While there is no sure fire way (pun intended) to avoid being pink slipped, there are a number of steps you can take to increase the chances of holding on to your current position.

1.  Do the Basics Well

  • Be on time. Don’t take long lunches, leave early, dress poorly, use work time and resources for personal business.
  • Do quality work and meet deadlines.
  • Maintain excellent relationships with managers, peers and customers.

2.  Understand and Contribute to Important Goals

  • Make it your business to know your company’s and your organization’s most critical goals.
  • During difficult economic times increasing revenues, maintaining customer relationships and cutting costs typically matter most.
  • Stop working on extraneous projects you initiated like organizing the weekly betting pool and find more important work to do.

3. Take Your Manager’s Perspective

  • Ask your manager what he is most concerned about - what keeps him up at night?
  • Help solve these problems.

4.  Stay Visible

(Thanks to Wendy Gelberg of Gentle Job Search for this tip.) Some think if you stay below the radar you will be safe.  This is based on the old principle that you keep your head down so the teacher won’t call on you, but if no one knows your value you are expendable.

  • Communicate your value to your manager.  Don’t assume she sees what you are working on or the value of your contributions.  She may be focused on other priorities or her own survival and may not fully appreciate the scope of what you do.
  • Volunteer for important highly visible projects that involve and will put you in front of key decision makers.
  • Find a mentor who has an important role in the company.
  • Ask for and keep testimonials about your work and the quality of your interactions with others.  Share them with your manager, her manager and your mentor.

5.  Uplift and Support Others

  • Stress is everywhere and some people retreat to their most defensive and least productive behaviors. Don’t do likewise.
  • Be supportive of your team mates.  Most jobs require people to work on teams.  Show that you are a team player even in tough times.

6.  Work to Keep Your Current Job and Prepare for Your Next Job

  • The best time to find your next job is while you are still working because your confidence is higher and your network is easily accessed.
  • Make sure you have contact information and good references from key people.
  • Polish your resume.
  • Stay in touch with people who are being laid off.  Be a resource to them.  They will find jobs and if needed they will help you in return.

7.  Think Outside the Box. Take Calculated Risks.

  • Consider whether this might be a good time to volunteer for severance.  If you’ve been thinking about leaving and have other options to pursue the timing may be right for the following reasons:
    • Leaving on your own is less stressful than having someone make this decision for you 
    • You may be able to negotiate a better severance package
    • You will avoid the stress of waiting for the inevitable pink slip and can use your time and energy to pursue your desired situation
  • If you have creative solutions to cut costs or increase revenues tell the right people.
  • If you have ideas that will help the company avoid laying off even one person, tell someone.  Perhaps you are planning to start a small business and are willing to work half time or job share while you launch this endeavor.  Managers don’t want to lay people off and welcome alternatives, although use your judgement about sharing the reasons why.

8.  Be as Flexible as Possible and Let the Right People Know

  • If you are willing to relocate to a profitable branch in another state where they are looking for talent let the right people know. (Weigh the possibility of layoffs in this new group before you volunteer. A new group member may be the first to go either because they lack seniority or because people don’t know them and their work yet.) 
  • Continuously learn about new areas of the business and develop new skills.

9.  Network, Network, Network

  • Being well connected in your company and your industry is an asset in your current role.
  • Most people find jobs through networking.  Building and maintaining these relationships in good times puts you a step ahead when it’s time to find your next position. 

Finally, it is important to understand the criteria your company uses to make layoff decisions so you know what you can control or influence and what you can’t.  If your company uses a straight seniority system, last in first out, you should still do all the above in good times and in bad, but be prepared and don’t beat yourself up when you receive word that you are being laid off.  

Following are various examples of how layoff decisions are made:

  • Seniority
  • Non-critical Work - This is a decision about the job function, not the person doing the job.  Non-essential or non-revenue generating jobs or entire departments may be eliminated.
  • Restructuring – Companies may eliminate layers and/or departments, combine jobs, outsource, cancel or delay projects.  Again these actions are aimed at the job not the person in the job.
  • Performance - The company may let go of poorer performers and retain the best. Unlike restructuring, where it’s about the position, this is about the person. When poor performers are laid off remaining employees may be asked to fill vacated positions.
  • Early Retirement Packages 
  • Voluntary Severance
Anne Perschel
Anne Perschel
When she is not consulting; coaching; reading and writing about leadership; or enjoying her work in other ways; Anne can be found:

Listening to ocean waves receding over stones.
Enjoying the spontaneous expressions of young children who haven’t yet learned to hide their emotions.
Taking in the scent of freesias, lilacs or salt water.
Enjoying the great, or not so great, outdoors and all variations of nature’s gifts.
At the gym.

As Seen In:

Avoiding the Pink Slip Epidemic