I imagine that it came as a pretty big shock to the numerous journalists, columnists and executives of Post Media who were given termination notices last week. In large companies, generally, rumours about impending layoffs precede the actual deed, so it may have been the case here. But whether that was the case or not, it can’t have been easy for people to be dismissed not for any apparent failing of their work but because of the failing model that newspapers now follow.
Nor, of course, has it been any easier, knowing that layoffs were coming, for the thousands of Alberta oil patch workers who are now wondering just how in hell they are supposed to manage now that they have house payments, truck payments, and other associated bills to pay without an income.
This leads me to today’s topic – Are you investing in yourself? Gen X and the Millennials have not been in the workforce long enough to remember the last recession in the early 80’s so it is particularly difficult for them. Remember the sticker that appeared on many a bumper, that read: “Please, God, give us another boom and I promise not to piss this one away?” But we did, didn’t we? As far as we were concerned there were not going to be any down times. Unfortunately, nobody ever read them the story of the Little Red Hen who was friends with a lazy dog, a sleepy cat and a noisy duck, or the one about the Ant and the Grasshopper.
If you still have a job and want to keep it, here is a few things to consider (from someone who has been unemployed, and gone through a recession or two).
Keeping a job in a recession depends on two major categories of skill sets –the soft and the hard skills. Nobody cares how hard you work if you annoy everyone else, nor will any employer keep you if you are the most pleasant person in the company but can’t do the work you are being paid to do.
Begin, then, by asking yourself, “Why would anybody in your office want to work with me?” Are you pleasant and easy to get along with or a fault finder and complainer? Do you do your fair share of the common duties (wash your own cup after coffee, or load the dishwasher, or pick up garbage on the floor and deposit it in the bin or is that somebody’s else’s job?).
Do you contribute to group discussions or do you sit in silence, letting others take the initiative and the risk) of making suggestions?
Do others feel safe when they are not in your presence or do they know that they will become the target of criticism and gossip just as soon as they leave? If you work in an open office (shudder) do you keep the volume down when you are talking on the phone or can you be heard across the room and down the hallways?
And what about the “hard skills”? When was the last time you upgraded an important skill on your own dime? (or do you have the approach that it is the job of the company to make sure you have the skills to do the job properly?) When was the last time that you received some criticism about the way you do your job, and you dismissed it as a manager just being too picky?
The oil patch really spoiled workers these last twenty years by spending millions of dollars on training. Now some of this company sponsored training is reasonable if the company has invested in new technology. But I have talked with employees who want to be promoted, but will not take the initiative to further their own training so that they could do the new job, telling me that if the company wants me to do the job they can pay for me to learn it. One person told me that the qualification for a job that she was looking at was a Bachelor degree, but there was no way she was going to take correspondence or evening courses. It seemed that she would rather complain about not getting promoted than take steps to get the promotion. She went on to say that it would take her five years to finish her degree, and by then she would be 50. I asked her, “How old are you going to be in 5 years if you don’t finish the degree?”
Most large oil companies that I have consulted with have cut their training budget to close to zero, only offering those courses which are critical for the operation of technology. So, you need to invest in yourself, perhaps financially, to ensure that your skill set not only keeps pace, but puts you at the front of the line of people whom the company cannot afford to lose.
Even more critically, you need to know how you stand socially as well within your group. So, here is an even tougher question. If you were told that in order to keep your job you had to go to each of the people in your team and ask them “If I could change one thing about the way I work here in order to make me a better team member, what would it be?” would you do it?
I think of it as “investing in ourselves socially”. I had a coaching client who asked this question of her boss (with fear and trembling – what awful thing might be revealed?). Turned out that what her boss really wanted most was to be kept in the loop, so they worked out a simple system where by client would update, via a brief email, the key things she had been working on the previous week. The result? Fewer misunderstandings, more confidence in the employee by the boss, and an improved relationship.
Remember the old game that use to be played at recess (until sensitive souls outlawed it) where kids picked teams, each captain selecting a kid to be on his team until finally there was only 1 kid left? It may have been unkind, but it certainly let the kid know where s/he stood in terms of the game being played.
So, at your place of work, would your work colleagues have to be bribed to pick you?
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