Why It Can Pay to Volunteer To Do the "Dirty Work" At Your Firm

Last Updated Sep 18, 2009 12:02 PM EDT

Dear Ron,
I've been with my company a long time and I'm afraid my job is on the chopping block. I'm about a year of service away from being there long enough to qualify for a very generous pension; do you think there's any way I can convince my bosses to keep me on for just that extra amount of time?

It may not be that easy, but it's certainly worth a shot. The best way to approach this is to identify the main power players in your company and propose to them several solutions for solving their problems that might be temporary in nature. Any time there's a period of major change or downsizing, for example, there are still a number of loose threads and transition work that needs to be done. This work often isn't very glamorous or enjoyable, but it might just help you buy the time you need. And of course, you may need to show some flexibility with what salary you'd accept for doing it.

I recently had a client who was a vice president at a food service company who was told he was getting the axe just 18 months short of turning 55, when he'd be eligible for a very nice retirement package since he'd been at the company for so long. After meeting with his bosses and proposing several possibilities, he eventually sold them on the idea of his becoming an internal consultant with the company for that time, a role that had considerably less prestige and that required him to travel almost once a week, but let him stay on with the company with slightly reduced pay. He's well on his way now to making it to 55, and has assurances from his bosses that they'll keep him on until he makes it there.

This situation also speaks to a larger strategy of volunteering to do the "dirty work" if you have a strong feeling that your job may be cut soon. Every company has jobs that are undesirable because of frequent travel or working on weekends or early or late shifts, but some of these positions may have great potential if you're able to get in there and do them differently and get better results. Ideally, you want to take something that's broken and undesirable, and fix it and turn that into an asset for yourself. And the time to identify these areas and volunteer for them is now while you still have a job, rather than after cuts have been announced and everyone is scrambling to find something they can hang on to.

Send Ron your career and job-related questions.
  • Ron Brown

    Ronald B. Brown is a leading expert in the fields of leadership development and organizational change. He is the founder and president of Banks Brown, a management consulting firm that specializes in providing leading-edge skills to optimize the performance of leaders and organizations. He has served as a consultant to Fortune 100 corporations such as the Procter & Gamble Company, Avon Products, Inc., McDonald's Corporation, General Electric Plastics, Kaiser Permanente, Shell Oil Company, Eastman Kodak Company, General Mills Inc., and Motorola, Inc. Brown holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. and B.S. from Michigan State University.

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