Recession-Proof Your Career

Recession Graph
“You cannot always control circumstances, but you can control your own thoughts.”

~ Charles Popplestown ~

Are you worried about keeping your job? Let’s face it; there are many things out of your control, from the sad state of the economy to downsizing and cutbacks to the worry of putting food on the table and getting your kids through college.

But that’s not what worries me. What concerns me more are not the looming factors beyond your control, but the casual attitude towards the things that are within your control. Many people who come to me for help have the attitude, “I’ll just have to work hard and hope for the best.”

Have you heard the old saying, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten? Carrying on hoping for the best is just not good enough. No matter where you are in your career you have to learn to enhance your skills and change with the times or you most certainly will be left behind.

The first step to recession-proofing your career is to make your company see you as a valuable asset. How do you achieve this? Head over to this blog post, Desperate Times, Different Measures and read about the three key things you must do to increase your worth and protect your job.

Just because it’s a recession doesn’t mean your career has to stagnate. Read my book, Getting Ahead, to find out how you can achieve career and job advancement—even in tough times.

Downsizing Hurts Productivity: A Case Study of the Hampton Fire Department


The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.

~ Thomas J. Peters ~

Although many companies lay off employees to cut costs and increase productivity, the result is often the opposite. In most cases, downsizing hurts productivity. A case study that was done on the fire department in Hampton, New Hampshire provides some insight into why this is true.

As part of the study, fire safety personnel were surveyed about their experiences with layoffs. Here are some of the results:

  • The number of respondents who were very satisfied with their jobs was 72% before the layoffs and 11% after.
  • The number who said they were not very satisfied was 3% before and 44% after.
  • 47% of the employees who remained after the layoffs considered looking for work at another organization.
  • Prior to the layoffs, 97% would have recommended their workplace to others. This dropped to 39% after the layoffs.
  • 72% believed that downsizing had hurt productivity.
  • 81% said that the layoffs had caused a drop in employee morale.

Of course, a single case study doesn’t prove that downsizing hurts productivity, but this is not an isolated occurrence. In 1996, the American Management Association conducted a study on companies that had downsized. They discovered that only about one-third of them had increased their productivity after downsizing.

Another study also found that downsizing hurts productivity. Some of the factors cited as reasons for the loss of productivity included the voluntary resignation of survivors, failure of those left behind to keep up the increased workload, resistance to change, and inexperience on the part of new employees who were hired to replace those who resigned.

If you are forced to cut labor costs, you should expect that there will be negative repercussions in the form of reduced productivity and morale, lowered employee trust in management, and valued employees who were not laid off leaving to work elsewhere. Although you can’t completely avoid these issues, there are ways you can reduce their impact.

7 Ways to Avoid a Loss of Productivity after Downsizing
  1. Avoid layoffs if possible.
    Make sure your employees know that layoffs are a last resort that you will only consider when there are no other options.
  2. Ask for cost-saving ideas from your employees.
    They may be able to help you come up with a way to cut costs without cutting their jobs.
  3. Tell the whole truth.
    Be truthful with your employees, and don’t withhold information. Let them know what is going on.
  4. Treat them as you’d like to be treated.
    Think about how you would feel if you were the one whose job was being cut. Try to treat your employees the way you would want to be treated.
  5. Keep it positive.
    There are still good things going on at work. Help your employees focus on their successes.
  6. Think ahead.
    Planning long-term projects demonstrates to your employees that you believe the future of the company is secure. Get them excited about being a part of that future.
  7. Share the load.
    Your employees are going to be overloaded with work due to a shortage of staff and resources. Offer to help when possible and work with them to determine priorities so that they are focusing on the tasks that are most important.

Maintaining employee morale in the face of layoffs is not an easy task, but it is something every manager should strive for. By keeping employees motivated and productive during downsizing, you can increase your company’s chances of making a full recovery to its former strength.

Garfinkle Outplacement Services offers a 9-step employee outplacment process. Consider providing outplacement for workers to help your employees survive—and thrive—as they transition to new employment opportunities.

Encouragement Is Key to Helping Employees Find New Jobs

Cutting up Paper Dolls
The driving force of a career must come from the individual. Remember: Jobs are owned by the company; you own your career!

~ Earl Nightingale ~

If you are being forced to lay off employees, you have probably already given some thought to applying downsizing motivation theory to keep your surviving employees motivated before, during, and after the layoffs.  However, you should also be concerned about motivating your exiting employees.  Employees who are laid off are much more likely to speak negatively about the company if they are given little or no support as they transition back into the job market.

When it comes to motivating those who are experiencing loss, encouragement is key.  As George Mattew Adams wrote, “Encouragement is like oxygen for the soul.”  It is during the most difficult times in a person’s life that encouragement is most needed and appreciated.  Losing a job is one of those times.  By offering encouragement to your exiting employees, you will help them keep a positive outlook, which is essential as they try to find new jobs.

Here are six ways you can encourage your exiting employees to keep their spirits up as they begin their job search:

  1. Encourage them to take action.
    Acknowledge their fears, but help them create a solid plan to find a new job and encourage them to take concrete steps to move forward in spite of their fears.
  2. Encourage them to focus on their strengths.
    Consider working with an outplacement coaching service to help your employees identify their strengths, accomplishments, and potential.
  3. Emphasize the positives.
    Many times, employees who are laid off will end up in positions that are better suited to their skills and personality.  Others may find that it gives them the courage they need to pursue their dreams.
  4. Help them see the possibilities.
    Opportunities are everywhere. Encourage your exiting employees to be alert to new opportunities, from pursuing a different career path to starting their own businesses.
  5. Provide resources to help them find a new job or career.
    Implement an outplacement program that incorporates job skill training, resume services, and other career transition services that will help them find new jobs.
  6. Listen without being judgmental.
    Displaced workers often need someone who will listen to their concerns and fears. Allow them to express their anxieties and try to encourage them as much as possible.

Encouragement is the single most important component when downsizing employees—even more important than teaching employees who haven’t had to look for work lately how to find a new job in today’s high-tech job market. Sometimes a single encouraging word is all it takes to motivate someone who is feeling defeated.

Do you want to offer something a little more solid to support your exiting employees as they try to find new jobs? Consider a career outplacement program to help them unleash the power of networking and land the jobs they’ve always dreamed of.