How Should I Start the New Year Off At Work Right?

Last Updated Jan 8, 2010 10:17 AM EST

Dear Ron, Last year was a really tough one at work -- a lot of friends got laid off and anxiety about the future is still prevalent throughout our office. I really want to start this year off right -- is there anything specific you would advise doing?

First off, I'd recommend trying to get your head in the right place so you can do good work. While layoffs tend to make people hunker down, you need to make sure you're looking up enough to get a feel for where your company and industry are heading. Hand in hand with that, you want to try to develop a new passion for your work no matter what the economic realities are. If you feel like you're in a tough situation, you still want to find a way to enjoy what you're doing, perhaps by trying to master the fine details of what you do or simply trying to get better or faster. Staying upbeat and engaged will set you apart from your colleagues during times like these.

Once you've gotten your mind right, you want to make sure you're completely in synch with your boss and your business unit priorities. Make sure that you're really in tune with the priorities that are being set, and pay attention to the pressures your bosses are under and any new initiatives that might be coming down the road. You're looking to identify new opportunities where you can excel.

Finally, use your passion and clarity about the direction of your company to build out new relationships. This is a good time to learn more about other parts of your company and connect with people who may not be directly related to your specific function. You might engage them on a project you're working on that involves different parts of the company, and ask them to help you understand better what their challenges and opportunities are. Of course, you'll have to do your homework so you have good and pertinent questions to ask them. Your immediate goal is to establish a substantive relationship with them so you can be more knowledgeable about the company, but you may also end up talking your way into a new opportunity.

Over the last few years, I've been working with one client, a director at a technology company, who's managed to survive several rounds of layoffs by maintaining passion for his work and continually adapting to the new realities. He always seems able to morph into a new role when necessary, and continues to demonstrate his value despite the negative overall trends at his company. And while he hasn't made immediate progress upwards, he continues to thrive in a chaotic environment and you can be sure he'll be one of the folks to be rewarded if and when things turn around there.

"Thriving among chaos" could well be your mantra for the new year as well.

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  • 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.