Layoffs are an inevitable reality. But with a little prep and a cutthroat strategy, you can greatly increase your odds of survival.
Assess the Situation
First, evaluate your team so you can position yourself advantageously. Identify which daily responsibilities of your team are the most critical, and what projects are most important to the business. Stepping back to analyze the big picture may tell you that your entire team is at risk. If that’s the case, try making a lateral transfer. This may not seem glamorous, but as a technical professional, you may expand your skill set while securing a safe position without changing employers.
If you know your team isn’t at risk but instead contributes greatly to the organization’s bottom line, position yourself to lead critical projects or functions. These key positions are likely already filled, so it’s going to take some work to get there. Enter: cutthroat strategy.
Put Yourself at Top
Your goal is to make management lose confidence in the person occupying the high-value position, while simultaneously making yourself look good. This will take time. Begin by pointing out their weaknesses and mistakes, in a positive manner, in written correspondences, cc’ing those who will gain value from successful actions instead.
Think strategically as you execute this plan. Play out several possible scenarios in your mind and pick the most likely to happen to plan for. Have back up for anything that might backfire, because you can’t afford to be sloppy. Eventually, as management loses faith in their current star performer, you’ll be able to volunteer for their key duties. If you aren’t skilled to execute all tasks involved, technical competency can always be replaced with business savvy.
Making yourself look good to management will put some friends in your corner. So now you’re the popular kid at school … it’s time to let a few technically strong, “nerdy” colleagues sit at your lunch table. So start delegating! (Who said you have to be a manager to assign tasks?) Be sure to take credit for heading up and managing this work but don’t forget to reward the people doing it. Grab them a cup of coffee on your way to work, and copy them as you thank them in an email to your supervisor. This behavior not only establishes trust but also presents you as a leader to your boss.
It’s important that you never discuss your goals with anyone in the company. Just stay cool and quietly follow your plans. If they’re executed properly, with enough ruthlessness, layoff anxiety will be a thing of the past. And hopefully, you’ll find yourself as an irreplaceable asset slated for the next promotion!