Tag Archives: Employment

7 signs you might be laid off – and 7 ways to protect yourself

A friend of mine was recently laid off, which came as a huge relief after months of toxic interaction at his company.  We had chatted a few weeks earlier about his suspicions that “something was up in the office”.  No surprise, then, when a termination letter and severance package were handed to him one Monday morning.  The signals?

1)  Budget cuts – Management formally decreased their budgets, and increased the frequency of “we need cost cutting” and “we’re losing money” conversations

2) New, impossible-to-achieve performance targets – the boss required a doubling of sales targets (higher than ever before) with less resources

3) Management insisted that employees formally sign-off on impossible performance targets

4) Computer security changes –  an unusual amount of time was spent by IT technicians updating certain PCs and changing passwords

5) rewrite of the current job position – management removed 30% of the existing job and transferred those responsibilities to another position.  The decreased role also took a corresponding pay cut.

6) Other employees were asked to train and learn existing positions for future “backup”

7) Frequent closed door meetings –  By themselves, a series of closed door meetings may be unrelated to layoffs (an acquisition, someone’s medical issues, a new strategy).  But coupled with the above signs, the odds of a staff reduction in the office may increase.

What can you do about the situation?

1) Stick to factors within your control.  Outside circumstances such as the recession or economy may be driving factors of your company’s business problems; a layoff is not necessarily “personally” directed against you.  Don’t mistake hard-edged but difficult business choices as personal vendettas.  There is no point worrying about what is outside your control.

2) Consider what you can do to help the situation as an employee:  suggest areas for cost reductions, business efficiencies and improvements, etc.   Stay calm, courteous and professional even if the office politics become heated.  Overreacting at any level will put your behavior in the limelight and could contribute to management’s choices on the layoff list.

3) Continue to seek clarity of expectations in your job.  Ask for clarification if you are not sure what is expected of you during changing budgets, job descriptions and work situations.  Always be respectful in your communications to upper management.

4) Keep your health maintenance up to date, in case a layoff is imminent.  Get dental work done, renew the eyeglass prescription.  Keep up a healthy lifestyle (exercise, eat properly) to reduce your stress level.

5) Cut back on personal financial spending where you can.  Stick to “needs” and ignore the “wants” to keep debt levels down.

6) Develop a vision of the better job that you can move to.  A wise mentor once told me, “Don’t run FROM a lousy job, run TO a perfect job!”  Refocus your mind on positive career opportunities.

7) Start taking small steps toward the better job (i.e. take a night course, develop contacts, join a networking group, etc).  Whether you remain in your current position or move elsewhere, shifting your mind onto positive forward thinking options will dilute the toxic emotions that may be swirling around you in your work environment.  Remember:

Luck is opportunity meeting preparedness.  

Good Luck!

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Boiled Frog Syndrome – Are you needing to change?

Once upon a time there was a frog who hopped into a pot of nice, cool, clear water.  He sat in that pot and decided “Life is okay here – no need to change.”   Behind the counter, however, a kitchen chef noticed that a frog had landed in his pot of water – “What a nice surprise, I could make frog soup for dinner!”   So the chef  turned up the heat on the burner ever so slowly.

That frog sat in the pot, not noticing the change in temperature.  After a while, little bubbles in the pot indicated that boiling was imminent.  Still that frog sat and contemplated life as the water became hotter and hotter.  Eventually, the water reached boiling point and the frog perished.

The chef scratched his chin and recalled the last time he tried to make frog soup – setting the water to boiling point first, he dropped a frog into the pot, but upon hitting the boiling water the frog jumped out of the pot and clear across the kitchen.

What lessons can we take from this story?  Are you living with unacceptable conditions, but they came into your life so slowly and in such subtle ways that you haven’t even noticed them?   Would you have walked away from these conditions if you had encountered them in their entirety at an earlier point in your life?

Work life – Have conditions in your workplace evolved over time and slowly become toxic to your health?  Do you dread getting up and going to work each morning?

A wise executive once told me:  if you get up more than three days in a row and dread work, you need to CHANGE SOMETHING.

– Maybe you need to change your attitude.

– Maybe you need to speak with a boss or coworker to correct a problem situation.

– Maybe the culture at your work will not change and you need to consider alternate employment options.

Personal life – have you remained in a relationship that is profoundly negative and draining your energy?  Consider what you can control in your situation and what is beyond your control.

Above all, think of the your life as a blank canvas:  you alone have the power to create the “picture” and determine the destiny of your future.

– Remember who you used to be before ending up in a symbolic pot of boiling water.

– Don’t be afraid to dream about the future and where  you can take your life.  You’ve only one life on this earth, life it to the fullest.

– Change is part of every process in life and death.  Work with the possibilities of change, and use them to enhance your life and your future!

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Less than Half of Employees Trust their Boss

This is a guest post from Dan Rockwell at Leadership Freak:

The number one reason employees are happy is they trust their leaders (Lamb & McKee).

Surprisingly, less than half of employees have trust and confidence in their senior managers (Baldoni, Lead Your Boss).

Six Creative Ways to Build Trust

  1. Declare what you want rather than what you don’t want. Saying what you don’t want stops things. Saying what you do want instills confidence to starts things.
  2. Trust is based not only on openness but on keeping a confidence. What you don’t say builds trust.
  3. Honesty plus ability builds trust. An honest electrician isn’t competent to renovate a master bathroom. He may be perfectly honest. However, don’t trust him with your toilet.
  4. Explain organizational performance. For example, don’t hide financial successes in order to keep people hungry.
  5. It’s hard trusting the captain when the ship’s adrift. Stand on the bow with telescope in hand and bravely call out the course. Do your people know where you are going?
  6. Let people know how they fit in and what their work means. Say something like, “When you do “X” it makes a difference.”  Explain the positive difference others make.

Leader as Trust Builder

Employee satisfaction is a complex mix of many factors. Research demonstrates the number one satisfaction-factor is they trust their leaders. Ask yourself the hard question, “Are my employees satisfied?” Perhaps the harder question is, “What am I intentionally doing to build trust?”


(The central premise of this post comes from research done by Lawrence Lamb and Kathy McKee (2005), Applied Public Relations: Cases in Stakeholder Management)

Additional reading, “How Investing in Intangibles — Like Employee Satisfaction — Translates into Financial Returns.”

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How to Assess Problem Employees: Will vs. Skill

Do you have a marginally performing employee?  Not sure exactly what to do?  Should you keep supporting them? When (in what circumstances) should you terminate their employment?

A friend of mine, a certified executive coach, gave a great example of how to simplify decisions when dealing with low-performing staff:  Determine if your employee has the WILL to succeed, and if he/she has the SKILL to succeed.

Obviously, employees who already have both Will and Skill are likely doing just fine:  it’s folks lacking one of these attributes that will be showing signs of failure in the job.

WILL = Attitude and positive motivation

If an individual has the technical job skill but not the WILL, you are dealing with attitude issues.

a) Your employee may be tired, frustrated, angry or depressed.  You will need to use psychological approaches and motivation strategies to shift the attitude in a positive direction.

b) Decide on the best strategy to approach the employee, depending on the reason for lack of WILL at work.   Note: there may be external factors impacting your employee (eg a personal situation, medical issues, etc).  Tread carefully when dealing with your employee’s privacy – stay focused on performance behaviors in your discussions and approach.

c) Set a deadline and a measure of progress that could reasonably be expected under the circumstances.

d) Define a “line in the sand” status, where you would determine that the employee is not salvageable in the position.  If, after a reasonable time period, you cannot see progress beyond this line in the sand, termination will be the last option.

In my experience, a line in the sand always includes two things:  the employee exerts personal effort towards improvement, and external relationships are improved /damaged relationships are mended.   If  these elements are not evident, there may be reputation damage beyond repair, in which no amount of goodwill can salvage the situation.

SKILL = Technical ability to execute the job duties

Employees who have motivation but lack technical ability may simply need the right resources, training and support in their role.

a) Assess which skills are lacking in the individual.  Are these gaps small enough that a training and support will ensure performance success?  Does the individual have the aptitude to accomplish improvements with a training and support program?

b) If the answer above is “yes, the employee could bridge the current skill gap”, then have a frank chat regarding performance and confirm the employee’s willingness to upskill in the job.

c) Set a deadline and a measure of progress that could reasonably be expected under the circumstances.

d) Define a “line in the sand” status, where you would determine that the employee is not salvageable in the position.  If, after a reasonable time period, you cannot see progress beyond this line in the sand (that is, despite effort the technical skills do not materialize), termination will be the last option.

The Last Resort:  Termination

Termination is always the most difficult option because an employee’s livelihood is at stake.  Good leaders do not take this alternative unless the situation is absolutely unsalvageable.  Tips for terminating an employee:

a)  Make sure you, as employer, have treated the employee fairly.  Make sure you have made a solid effort to correctly identify the problem and support the employee /correct the situation

b) Focus on performance problems not personal traits; be respectful; do not make the issue personal or emotional with the employee

c) Where possible, offer a graceful exit for the employee.  Take the high road and offer dignified options for your employee

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Resume screening – 5 easy tips to speed your selection

There have been several times when I was swamped with hundreds of resumes for a single job posting – how does one screen down to the best applicants without taking days and days of effort?

1)  Define your most unique, critical requirements in the job

Do you require certain unique characteristics that are essential for success in the job?  I hired for one position where an ability to “make sense from chaotic data” was much more important than the core accounting skills usually required in that role. In another situation, I required very strong “relationship building skills” because that was the most lacking strength within my department at the time.

Before going through your resumes, set up specific, unique requirements that not all candidates will possess – this will speed up your ability to narrow down your shortlist in record time.

2) Skim your resumes, separate into 3 categories:  A, B and C

The A pile is your “qualified-for-sure” candidates — they meet the unique minimum requirements for the job, and on paper they theoretically should be able to do the job very well (contingent of course upon your meeting them, verifying resume facts and their personality or fit to the role).  This A pile should be about 10-15% of the total resumes.

The B pile is your “maybe” candidates — they fulfill some requirements or look interesting but do not stand out.  Maybe these resumes meet 75-80% of your candidate requirements and you will have to follow up to see if other strengths are present.  This pile will be your backup plan if all of the “A” candidates don’t pan out (yes, sometimes all the A candidates don’t make the final cut).  This B pile should be about 20-40% of the total resumes.

The C pile is your “no thanks!” candidates — they are resumes with spelling, grammar or factual mistakes, as well as resumes of candidates who do not meet the core skillsets, personality traits or unique critical requirements for the job.

If you are harsh with spelling, grammar and standards of professionalism when skimming the resumes, you can usually cut out at least 30-50% of the candidate simmediately by using a critical eye to the documents.  This C pile should be more than half of your total resume list.

3) Focus on the A list, screen further with a brief phone interview

The A list will contain candidates that fit your needs; however you may not fit their needs.  A brief phonecall with several filtering questions can reduce your list down to better win/win candidates for a more detailed interview.  Questions I often use for phone filtering:

 – What is the range of compensation you are expecting?

 – Would you be willing to move to XYZ location?

 – Where do you see yourself careerwise in 5 years?

 – What is the reason you are leaving (or have left) your current position?

 – Why do you want this job?

 – Based on our job advertisement, how would your approach the first 90 days in this job?

The above questions indicate a candidate’s own expectations.  The answers will identify any large gaps in expectations (compensation, career mobility, relocating, approach/style).  These gaps will give you another filter to reduce your candidate pool to a small short list for interviews.  You will save cost, time and travel expense of interviewing a larger number of candidates.

4) Filter your shortlist by screening candidates’ social media presence

I can often shorten my hiring list by another 30-50% simply by doing a quick internet search on their names in Facebook,Linked In and Twitter.    There is an amazing amount of information out in cyberspace – some examples I have seen (all true) include drunken photos, sexual conversations, disparaging remarks about a current employer, and evidence of poor personality fit (eg: “I’m a gypsy psychic who can tell your fortune” applying to work in a military style organization).

5) Don’t settle for candidates who don’t meet the critical elements of the job

In a hot labor market, you may struggle to find the right candidate with good “fit” to your organization and good technical skills.  Don’t settle for less than your minimums out of desperation.  Wait and keep searching for the right resume and the right candidate!  In my thirty years of business experience, I have never regretted waiting for the right candidate but I have regretted, more than once, hiring in haste or desperation.

The best solution:  a win/win with the right candidate.  They will fit your organization’s needs and thrive in a job role that fits their niche skills and talents.

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