Redundancy worries: Conversations you should have

With the economy on a downturn and companies taking drastic measures in order to remain viable, the majority of people are fearing the worst



8 October 2008

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A recent poll conducted by our consultants reveals that three out of four people believe their organisation is likely to issue redundancies in the next 12 months. Incidentally, one in three people believe their job is at risk today.

In spite of this, people are doing very little to secure their jobs in this down turn. For example, one of the easiest steps to take is to solicit information from your boss about redundancy potential. Yet according to our survey, more than one fourth of respondents fail to take even this simple step.

Take effective action

Knowing the right conversations you should be having is one thing but actually holding them is another. Here are a few tips on how to hold these conversations effectively:

  1. Speak up. If you’re worried about your job and stay paralysed in silence rather than speak up about crucial issues, you surrender your ability to control your own destiny. Motivate yourself to speak up by thinking first about the risks of not holding these crucial conversations rather than the discomfort of holding them. Those who are best at crucial conversations don’t think first about the risks of speaking up. They think first about the risks of not speaking up.
  2. Elicit Openness. One of the reasons we get poor results from crucial conversations is that we are irritated or angry with the other person. We let our emotions dictate. When you think your job is in jeopardy you are particularly at risk of coming into a crucial conversation with hostile or defensive emotions. If you approach your line manager or HR manager to ask about job security, you need to be sure you don’t come across as accusatory or hostile. Try your best to assume they are reasonable, rational, decent people who also have concerns and challenges. If you approach them respectfully, they’re much more likely to sympathise with your questions and be more honest and liberal with information.
  3. Display Positivity. Most people believe that certain topics are destined to make others defensive. You must realise people don’t become defensive until they feel unsafe. Try starting your next crucial conversation by assuring the other person of your positive intentions and your respect for him or her. When others feel respected and trust your motives for speaking to them, they share information more openly.
  4. Lead. One of the best ways to help people feel safe disclosing sensitive concerns is by leading the conversation. You do this by saying the tough thing for them and allowing them to confirm, disconfirm or modify what you say. For example, ‘If tough downsizing decisions had to be made, I’d expect you to put some of the longer serving team members higher on the list than some of us newcomers?’ When something might be tough to say, say it for others as a way of demonstrating that it’s safe to acknowledge.
  5. Be prepared. These conversations are tough enough to hold even once. Don’t make the mistake of coming unprepared, then walking out and realising you failed to ask the most important question. There’s nothing wrong with bringing a list of the four or five questions you have and referring to them to ensure you’ve gathered all the information you want, however, do not take notes during the conversation.

Finding out your future is the best way for you to control it. Keeping your head in the sand will only lead to unwelcome surprises. 

 Five conversations you should have

For those who really want to secure their careers, or at least prepare appropriately for what may come, five simple and straightforward conversations can substantially increase confidence in these uncertain times.

•    Ask long-term employees about past practices. Asking staff who worked with the company during Ireland’s last downturn about how your employer handled redundancy before may give an indication of the future. Is advance notice given? Are cutbacks across the board or targeted? How are the decisions made?

•    Clarify compensation surprises with HR. Will your employer be paying bonuses this year? Or will annual remuneration reviews still be going ahead? In the past, has the company set a precedent in terms of redundancy payment; is it just statutory or is it extra?

•    Assess your general risk levels. How is your department or division performing? Is it still profitable and your employment sustainable? How has your performance been? Are you contributing positively to the bottom line? Ask your boss; they will usually be honest about all of this as there is no point is sugar coating the truth.

•    Assess your specific risk level. If your department is not performing, are you? What skills, job changes or projects can you take on board to make yourself indispensable? Find out where you stand with your line manager.

•    Take a look at yourself. What should you be doing now to prepare yourself to survive a redundancy?



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