(Photo by Victor Miloslavsky)
As an IT Recruiter of 20 years and a founder of MMD Services — an IT staffing firm — back in 2006, I know firsthand that the job market always has its peaks and valleys. As we are facing another recession, I’d like to talk about what this means to middle management and how taking maximum advantage of this situation can help you to not only save your job, but take your management career to the next level.
DO YOU HAVE A WINNING TEAM?
The last few years were overloaded with projects, and with very few quality IT candidates on the market, IT managers had to compromise with every hire. The truth is they were losing their best people as the market kept getting hotter.
Unfortunately, it was recruiters like us who were hired to steal away the best talent with the offers the candidates just could not refuse. Often hiring managers were thrown into a bidding war on every job offer they gave out to replace their top players. Those inflated offers were often extended too soon in the interviewing process in an effort to preserve even a somewhat fitting candidate available on the market at the time. So it is not surprising that as a result of this madness some of the people on your team are missing critical skills or have inflated sense of entitlement.
With this said, massive layoffs create an opportunity for replacing your overpaid and underperforming staff with real champions. This could give you A-players, so that your new team with the right set of experience and healthy attitudes would make you look like a star!
DON’T GIVE UP
The hiring managers who are forced to cut staff without an opportunity for replacement: stay optimistic! I have seen it all before, so here is how you can eventually get your headcount back.
Start building your case for needing the replacement the minute one of your team members gets cut. Build your defense by documenting everyone’s contribution, highlighting what your short-handed team had to give up, and how value-add is compromised. In a few months, your management will start to pay attention and the “squeaky wheel” (provided you would make a strong argument) will get the grease. If you quietly split the work among your remaining staff you will not only burn the rest of them out, you would also likely lose your headcount permanently. Eventually, overworked team will grow dissatisfied and resentful, which would lead to poor performance and lack of initiative.
Although you may be worried about your own job, I would stay back while your counterparts are trying to please the senior leadership by wiggling their tails and reporting fabulous results with smaller staff. This creates a natural question if they ever needed to have more people in the first place, which will hinder their chances of rebuilding their team in the future. Remember that at the end of the day, you are only as good as your team.
I would still recommend keeping a positive attitude during layoffs. You should certainly be supportive and help your company weather the storm, as long as you are treating this as a temporary situation and referring to it as such in all of your communications, managing up or down.
BE A CHAMPION
Although it is always important to make yourself useful, today it can make a difference between losing your job or being slated for the next promotion! In my conversations with corporate leaders I am learning that organizations are rapidly restructuring, changing themselves to fit the new market demands, leaving upper echelon of management drowning in details as they are having to make quick big picture decisions. The most strategic move would be to pay attention and offer your help in figuring out the logistics, gathering information or breaking down the existing data into a more relevant format.
As you speak with your superiors, this is not the time to chitchat about the weather; rather discuss what you could effectively take off their plates today and follow through with enthusiasm. Help them make good solid decisions that they won’t regret later. Help them survive and grow in this difficult time, and they will pull you along as they make their way up the corporate ladder.
BE SAFE (…and I am not talking about your health)
COVID-19 Pandemic is a new challenge. There may be various situations on your team where improper response on your part may expose your organization to a lawsuit or bad publicity. There may be grey areas on the expectations with hands-on work, handling emergencies, confusion with work from home expectations or PTO policy with reduced salaries or furloughs. Keep open communications with your legal team and/or HR and always get their guidance in writing.
Although you might not want to worry your boss about something that might seem minor, it’s better to bring them into the loop from the start. Given that it’s a new territory, it’s hard to determine the magnitude of the incident you might be dealing with.
In conclusion, any change is an opportunity for growth. However, no matter how hard you try, you might still end up in the area that your organization needs to dissolve in order to survive the crisis. If this happens, call us at MMD Services and we will help you get right back on your feet!