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When the economy tanks it's time to shine

When the economy tanks, it’s time to shine. It’s not a guarantee for staying employed but it might tip the scale in your favor if the downsizing cross hairs focus in on your department. At the very least, it will help you get a good reference should the axe fall.

Here is a checklist to make sure you are being proactive during these shaky economic times. Some of these items may seem elementary, but I assure you they will be significant if staff-cutting decisions have to be made.

  • Clean up your attitude. It’s easy to be cynical—with government bailouts, executive corruption and foreclosures making the news. Don’t let that seep into your attitude at work. If you get a reputation as someone who is negative and cynical about your own company, they won’t be fighting to keep you if times get tight. They have enough alligators to wrestle without hearing you rant in the background.
  • Step up your performance. You may already be doing more than you signed up for but don’t whine about it. Chances are you will be asked to do even more if some of your colleagues are let go or openings aren’t filled. In fact, this is the time to take on more responsibility. Work to be indispensable—not by being territorial, but by adding value. That might mean doing challenging work no one else wants to do.
  • Be perfect only if it matters. Even if your results are good, if you have a reputation as a procrastinator or a perfectionist it can hurt you. Meet your deadlines—or give your manager a heads up in advance if you can’t meet a goal. One study referenced in the December, 2008 edition of Men’s Health Magazine points out that 37 percent of workers blamed perfectionist tendencies for missing deadlines. Recovering perfectionists usually discover that their less-than-perfect work is just fine and they get a heck of a lot more done.
  • Tighten up your time management. Get to work on time and stay late if necessary to keep up with your work. You’d be surprised how managers notice the “9 to 5ers” and comment about their lack of commitment. If you must be out the door at 5 o’clock to meet personal commitments, it’s even more important to step up in other ways. Be punctual for meetings and take your share of action items. Blowing off a meeting or consistently being late labels you rude and arrogant.
  • Be disciplined about multitasking. Even when your brain activity rises when you focus on multiple tasks, your performance suffers, according to research at Carnegie Mellon. You can’t always avoid distractions but you can limit your email time to specific blocks during the day and you can close your door or block your calendar to work on a project.
  • Follow through on every promise you make. Over promising is a common trait among optimistic managers who want to be generous and caring, but in the end you will be labeled “all talk no action,” which isn’t a good moniker if ranks need to be thinned.
  • Get along with co-workers. It can be tempting to grumble about the guy in the next cube who isn’t pulling his weight, or to gossip about the uncooperative peer in the other department, but doing so can make you look like part of the problem. Your first move should be to go directly to the person in question to try to work out the problem diplomatically. And with the rest of your peers, even if you’re busy, offering help—or at least verbal support—will mark you as a team player.
  • Identify your manager’s (and the department’s) top priorities and do what you can to help achieve them. Even if it means stepping outside of your job description, don’t be shy about asking how you can get the right things done. Now is the time to meet regularly with your manager and reprioritize your to do list.
  • Don’t demand things that cost money unless they are vital to the business. Most companies are currently in budget cutting mode—or at least watching expenses very closely. This is not the time to raise a stink about why you need to add a person or go to a convention unless it’s evident that vital results are in jeopardy without it.

By Joan Lloyd

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