Career Report
September, 2008 — Issue 103

Bob Larson, CPC
Bob Larson, CPC

Get Busy if you Hear Layoff Rumors

As the economy continues to struggle along, many ailing industries such as automakers, brokerages, retailers, airlines, newspapers and countless others are cutting staff, while many others are considering workforce reductions. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, if there are rumors circulating about layoffs at your company, the best approach for dealing with the situation is to be prepared.

“If the rumors are swirling, you should spend a minimum of two hours a day getting ready for your next career move,” recommended Dee Soder, managing partner of CEO Perspective Group, an executive-advisory firm in New York.

Your highest priority should be an updated résumé, focused on your most marketable skills. Transfer your latest performance review, summary of achievements, work samples and laudatory customer letters to a jump drive—a portable computer-storage device—so you can retrieve them from outside the office.

Other steps you should consider include increasing your networking efforts, fattening your rainy-day fund, shrinking your credit card bills, taking valuable personal items from your office, and not whining at work about a potential job loss, according to the article.

Melissa DeCosta-Smith wasn’t fully prepared when a dealer of decorative home hardware discharged her and nine co-workers in April—partly because management had denied rumored cuts. “I got walked out that day,” with no chance to collect the results of a just-completed project, the product marketing manager recalled.

After she returned days later for her personal items, a human-resources executive stood guard to make sure that she took no official documents. DeCosta-Smith said she intends to behave differently on her next job. From now on, “I will assume that every day is my last day,” she vowed.

Upon hearing layoff rumors, many people “hunker down, try to become invisible and hope they won’t be noticed,” said Anne Barber, a managing partner at Contacts Count, a training and consulting firm in Silver Spring, Md. “Those are all the wrong things to do.” Instead, you should make sure the top brass sees—and appreciates—your catalog of recent accomplishments.

David D’Alessandro, author of the book, ‘Executive Warfare,” recommended taking subtle action to get feedback in a way that doesn’t make it look like you’re scared. His efforts to keep higher-ups informed helped save his mid-level management job at John Hancock Financial Services years ago.

While he struggled to fix three sick divisions, disgruntled lieutenants gossiped that he’d get axed in an expected reorganization. Meantime, he sent a four-page progress report to several senior executives of the Boston insurer, then discussed his memo for 90 minutes with his boss and his boss’s boss. “I never got an indication in the meeting that I was in trouble,” D’Alessando told The Wall Street Journal.

When his superiors encouraged him to keep pursuing the turnaround, he realized the layoff rumors about him were false “without having to ask,” he said. Soon after his divisions suffered layoffs, John Hancock not only spared him, it subsequently promoted him to chief executive.

Another smart move is to seek legal counsel before the pink slip arrives, according to Laurel Bellows, a Chicago employment attorney. That’s especially important for anyone who feels he or she has a complaint that might be covered under bias, whistle-blower or other employment laws, the article pointed out.

But whether or not you retain a lawyer, you should alert your employer promptly about any such gripes. For example, a middle-manager for a New York financial-services concern endured multiple rounds of job cuts last year. When the grapevine buzzed about further reductions, she informally complained that her supervisor played favorites. As a result, the company launched an investigation and the employee was kept on the payroll.

If all your efforts can’t preserve your post, though, “your separation benefits will come out of the very budget that has benefited from your contributions,” noted Bellows. “That value is leverage at the bargaining table” in negotiating a departure package. Among the extras that you might request are extended health-insurance coverage, a partial bonus, lengthy outplacement counseling, and accelerated vesting of stock grants, if applicable.

iPhone Winner Announced!

Congratulations to Michael Embry the BLK “Quit Happens” Survey iPhone Winner. Michael was one of 700 people to participate in the survey which has provided BLK with invaluable information. Be on the lookout for more information regarding Michael, his victorious win and “Quit Happens” Survey Results.

News from BLK

Bob Larson, CPC and President of Berman Larson Kane, will be one of the featured speakers at the R4 Conference being held this month in Washington DC. Bob will address the importance of working with certified recruiters and staffing firms. The R4 conference aims to bring thought leaders to a discussion of some of the most relevant matters affecting the workforce and economic landscape today. R4 is designed to help businesses understand the integrated challenges of Risk Management, Regulations, Retention and Recruiting. Government agencies and industries’ leaders will be presenting valuable information and insights on some of the most critical functions of workforce management and talent acquisition.

The staff of BLK offers its congratulations to Hetal Mehta of our research department, who has been promoted to the role of recruiter. Many of you who have worked with BLK as a candidate have spoken with Hetal and are well aware of the diligence and thoroughness with which he approaches his work. While we will miss his researching capabilities, we know he will be a valuable addition to our recruiting team.