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Make Yourself Impossible to Fire

The best to survive a recession is to depend on the public sector. You have to work really hard to get fired from the public sector. The biggest mass murderer in British history was Doctor Harold Shipman. He may have killed between 150 and 250 patients. He only got struck off by the General Medical Council, which is meant to uphold standards, after he had been convicted.

For the public sector, recession is simply a time when there are more sales in the shops, holidays are cheaper and you can get a great bargain on a new car.

But if you've failed to land a plum public sector contract, here are some other strategies for survival.

The goal is to make sure that when the personnel department (sorry, Strategic Human Capital Resources Division) and your boss go through all the staff, a red line is not drawn through your name. Here is how:

Performance. Top organisations like GE and IBM annually cull the bottom 10 per cent of management. Recessions are a good way of raising standards by losing the lower performers. To make sure you are not in the bottom 10/20/30 per cent you need to:
Do all the basics of your job well. Career-limiting moves become career ending moves in a recession.

  • Have a claim to fame -- be known for doing something really well, be central to an important project. Make it impossible to be fired.
  • Go the extra mile. Make yourself useful to important people by putting in some discretionary effort for them.
  • Volunteer for the special project, especially if it is the restructuring project. Unless you have a death wish, you will then be able to restructure your colleagues, not yourself, out of a job.
Perceptions. In matrix organisations it is easy to hide, hard to shine. No one really knows who has achieved what. Make sure that the right people know what you are doing and that you are doing it well.
  • Make yourself visible to powerful people. Have a sponsor who will look out for you and warn you of looming dangers. Six months hard work can be blown away by one poor meeting in front of the power barons.
  • Prepare, prepare again and then over-prepare when you are due to see a power baron. When they get the red pen out, they will wield it based on what they have seen much more than on what your performance review says. No boss trusts a performance review.
  • Be positive. Exude a professional and positive persona. Bosses find it is easy to fire whingers and whiners, and find it hard to fire people that make the office a better place. Don't join in the gloom-mongers who circle round the coffee machine predicting doom.
  • Small things count. Leaving your jacket on your chair overnight to give the impression that you are working late is cheap and will be seen through. But replying to phone calls and emails promptly, following up on requests fast all give the impression of a manager who is in control and doing well.
Position. If you are in the wrong business or wrong department at the wrong time, nothing will save you.
  • Work your network-- find out what departments are most likely to survive and make sure you belong to such a department. It is at times like these when managers discover the importance of having a powerful network of allies and supporters across the organisation.
  • If none of this is possible, find a job in the public sector.
Of course, this is not a survival formula just for recessions. Managers need to manage their performance, perceptions and position all the time.

(Photo: jburgin, CC2.0)

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