Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 33 – the jobs and careers context 32

This is my 33rd installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-32.)

I have been successively addressing each of a set of workplace issues and challenges since Part 25 of this, that can arise for essentially anyone who works sufficiently long-term with a given employer (see Part 32 for a full list of those points, with appended links to where I have discussed them.) The first five of those entries represent very specific, focused sources of possible challenge and opportunity, and the final, sixth entry offered there is a more general and wide-ranging one that can encompass all of the others that I have raised and discussed here:

6. Negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them, and how you might best manage your career when facing the prospects of getting caught up in that.

I began preparing for a more detailed discussion of this last topics point in Part 32 by outlining in at least a measure of detail, exactly what downsizings are, at least when they are considered beyond the simple fact that they are events where people, and even large numbers of them can lose their jobs and essentially all at once. As I stated in that posting and in the context of that discussion-organizing explanation:

• You cannot effectively negotiate absent an understanding of what you have to, and can negotiate about. And knowing that calls for understanding the context and circumstance, and the goals and priorities of the people who you would face on the other side of the table. And as a crucial part of that, this also includes knowing as fully and clearly as possible, what options and possibilities they might and might not even be able to negotiate upon.

Getting caught up in a downsizing can seem like getting run over by a truck, and when there is no way to get out of the way to avoid that happening. But this perception, while commonly held and understandable, is essentially always wrong and usually for several or even many of its at least assumed details. My goal for this posting is to briefly discuss and explain that, and then at least begin to discuss the options and possibilities for effective negotiations that you might have – that you might be able to create for yourself, when facing this type of challenge. And I begin addressing this set of issues with the basics – with points of readily visible fact that are in practice overlooked or pushed aside and by precisely the people who most need to be aware of them, and as fully and as early as possible:

• Downsizings essentially all come with advance warnings, and after a relatively long series of warnings have been made general knowledge and certainly throughout the workforce that would be affected.
• First of all, they often arise as what amount to Plan B or even Plan C or D options, turned to after other attempts to regain fiscal balance have failed. Everyone at a business, probably knows if its markets have dried up and they can no longer bring in the revenue flows needed to maintain the business they work for at the scale it has operated at. Everyone knows if the business they work for is no longer competitively up to date and if its senior management is going to have to make fundamental changes in what the business does and how, if it is to remain viable as an ongoing enterprise. They know if they have legacy skills that are not going to fit long-term into their employer’s future, and if they have become pigeonholed there as only being able to perform that type of work. They can and probably should know if their employer is looking to outsource what they do as their area of expertise. Everyone there generally knows if their employer is facing a possible merger or acquisition, where staff rightsizing, to use a popular euphemism, is going to mean eliminating what will become redundant work positions and dismissing the employees who hold them. The basic challenges that lead to downsizings are virtually always out there and visible, and in at least enough detail to indicate that downsizings are at least possible.
• And secondly, downsizings are rarely once and done events. They take place in stages, with groups let go and pauses and then with next groups let go. And it is not at all uncommon for businesses that are facing a need to downsize, to bring in outside specialists as business consultants to help manage all of this. So this can mean the employees there seeing colleagues disappear from their workplace in groups (and most commonly on Fridays), while seeing new faces walking around seeking information on what everyone does there.

And this brings me to the great unspoken: the issues and challenges of directly, objectively, openly facing these possibilities, when and as they become realities for an employer and for the people working there. Too many of us look away from the uncertainty and threat of all of this, as if our not seeing it and not considering its possible impact on us, might make it all go away. You have to at least consider the possibility that you might be caught up in this type of a tidal wave type event too, if there is evidence of it happening or of its likelihood of happening. And it is never safe to simply assume that this cannot happen to you because you are a loyal and effective employee or manager there, with skills and experience that the business needs. You can never simply assume that this cannot happen to you because you consistently get excellent performance reviews, or because your colleagues and supervisor like you and value having you there. People are fired for specific reasons that would put them at the center of a target for that type of dismissal. Problem hands-on employees and managers are fired and for specific cause. But good and even great employees and managers can and do get caught up in downsizings, as they are never (at least in principle) carried out on a fault or deficiency determined basis. Good people: good employees and managers are let go, and even despite their value to the business, to keep a business viable and competitive and to meet larger business needs. And that point of fact can serve as the basis for essentially all of the negotiating arguments that you could raise, in support of your being retained by an employer facing this type of at least perceived need.

• The question, which I will explore in at least some depth in the installment to come here, is one of how you can best present yourself as an asset that your employer would want to keep on, coming out of the staff reductions and reorganizations of a downsizing. And that means negotiating in terms of what you can do that will offer value through this type of transition and as your employer moves past it. And that means you’re negotiating in terms of the specific downsizing you face, and how and why it is taking place, and with as clear an understanding as possible of what this business seeks to achieve from it (and avoid from it.)

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, where I will expand on that bullet point, discussing negotiations goals and priorities as they arise for you, depending on your job and career objectives, and the driving reasons for a possible, or ongoing downsizing that you might be caught up in. And in anticipation of that, I will consider all of the downsizing-cause scenarios that I have noted, at least in passing here and in Part 32.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material.

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