How to Keep Your Job if Your Employer is Signaling Downsizing

It may make no sense, but even in strong economic times some companies still downsize. Possibly the company is readying itself for sale and needs to reduce costs. Or perhaps it has merged with another company and now there are redundant positions.

If you are hearing rumours of downsizing—for whatever reason— in your company, it is not a time to retreat. Instead, you should take a proactive approach to keep your career moving.

Here are seven strategies that will help you survive and thrive through these uncertain times:

1. Stand out among the crowd.  

Contrary to what you may think, putting your head down and doing your job doesn’t always cut it. True, you must do your job and do it well. But don’t be invisible. Make sure your boss and other senior managers know what you’re doing. Communicate your activities and contributions to the company. Speak up at meetings and volunteer for special projects. Offer to join committees and work a little later than everyone else in the office.

2. Look for ways to deliver tangible results. 

In a downsizing, the first job cuts tend to be in cost centres, not profit centres.  Departments like customer service, human resources, accounting, marketing, and administration are usually the first areas that employers look to save money. Jobs in profit centres—like sales and production—tend to be safer.

But don’t despair if you happen to work in a cost centre. Identifying ways to reduce costs can be just as valuable to your employer as someone who brings in revenue. 

3. Be a pleasure to work with. 

Employers want employees who have an enthusiastic, can-do attitude. If it comes down to laying off staff, a positive attitude will often carry the day over those with stronger technical skills. Instead of complaining about circumstances that may be beyond your control, maintain a respectful, caring attitude.

4. Wear multiple hats.

When work needs to be done and there’s no one to do it, offer to step in. In one company we know, when the Health and Safety Manager left unexpectedly, the Office Manager offered to take over his responsibilities, in addition to her own. Not only did this move enable her to create a more interesting and diverse job for herself but the company saved the cost of hiring a new person.

5. Ensure your skills are current.

When choosing who to lay off, companies tend to get rid of people whose skills are dated, or those who resist technology changes. Even if your employer will not reimburse you for tuition or training costs, you should continue to upgrade your skills. Your employer will see you as someone willing to invest in your own future and someone worth hanging on to.

6. Be a supporter not a resistor. 

If your company has indicated they are looking for ways to generate more revenue or cut costs, understand that these may be necessary for the company to survive. Support the new plan, offer helpful suggestions, and speak favourably about it around your co-workers.

7. Keep your moral compass. 

Often, a person’s true character is revealed only when facing tough times. There are numerous examples where financial challenges push otherwise honest people to do bad things. At all times, it is important to do the right thing. Never compromise your integrity. 

One more thing:

Unless your company has clearly signalled its intention to downsize, it may be too early to consider jumping ship. Don’t be fooled by thoughts that the grass is greener on the other side. Rather than spending all your time polishing up your resume and looking for a new job, stay focused on your work and help your company succeed through these uncertain times.