour your word
  • Focus on accountability
  • Take action towards your goals, or area(s) of focus

Keep Focused

Staying focused on your own goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is crucial at a time when business productivity and efficiency are of paramount importance. There is no doubt that management will be scrutinising employee performance when deciding who stays and who goes. You want to be not only hitting your KPIs but smashing them. A recession calls for a hustler mentality, it’s time to work, hard. If you have the capacity, we recommend taking work off your manager's plate, making their lives easier and making yourself indispensable to them. That's smart business.

Stay focused on your deliverables or customers. As Harvard Business Review have said, when layoffs are looming “anticipating the needs of your customers, both external and internal, should be your top priority.” Keeping your eyes on not only your own goals but anticipating the needs of your customers will truly set you apart. Businesses rely on selling a service or product to their customers, and during a recession, people need to be convinced to spend their hard-earned cash. If you have a client-facing role or can influence customer decision-making and morale in any way, don’t hesitate to get involved.

Play the Game

Business is in many ways a political game. As we’ve said before, networking is a robust predictor of success. The American Time Use Survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the tangible benefits of networking for one’s career. The study identified that those who believe networking has been key to their success, spend an average of 6.3 hours per week networking, while those who have not reaped any networking rewards, on average, spend two hours per week networking.

Playing the game also relates to positivity. You must look at your business relationships as life rafts that keep you buoyant and boats that can help you travel upstream. In a recession, these relationships are even more valuable than ever, consciously invest time and energy into your connection with your colleagues and superiors. This could also be the perfect time to re-kindle relationships with old peers who may have advice or opportunities that can help you.

Studies back this up. Political skill is a tool we all benefit from in a workplace situation.

Teach Others

People are often protective about particular skills that they have, believing they have job security in their ability to perform a certain task. The opposite is true if you can demonstrate to your employer that you can teach, coach, and help others reach their potential. As Workable notes “you will be perceived as someone who can help rebuild the team when the economy gets better. Sharing your skills increases your value.”

Demonstrating leadership skills and a hunger to work to your employer will set you aside from others who aren’t willing to dig deep. Look for opportunities to wear other hats, to harness external skills you may have outside of work. According to Harvard Business Review, “a recession can offer you plenty of opportunities to display your capabilities.” Layoffs can create vacuums within companies, which employees who have shown the ability to lead can fill.

Be Empathetic

“There’s science to support the idea that showing empathy for people more powerful than you can be worthwhile,” notes Harvard Business Review. In this case, being empathetic with your manager is our talking point. The better your relationship is with your manager, the less likely it is that they will turn the axe on you. Psychology proves that emotional bonding and mother-infant style behaviours result in a superior wanting to protect someone they care for. Bearing this in mind, if you show empathy and care towards your boss, they most likely, in turn, will show it to you.

Boost Morale

The light shines the brightest in the deepest darkness, as does joy amongst despair. When a company is expecting or undergoing layoffs, not to mention dealing with extreme financial stress, morale can get very low. Those who maintain positivity stand out. If you can find a way to boost the morale of those around you, your value to the company is priceless. There are countless ways to do so, from organizing simple team lunches or a crowd-pleasing quiz night. Create a #lol or #funnymemes slack channel and get those workplace giggles going. Give praise to others and convince management to allow a pet day in the office.

The Bottom Line: How to Avoid Being Laid Off

There’s no magic solution to avoiding lay-offs, but as we’ve covered there are many small individual steps you can take to make yourself as valuable as possible to your employer. It pays to remember that although companies can get wrapped up in fighting fires when they inevitably come out of dire economic straits, they will want a great team who are ready and able to lead them to lofty heights. If you can prove your value and your willingness to go above and beyond in the company’s best interests, it’s likely management will see you as someone they want to work with on the other side of the storm. Bearing that in mind:

  • Be positive – we can’t stress enough how important this is. Maintaining a positive attitude when the going gets tough will have a trickle on effect to those around you and make you a force for good in the workplace.
  • Take responsibility – your results are just that, yours!
  • Act like a survivor – envision yourself getting through this. Keep yourself focused, don’t panic, and keep smashing your work goals. Where you have the capacity, lend a hand to help others.
  • Play the game – businesses and organisations always have an element of politics – especially in a crisis situation. Understand that what you give is what you get and treat others fittingly. Network, hustle and ensure that people want you on their team.

Imagine yourself in a metaphorical game of Survivor. Do what you must to prove your technical prowess, and your political intuition, and make alliances that will see you through to win.

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