Archive for Monday, April 19, 2004

Expert offers signs of possible job ejection

April 19, 2004

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Is your job in jeopardy?

Your office was moved to a storage closet. You've gotten stuck with the worst assignments. Your boss avoids eye contact. You've just received a stunningly bad performance review.

You're probably on your way out, says Cynthia Shapiro, a Seattle consultant and former human-resources executive. She knows the tactics because she used them. Now she counsels employees on how to recognize if they're targeted for removal. Some employees are at greater risk.

"Layoffs provide a safe forum for cleaning house without fear of exposure," Shapiro says. "For most companies, that's too tempting to pass up."

Here are some reasons you may be targeted:

  • You're a troublemaker. You've talked badly about the company, are hard to work with, have a bad relationship with your boss or simply don't fit in.
  • You're dispensable. Companies usually have a secret list of employees they wouldn't mind losing, as well as a list of those who are indispensable. In the case of a layoff, "If your boss hasn't pulled you aside to put your mind at ease, you are not safe," Shapiro says.
  • You're expensive. Perhaps you earn too much, filed a workers' compensation claim or had a medical or disability leave within the past year. Retaliatory firings are illegal, but "many times, layoff lists include employees who have cost the company money," Shapiro says.

What to do when the writing's on the wall:

  • Start looking for work. "It's always easier to find a job when you have one," Shapiro says. "Psychologically, companies are most interested in candidates other companies also want. If you're wrong and get another job offer, your company can always make a counteroffer to keep you. If you were right, you've just accomplished a seamless transition and saved your career momentum."
  • Make up with the boss. "A boss will never get rid of an employee who can make them successful," Shapiro says. "Do everything you can to make him or her look good. At the very least, you greatly increase your chances for a stellar reference."
  • Be a team player. "Companies equate being positive with success, so try to be as openly positive as possible. Being of service will make you look like the ideal, indispensable team player."

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