Protecting Your Job in a Recession

Last Updated Oct 31, 2008 8:48 AM EDT

Protecting Your Job in a RecessionMost of us have already made the critical calculation: What are my chances of getting laid off?

Instead of feeding an ulcer about how we might lose employment, a better use of our time might be to figure out a strategy for keeping our jobs. And according to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, there are proactive steps we can take to avoid the pink slip.

"We've seen that while luck plays an important role, survival is most often the result of staring reality in the face and making concrete plans to shape the future," write authors Janet Banks and Diane Coutu. "Machiavellian as it may seem, holding on to your job when the economy softens is a matter of cool strategic planning."

So here's an outline of your personal survival strategy:

Act Like a Survivor: According to Banks and Coutu, how you carry yourself at work can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Survivors survive by being cheerful, optimistic, and fun to be around.

Give Your Leaders Hope: Demonstrate your value by empathizing with the tough times that your bosses are going through and help them help the organization with ideas for productive restructuring or morale building. Stay away from self-promotion.

Become a Corporate Citizen: Become more involved in company meetings and events that are outside your job description, such as attending the company golf tournament, the authors say. Why? "Leaders look for employees who are enthusiastic participants." And when organizational change does come down, embrace it enthusiastically. Leave the griping to others.

The article is well worth buying if you are at all concerned about the future of your position. Here is the executive summary to get you started.

Not everyone is worried about protecting their job. Take Steve DeMaio, an editor who just quit his position to pursue passions. He writes about the difficult decision in I Just Quit My Job... Am I Crazy?
Do you have a strategy to hold on to your job? What's your backup plan?

(Jobless image by weegeebored, CC 2.0)

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.