Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 43 – the jobs and careers context 42

This is my 43rd 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 1-42.)

I have been at least relatively systematically discussing a series of workplace contexts and situations here since Part 25 that call for negotiating skills and effort on the part of involved employees, whether hands-on non-managerial, or managerial. And I have been delving into the issues and complexities of a particularly challenging and all too commonly faced negotiating challenge since Part 32 that in effect encompasses within it, all of the earlier challenges discussed here and more:

• 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 type of circumstance.

That still-ongoing line of discussion has called for a dozen and more consecutive series installments here because the specific why and how of any negotiations that would be entered into, in navigating such uncertainly, are crucially important to any success that might be achieved there. So I have been working my way through a series of six specific downsizing scenarios and their particular issues; my goal there has been to offer a wide enough diversity of perspective here, so as to offer at least some value to a reader if they find themselves confronted by some “none of the above” seventh downsizing scenario instead.

So far I have at least briefly addressed the first four of the scenarios that I would explicitly discuss here, and my goal for here is to turn to and delve into my initial list’s Scenario 5. But I begin doing so by repeating both that scenario and Scenario 4 as considered in Part 42, so I can refer to it for purposes of comparison:

4. Downsizings, or at least a determination of who would be let go in them, are not always just about cutting down on staff to reduce redundancies and to bring the business into leaner and more effective focus for meeting its business performance needs. They can also be used as opportunities to cut out and remove people who have developed reputations as being difficult to work with, or for whatever reasons that the managers they report to would see as sufficiently justifying. Downsizings can be and are used as a no-fault opportunity for removing staff who do not fit into the corporate culture or who have ruffled feathers higher up on the table of organization and even if they would otherwise more probably be retained and stay.
5. And to cite another scenario that can be more Who oriented, and certainly from the perspective of who is bringing it about, a new, more senior manager who wants to do some personal empire building within their new employer’s systems can use a downsizing and reorganization in their area of oversight responsibility to put their name on how things are done there. Consider this a confrontational career enhancement tactic on their part.

Crucially importantly here, the above repeated Scenario 4 and its downsizing selection process are largely influenced by, if not shaped by the people who would be singled out for dismissal. Note that I am not assuming blame or fault of any type on their part. I am only assuming that for whatever reason they present themselves in such a way as to make them seem to be outsiders. And they do so in ways that at least one manager who is senior to them, would see as problematical. But Scenario 5 is entirely grounded in the egos and ambitions of the people who would carry it out, and with the majority of that coming from whomever among them, can best be considered a prime instigator there. The people who would be singled out for dismissal in a Scenario 5 context could be anyone.

Yes, ego and ambition, and bias and other considerations, coming out of the people who would carry it out, enter into Scenario 4 too. But that side to Scenario 5 is the only side of any real significance for it. And that simple fact is the single most important consideration to bring to the table when seeking to negotiate with such an individual.

Who, more specifically, brings about a Scenario 5 type of downsizing? This type of scenario can only take place when a manager who is driven by personal ambition is pushing for it.

• And they have to be well enough positioned in the business to be able to move this from wistful intention on their part into realized action. So they are most likely going to be middle managers at the very least. And if they are just middle managers, they can most probably only successfully push for this if they have special difficult-to-find or replace skills and experience that would prompt more senior managers and executives there to want to please them.
• But they are unlikely to be senior executives themselves there. They are unlikely to be C level officers, because a manager in that level of position would be empire building in a functional area that they already fully control, at least insofar as anyone in a large business organization can truly own their area of responsibility in a business.

Look for this scenario as coming from people who are still on their way up in their career path, as they see matters, and who have enough power and influence to be able to have real impact from that. And at the same time look for people who are more focused on their own careers and their own sense of self-worth and value, than they are on the business they work for or the people they work with.

• While it might be too anecdotal to consider this as to be more generally applicable principle, I add here that I have seen this scenario play out more as a stepping stone move than anything else, where the prime mover manager behind it is literally trying to develop resume bullet points that they can bring with them as they seek out bigger and better, and elsewhere if need be. I have seen career builders use this as they seek next step up opportunities, moving from business to business on the strength of the performance points they can amass in their resumes. And that is why I added the phrase “new, more senior manager” in the wording offered in my initial Scenario 5 bullet point descriptor.

And with that offered, I turn to the issues of negotiating in such a context, so as not to become an empire building castoff. And this is a scenario where preparation and planning are everything.

• People with this type and level of ambition are generally pretty open about that. They actively seek out opportunities to garner recognition as up and coming stars, from those above them on the table of organization. And they actively push to create opportunities to get that type of recognition from higher up if enough of them do not arise for them anyway, so as to meet their self-perceived needs.
• Use this fact both to identify these managers and to map out what their goals and ambitions are so you can approach them understanding them, and as thoroughly as possible.
• Think through and understand their resume-oriented performance and achievement, bullet point-shaped plans too, so you can approach them if and when you need to, with an equally detailed understanding of what they would do that would call for dismissals.
• As noted above, these individuals are would-be rising stars and most of the time their goal is to achieve C level executive status, if not Chief Executive Officer status and title. But focus here on what you can discern of their more immediate here-and-now goals and intentions. Plan and be prepared to negotiate and act with that in mind.
• This is key to any success that you might achieve here; you are most probably only going to succeed in this type of negotiating context if you can present yourself as a significant source of value to them for what they seek to do, and not just someone locked into what they would do away with.

What can you do that would make you a part of the solution that they seek to build and not just part of the problem that they see as standing in their way there?

At a crucially important note, the above discussion thread might suggest that any such downsizing is entirely contrived. But this basic scenario also applies to business settings where reasonable claims for needed change can be made too. In fact there are almost certainly going to be elements of real, arguably convincing need for a more genuinely business-supportive downsizing if an also-Scenario 5 downsizing effort is to take place and succeed (see Part 39 and Part 40 for their discussions of more needs-based downsizing scenarios, for comparative purposes here.) So plan and prepare for a Scenario 5 context, with an awareness of any more genuinely business needs-based staff reductions that might be argued for too. And be prepared to negotiate in those terms, as a Scenario 5 manager is never going to actually admit that they are empire building as I have been discussing that here; they are always going to justify and carry out their plans here, on the basis of an argument of real business needs. (Yes, to put this somewhat cynically, consider the negotiations that you would enter into in this context, as negotiating by euphemism, as the issues overtly discussed do not necessarily exactly match the actual reasons for these conversations being necessary.)

And as a final thought here, this is definitely a scenario where you need to think through what is and is not important to you in your life and in your jobs and careers planning. Let’s assume that you can convince this type of manager to keep you on as they set out to enhance their position at the business, and enhance their resume in the process. Do you really want to report to and work for this type of person and for what might be a significant period of time as they seek out their next career move? What other options or opportunities do you have? What other opportunities can you develop, if for example you get to stay on now, and if you use that as an opportunity to look for New for yourself, where you have a steady paycheck and benefits such as employee health insurance coverage while doing so? (See my series: Should I Stay or Should I Go? as can be found at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 416 and following for a more detailed discussion of the issues raised here. I would particularly note my postings on working with difficult people as a starting point there.)

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will discuss the sixth and final downsizing scenario that I will explicitly address in this series:

6. And as a final area of consideration here, consider the last-in, first-out approach as it can by default, impact on younger employees and more recent hires and regardless of what they do and can do that might be needed by the business. Businesses with a strong union presence often follow that approach though they are not the only ones that do. But this type of retain or let-go determination can also be skills-based, or location based if for example it is decided to close a more peripheral office that might not have been as much of a profit center as desired or expected. So even there, it might be possible to argue a case for being retained at a job.

My goal there will be to discuss standardized personnel processes, and career-oriented exceptions and exceptions handling as strategically considered options. And then as already noted I will turn to and discuss severance packages and their issues, as crucial negotiating considerations here.

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. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 42 – the jobs and careers context 41

This is my 42nd 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 1-41.)

Jobs and careers-oriented negotiating can become both the most important and the most challenging conversations that an employee: hands-on or managerial can face, and certainly as resultant consequences would directly affect them. And they call for what are generally among the least known and least exercised workplace skills that most of us can suddenly find that we need. I began systematically addressing each of a set of specific negotiations-requiring scenarios in this series in Part 25, with that narrative progression leading up to a sixth and final one that encompasses within it, at least elements of all of the first five and more: the challenge of being caught up in a downsizing or of facing significant risk of that happening. And I have been delving into its issues and complexities since Part 32, with that leading up to systematic analyses of a set of six downsizing contexts: six reasons why a business might pursue that type of course of action. As a part of that, I have both outlined some of the key specific issues that a business would face in a downsizing, and negotiating approaches that might be pursued, and why, for better dealing with those issues as an employee at risk.

My primary goal here is to delve in at least some detail into the fourth such downsizing scenario, having already addressed the first three. So for smoother continuity of narrative I begin this posting by repeating it here:

4. All of this noted, in reality downsizings, or at least a determination of who would be let go in them, are not always just about cutting down on staff to reduce redundancies and to bring the business into leaner and more effective focus for meeting its business performance needs. They can also be used as opportunities to cut out and remove people who have developed reputations as being difficult to work with, or for whatever reasons that the managers they report to would see as sufficiently justifying. Downsizings can be and are used as a no-fault opportunity for removing staff who do not fit into the corporate culture or who have ruffled feathers higher up on the table of organization and even if they would otherwise more probably be retained and stay.

And I begin this posting as promised in Part 41, by noting a point of detail that I offered as commentary regarding scenario 3: the elimination of old and obsolete legacy holdovers from a business that has come to see itself as being dysfunctionally mired in its past. I said in Part 41 that that scenario “is almost certainly the most difficult and challenging of the six that I would discuss here in this series, for actually negotiating continued employment.” An initial reading and consideration of scenario 4 might very well challenge that assertion and for many readers. But the first issue that I will address in discussing scenario 4 will at least hopefully clarify why I would question that presumption. And I begin addressing that by noting a point of observation that I have seen replicably validated:

• The reason why an employee might be considered for inclusion in a downsizing can be important. But perception and the workplace history that shape it can be everything.

Let’s consider two specific “grounds for dislike” there, that if provable would make it difficult and even extremely risky for a business to dismiss someone and under essentially any circumstances short of provable criminal malfeasance on their part:

• A demonstrable history of discriminatory behavior that has arguably targeted an individual employee under consideration for downsizing, or others who would fit into a same legally protected group that they belong to at that business,
• And whistleblowers.

Workplace discrimination is both odious, and illegal in a wide range of jurisdictions globally. The precise list of classes of individuals who are legally protected under anti-discrimination laws do vary but they generally include most or all of:

• Race.
• Skin color.
• Religion or creed (including protected status for agnosticism and atheism.)
• National origin or ancestry.
• Gender and self-defined gender identity.
• Age.
• Physical or mental disability.
• Veteran status.
• Genetic information (where that might reveal increased risk for developing specific health challenges.)
• Citizenship and certainly for legal foreign residents (e.g. people with green cards in the United States.)

Imagine the bind that a business would be in, that is legally bound to follow such laws, if a manager there were to decide to “house clean” by downsizing an employee or two who have always received good to excellent annual performance reviews, whose basic job types were not going to be eliminated even if their specific job titles were, and who were older and Hispanic … when that manager has made a practice of publically denigrating older employees simply because of their age and with extra jabs taken at “Mexicans.”

It would not matter if they tried arguing that they were pushing for these dismissals for reasons that had nothing to do with anyone’s age or ethnicity, and certainly if that employer’s legal counsel were to be brought into that discussion. It is the staff simplifying manager with dreams of rebuilding a part of the business in their own image, who might find themselves facing dismissal.

Any effort to “downsize,” (as in fire) a whistleblower in the face of the legal protections from retribution that they have, and in so many legal jurisdictions, would likely lead to at least roughly similar results.

I began this scenario 4 discussion by citing two admittedly extreme non-dismissal situations, in order to point out that the manager seemingly in control in that context, is not necessarily going to be in a position to get their way, at least as they initially see it. And that specific wording as to their reach and its limitations here, leads me directly to the two crucially important determinants of what can be done when seeking to negotiate in a scenario 4 context and how, and for the benefit of whom – and when the employees at risk there are not so legally indemnified against less than fully, individually justified dismissal action as in the above two cases.

• It is important to both understand and plan for any negotiations to come, with as full and clear an understanding as possible as to why targeted individuals would be included in a downsizing, where simply labeling them as “difficult” employees would likely not be considered reasonable grounds by an employing business,
• And it is just as important for such an individual to plan and prepare for how they could effectively address both whatever stated reasons that would be offered for their dismissal, and the unstated but in fact driving reasons behind that effort.

And with the second of those points of consideration in mind, at the very least, I add a third one which I present in the form of two questions:

• Who there at that place of employment, if anyone, is both in a position of authority and respect to be able to champion the cause of a “difficult” employee under fire?
• And who of that perhaps short list would be most willing to do so?

Let me take this line of discussion a step further out of the abstract, personalizing it. If you are this employee in this bind, who have you worked with and successfully so, who might even have reason to owe you support from how you have taken extra steps to be of help to them? What have you done that would fit that pattern? And how best can you approach these possible allies to ask for their support in this? That would most likely mean your attempting to appeal to a sense of enlightened self-interest on their part, to at least a degree where you argue your case with them in terms of your value to the business and to what they are responsible for at it.

And as a part of this, you will probably have to find an opportunity to speak candidly and in private with the manager who would like to see you go away too. That type of discussion might very well not succeed for you and certainly in and of itself. But if you don’t do this or at least make a good faith effort to do so, that absence will almost certainly end your chances of succeeded through any other channels.

I said at the end of Part 41 that I would turn to consider the Plan B possibilities of severance packages, and add that this is a vitally important area of discussion for all of the downsizing scenarios that I have under consideration here. I am going actively address that topic, but will complete my at least initial discussion of the last two downsizing scenarios first so I can delve into the issues of severance packages as contractual agreements with a fuller range of contingencies and possibilities in mind. And in anticipation of that discussion to come, that will mean parsing out the issues of what a dismissed employee would receive and the issues of what they would have to agree to in order to be deemed eligible for that, and why.

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. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Hands-off management, micromanagement and in-between – some thoughts on what they mean in practice 3

This is my third posting to an occasional series on better management practices, to address the issues of how and when to actively step in and how and when to step back. See Part 1 and Part 2.

I briefly sketched out the basic issues that I would address here, in those first two installments, citing some specific workplace situations in the process in order to help take this discussion at least somewhat out of the abstract. And then I concluded Part 2 of this by raising two admittedly overly terse topics points that related to the consequences of how you actually make specific case- in-point decisions, as to whether you should step in and even take over on a task, or step back and let a subordinate figure things out on their own: learning curve delays and mistakes and all. I begin this posting here by expanding those initially-offered two points into three as follows:

• You have to expect that any decisions that you make of this general categorical type, will have repercussions and ripple effects that could at least potentially run throughout the business, and certainly where the work that you manage has wide ranging impact there. And you have to expect that everyone there who you actually have to work with will come to know about that as a part of how they think about you: more senior managers who you report to included – and certainly if management-level problems arise on your part. And if the people who you work with only hear about that second hand and as rumor, they will only hear versions of it that are negative and worse and certainly if you really do make problematical decisions.
• This type of reputation shaping can affect your own work and your own career at that business, and the options and opportunities that you would face there, and certainly if you come across as being ineffective as a manager because of this.
• And a key part of actually addressing that type of management challenge is one of understanding, conveying and managing expectations.

People tend to set high expectations as to the skills and ability of the people who they report to and depend upon for leading them, and high expectations as to the skills and ability of those who hold managerial authority where they work in general. And they talk and listen, and if they do not have all of the facts, they can and will fill in the gaps in what they hear of this, with their own hopes and fears.

On the negative side this can mean talk of micromanaging, and of leaving employees hanging from their being held responsible for the mistakes that they make but without their having the support that they would need if they were to prevent, or at least limit those challenges. And on the positive side this can mean a shared message of managers who are supportive, and effectively so, knowing when and how and where to step in and when and how and where not to. There is still a positive side to all of this, even if I have focused more on the negative side up to here in this posting.

And this brings me to that now-third point of my above-expanded to-address topics list, and both for how a manager: more junior or more senior can better navigate this. I focused in the above-repeated to-address points, on office gossip. And I add here that with time the stories that it creates and conveys can become the foundation material that an entire corporate culture can be based upon, and certainly where similar and related stories concerning managers and hands-on employees in general, come together as an overall narrative as to how things are done at that business.

• Consider in that regard, Business A, where managers are neither trained nor mentored for how to manage effectively, and hands-on employees and lower level and even middle managers can routinely be left without support: holding responsibility but hobbled by how they are worked with and led in their efforts.
• Now consider Business B, where training and mentoring are explicitly built into both business practice and the corporate culture, and where people there are given opportunities to learn and to prove themselves that are realistic and positive.

But I would step back from that broader picture perspective here and return to addressing this topic from the perspective of a more individualized narrative, and from the initial point of impact where specific actively-manage or step-back decisions are actually made, and where the actual events realized from that lead to wider conversations. I turn back here to further consider this from the perspective of the individual manager.

• That posting, as such, is a discussion of social contracts, and I cite that type of interpersonal agreement rather than business contracts, for a reason.

Business contracts for the most part at least, serve to codify and standardize specific areas of action and responsibility and on more of a task-by-task, or performance goal-by-goal basis, and with breach of contract consequences so specified as well, as deemed appropriate. And the key detail that I would focus on from that here, is that they specify specific transactions and their fulfillment, but without similarly codifying how participants would relate to each other in the process of that work being carried out – except perhaps to indicate who would be involved in it and usually at least, to the levels of job titles and positions of responsibility held.

Social contracts are by contrast interpersonal and about how people interact with and relate to each other. This is important here; the issues and sometimes challenges of knowing how actively to engage and manage, do not generally begin and end with any one single actively-manage or not decision and its follow-through. I am writing here of patterns of behavior and their consequences, and not of what might more be considered exceptions or special cases.

That noted, the one exception to that here-stated principle that I would hold out as important to this narrative, would arise when a manger is dealing with a subordinate who reports them at least situationally, for a first time where a less than effective approach taken here can convey the long lasting impact of a first impression. First impressions can become lasting impressions and certainly if they arise problematically.

From a word of mouth and yes, from an office gossip perspective, who would want to be on the talked and rumored-about end of a “you won’t believe what that new manager, X just did, and to one of the best people on our team!”

And on that note, I turn here to consider new beginnings and the challenges of getting off to a good start, and both as a new manager at a business and for when a more experienced manager there has to work with new employees, or at least with ones who they have never directly worked with before, and as their supervisor. I am going to at least begin to address that area of discussion in my next installment to this series.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, with this put into its addendum section (and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3.) And you can also find this at Social Networking and Business 2 (and also see its Page 1), and at HR and Personnel – 2 (and see its Page 1.)

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 41 – the jobs and careers context 40

This is my 41st 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 1-40.)

I have been discussing a succession of workplace challenges in this series, since Part 25, that all explicitly call for effective communications and negotiating skills and that all involve jobs and careers issues and how best to manage them. And as a part of that ongoing narrative, I have been discussing in detail, a sixth and final example here, that includes within it all of the first five for its overall complexity:

• 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 type of circumstance.

I began discussing this negotiations requiring scenario in Part 32, and then turned to consider specific negotiating approaches and issues that arise in such downsizing contexts in Part 37. And to round out and complete this initial orienting background note for this posting, I offered in Part 38, a list of six specific types of downsizing contexts: six particular situations that would bring an employing business to see a need to take such a step in the first place. And I have already discussed the first two of them in Part 39 and Part 40 respectively. And my goal here is to delve into the third of those example scenarios too.

And I begin this posting by repeating the basic bullet point description of the second of these scenarios as well as by offering the third of them, as the two hold some crucially important points in common, even as they each have their own more unique issues too:

2. Downsizings, while more usually driven by at least relatively straightforward revenue and expense imbalances (nota bene, as per example in scenario 1), can also be driven by pressures to phase out old systems and install new ones that might be better fits for a current or emerging business model in place. Think of staff reductions there, as they can arise when a business decides to outsource a functional area and its work, making it unnecessary to retain the people who have done that in-house as ongoing employees.
3. And a key driver (n.b. for carrying out a downsizing) there can be an intended and even vitally needed attempt to move beyond legacy and out of date, and both in what a business brings to market and in how it does that, where this would involve in-house redevelopment too.

Both of these example scenarios involve eliminating at least in-house, at least large portions of one or more specific functional areas of a business that it has more traditionally supported and maintained within the business, and that have generally been thought of as positively valued assets there – at least until emerging circumstances and a consequential reevaluation of their finances started a review and analysis process that led to a decision to eliminate or outsource them. And the basic default in both of those scenarios would be the elimination of a significant number of otherwise valued and appreciated employees, who would have simply been kept on, absent this.

That addresses similarities and areas of overlap. But to turn this discussion in the direction of the very real and significant differences that can be found between example scenarios 2 and 3, let’s reconsider my possible negotiations example from Part 40 with its scenario 2 job retention negotiations approach (which I strongly recommend you’re reviewing here.)

That example approach might in fact work and particularly for a member of a function team that is facing downsizing, who has at least lower level managerial experience as well as hands-on experience and expertise there. And if they have worked with third party providers already, and have performed well at that, and with recognition of that included in their annual performance reviews, the employment retention argument that I offered there would become that much more viable and that much more likely to succeed. But it would and in fact could only work in an outsourcing context of the type discussed there. It would not work, and certainly in and of itself, if a functional area was going to be phased out and discarded without any real replacement, or at least without any that its current employees have any experience or training in, in an example scenario 3 context.

That downsizing-driving example: elimination of obsolete systems and the downsizing of employees who have worked in them, is almost certainly the most difficult and challenging of the six that I would discus here in this series, for actually negotiating continued employment there. This is where “transferable” in transferable skills, and experience become both the most important and the most difficult to convincingly argue a case for. And at least from my experience and according to my understanding here, this is where stretch goals as worked towards as next step forward consequences of annual performance reviews, and added tasks agreed to and carried out to help meet unexpected needs, might make all of the difference – if anything can.

• In a scenario 2, outsourcing situation, negotiating successfully to be retained as an employee is probably going to be at least somewhat grounded in what you have been doing on the job already, where something of an experience base from that type of work is still, most likely going to be needed in-house. And expanding out from there in what you can effectively claim that you can do, might in effect seal the deal for you’re being retained as an ongoing in-house employee.
• But in a scenario 3 situation, work experience and even deep expertise in what is about to be dropped and downsized, is going to be seen as a pronounced negative. And the employees who work in that area who are more new-hire than experienced pros might very well face a better chance of being retained because they will be in a better position to argue a case that they are not stuck in a now-obsolete rut.

And this brings me directly to Plan B planning, and thinking through and preparing for second choice options and possibilities. And I begin that from an example 3 perspective and with younger, new hire employees and with older, deeply expert and experienced employees in mind: employees who are still starting out and those who face downsizing because the work that they have done long-term at a business is going to be eliminated for being part of its past – but not of its future.

• Younger employees, and particularly ones who have only recently finished their formal schooling, might or might not be able to transition from a more entry level position in the “old”, to one in a “still to be maintained, and in-house,” if not an entirely “new and cutting edge.” This option is not in most cases going to be available to employees who have in effect come to define that Old, from their long years carrying it out and successfully so.
• Think in terms of what you would like to achieve coming out of any negotiations here and in terms of what you would prefer not to see happen from that too. But set that wish list approach aside too, so you can more dispassionately think through what its possibilities would entail and require, and both from you and from your employer. And think through what would and would not realistically even be possible there.
• A younger employee who is well liked and who is seen as being a quick learner might, for example, be given an opportunity to gain some new training to remain viable as an employee there, at least as on the job experience development in what amounts to a probationary period, trial retention. But their more senior counterparts from the Old would probably not be afforded this type of opportunity, and certainly for anything like more formal training program participation, unless they pursue that possible new path forward on their own and pay for it themselves too. And even then, this would probably not mean their being retained as an employee at their current place of work. It might only offer them value when seeking out employment elsewhere.

What, dispassionately, should these more experienced and probably older employees at least think through and prepare for as a Plan B option? Negotiating possible early retirement packages, has to at least be considered there and even if many employees in that situation do see simply ending their work lives as more of a negative than a positive.

Remember: retiring from one job and even from one long held, should not automatically mean never working again, and even just part time. Thoughtful planning, with an open mind is important here, and with family discussions included as necessary. But with that offered, I have to acknowledge that I have only addressed the two extremes of what might be a much larger and more inclusive group of directly affected people, leaving out employees who are not just starting out on a jobs and careers path but who are at least chronologically not approaching what might be considered a retirement age either. What of employees caught up in this type of downsizing who are also caught in the middle there?

They and their circumstances are most definitely where this third example scenario proves itself to be particularly challenging. And that brings me to the issues of severance packages.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, where I will discuss the fourth downsizing scenario example as originally offered here in this series’ Part 38:

4. All of this noted, in reality downsizings, or at least a determination of who would be let go in them, are not always just about cutting down on staff to reduce redundancies and to bring the business into leaner and more effective focus for meeting its business performance needs. They can also be used as opportunities to cut out and remove people who have developed reputations as being difficult to work with, or for whatever other reasons that the managers who they report to would see as sufficiently justifying. Downsizings can be and are used as a no-fault opportunity for removing staff who do not fit into the corporate culture or who have ruffled feathers higher up on the table of organization and even if they would otherwise more probably be retained and stay.

And I will discuss severance packages from the perspective of that downsizing scenario and in the contexts of the first three of the examples that I have touched upon here too. And in anticipation of that narrative, I add here that I will also reconsider and further discuss the all-important issues of timing and preparation in all of this.

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. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 40 – the jobs and careers context 39

This is my 40th 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 1-39.)

I have been discussing a succession of workplace challenges in this series, since Part 25, that all explicitly call for effective communications and negotiating skills and that all involve jobs and careers issues and how best to manage them. And as a part of that, I have been delving into a sixth and final entry to that list since Part 32, that in fact encompasses within it all of the first five of these challenges and more:

• 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 type of circumstance.

As a part of that line of discussion, and after considering downsizings per se in it as general background information concerning what would follow, I began a narrative on negotiating approaches as they would more specifically be applied in this context. I began that with two postings on general negotiating strategies as they would arise in this type of workplace situation (see Part 37 and Part 38.) And I then began to expand on that foundational discussion in Part 39, with a more focused discussion of approaches for more effectively negotiating when facing specific types of downsizing contexts: particular situations that would bring an employing business to see a need to take such a step in the first place. (See Part 38 for a complete list of the case study examples that I would address here.)

I discussed the first of those example situations in Part 39, and turn to consider the second of them here:

2. Downsizings, while more usually driven by at least relatively straightforward revenue and expense imbalances (n.b. as per example in scenario 1), can also be driven by pressures to phase out old systems and install new ones that might be better fits for a current or emerging business model in place. Think of staff reductions there, as they can arise when a business decides to outsource a functional area and its work, making it unnecessary to keep the people who have done that in-house as ongoing employees.

I begin addressing that specific jobs and careers challenge, and keeping a job when your employer is going through that type of transformation, by repeating two crucial details from earlier installments of this series that together form a framework for all that I would offer here:

• Your primary goal in your negotiating effort here, should be one of convincingly arguing a case that you and the work that you can do for your employer, would be a valuable and even importantly significant part of the solution to the problem that your employer faces: the problem that has brought them to pursue a downsizing in the first place.
• And this means you’re approaching them in ways that would bring them to consider those issues proactively and with a more open mind, instead of just addressing them reactively, and I have to add reflexively. Your goal there is to reach out and connect with someone in a position to say “yes” and in a way that would bring them to consider doing so, and to you as a specific individual – and not just as a cipher with a particular job title.

What do you do professionally, and more importantly what can you demonstrably do that your direct supervisor and their supervisor would see as offering real value to them as they seek to fulfill their responsibilities at that business? Remember in this context that that can mean you’re offering value by taking what would be new added task responsibilities off of their already full work schedules, so they do not have to juggle doing them themselves too.

As one of many possible working examples there, consider how you might argue a case for you’re bringing your knowledge of your employer business and your knowledge of the intricacies of the work that you have done and that would be outsourced, to help handle the more detail work involved in your employer business managing its relationship with whatever third party service providers that would be called in now. Here, that means you’re successfully presenting yourself as someone who sees and understands the big picture perspective of this functional area that would be outsourced, and how it fits into the business as a whole. And you’re succeeding at this would require that you effectively present yourself as a good, effective communicator and both for when working with third party providers and their personnel, and for when you would work with and communicate with your own supervisor and others at your employing business.

With that example in mind for its expanded scope of required skills and responsibilities, what can you demonstrably do that would hold such value to your employer as a whole, and particularly as it seeks to address its current challenges, that they would see what you can do as proof of compelling need to keep you on? And that set of issues and that question brings me to the specifics of this particular scenario and its challenges for you.

This is a downsizing scenario that is centered around efforts to make a business leaner and more agile, and more effective in the use of its financial resources, by outsourcing as needed, functional areas that might still hold significant value to the organization but that no longer cost-effectively serve the business’ interests to maintain in-house. And while this can mean trimming back the staff size maintained in-house for specific functional units at a business (e.g. its in-house website maintenance and development team, as maintained and supported in its Information Technology Department), it can also mean downsizing this functioning team entirely as an in-house resource, and all who have been members of it.

That is the basic problem, and it should be considered a problem for you if you are likely to be in its line of fire. The basic challenge that you face here, and certainly under those circumstances, is that businesses and their managers tend to pigeonhole employees, classifying them strictly and even entirely as doing the specific day-to-day tasks that they routinely carry out Now as their primary work responsibilities. And this can even mean their overlooking side-task and other more collateral work responsibilities that they themselves have had you and perhaps other employees who report to them do, but that do not fit into your or their more routine job descriptions. Such evaluations almost never take into account types of work done and skills displayed in prior jobs and even if they were carried out at that business, prior to a promotion or lateral move there, and even if your performance at them significantly influenced the decision to hire you to your current work position there in the first place.

• What can you do as far as transferable skills and work experience are concerned, that would specifically fill essential gaps in what your employer needs now?
• How best can you present a case for your being able to perform valuable work there that would continue there, in-house after the work that you more routinely do there now has been outsourced?

Let’s at least begin to address that question by considering one of the key words of the first of those two bullet points: “gaps.” If you normally do A and B and C as your basic work responsibilities as part of a functional unit that is about to be downsized, but you can also do X, Y and Z too, and with a track record of success at that, and your employer is going to need to keep that type of work in-house, that is important as a source of negotiating points. But if they only need five people to do this and they arguably actually have five or even six employees tasked with that now who at least nominally do that work, this is not going to help you.

• What can you do that would include transferable skills from what you do now, or skills that you have not used so frequently but that you can still effectively carry out, where you could in fact fill a staffing vacancy, or address a staffing need where issues such as work shift scheduling would be concerned?
• And how can you best present yourself as a good candidate for that?

Be prepared to argue a case for why keeping you on in a new position would offer your employer real value there too. (Hint: while this specific negotiating approach might not always apply, a business that seeks to outsource a functional unit that is technically or otherwise very specialized, might still need to have someone in-house who understands the issues and the specialty terminology used there, in managing the activities of whatever specialty firm is hired to do this work hands-on. As a due diligence consideration, that can be essential in ensuring that that third party business does the right work and in the right way, where they might know the type of work that they do from a technical specialty perspective, but they probably do not know your employer or their specific needs anywhere near as well – where you do. I offer this as one of many possibilities for how to approach this. Be creative. Be willing to think through what you have done in new ways here.)

• Know what you want to achieve and what your employer faces and needs to achieve too. And think through approaches for aligning the two sides of that so you can be part of the solution to your employer’s problem and not just another part of the problem itself.

And as I have noted in earlier installments to this, think and plan with Plan B alternatives in mind in case you cannot reach agreement, and certainly on your higher priority issues and concerns here.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will turn to and address the third case in point example scenario as listed at the end of Part 38:

3. And a key driver (n.b. for carrying out a downsizing) there can be an intended and even vitally needed attempt to move beyond legacy and out of date, and both in what a business brings to market and in how it does that, where this would involve in-house redevelopment too.

I have at least briefly touched on legacy systems issues here in this posting too, by what amounts to default, insofar as all specific-functional area downsizings have at least some key features in common. And they do so in ways that would lead to overlap in how best to negotiate for one or the other of the above offered Scenario 2 and 3 contexts too, just as they do when considering what drives and shapes them as business decisions and actions (e.g. outsourcing or work-type elimination layoffs and not getting caught up in either of them.) That noted, I will specifically address downsizings as driven by perceived obsolescence, and work-type elimination in the next installment here, as an extreme example of the issues that I have raised in this posting, and an extreme example of the challenges faced when negotiating to stay on as an employee there. And as part of that, I will delve in more detail into the types of Plan B preparation and negotiating that you might want to consider, and both for a Scenario 2 and a Scenario 3 situation.

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. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 39 – the jobs and careers context 38

This is my 39th 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 1-38.)

I have been discussing a succession of workplace challenges in this series, since Part 25, that all explicitly call for effective communications and negotiating skills and that all involve jobs and careers issues and how best to manage them. And as a part of that, I have been delving into the sixth and final entry to that list since Part 32, that in fact encompasses within it all of the first five of these challenges and more:

• 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 type of circumstance.

I began this progression of postings by categorically addressing that challenge, with a foundation building discussion of downsizings per se and why particular businesses might turn to them. Effectively thinking through and negotiating for a better resolution for yourself and for your employment and for your career, than would be possible from simply accepting a default resolution that you would face if you remain passively disconnected here, calls for you understanding the people who you would meet with on this, and as well as you know and understand your own goals and priorities.

I began discussing the how of negotiating in this type of context, in Part 37 and Part 38, by raising and discussing a set of more generally stated issues and principles that essentially always come up as important in this type of context, and when entering into jobs and careers planning and negotiating in general. Then at the end of Part 38, I said that I would turn here to consider specific situations where this type of challenge can and does arise. And to put what is to come here in clearer perspective and certainly for why that is important, I repeat a basic point of consideration that anyone who would seek to negotiate in a jobs and careers context, always has to keep in mind:

• You cannot effectively negotiate absent an understanding of what you have to, and can negotiate about. You need to know your own goals and priorities and what you would explicitly seek to avoid too, and why and under what conditions.
• And knowing what you have to, and in fact can negotiate about, calls for understanding the context and circumstance that you would do that in, and the goals and priorities of the people who you would face on the other side of the table for this.
• 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. This, among other points of consideration, means you’re knowing when the person who you are meeting with can only say “no”, because they do not have the authority to say anything else. The first and perhaps most essential step to your actually being able to negotiate can be you’re actually finding and meeting with at least one of the right people for this who can say “yes”.

In a fundamental sense, this means negotiating to the specific circumstances that would bring a business to even just consider carrying out a downsizing, and it means negotiating effectively with the specific people who you would have to meet with and deal with in that. I have raised a series of downsizing-including scenarios in this portion of this series, summarizing them towards the end of Part 38. And my goal here is to begin to address them, one by one, starting with the first of them as offered there:

1. Payroll and benefits expenses can and often do rise in scale and significance to become among the largest ongoing cost centers that most businesses face. So if a business has a set-back in its incoming revenue and they have to cut back on their expenses and significantly so in order to remain viable through a crisis period, staff and directly staff-related expenses are usually one of the first possible places considered when cutbacks are on the table.

Let’s begin addressing this challenge by considering it from the perspective of the employing business, and by acknowledging that the pressures that would bring its owners and its executive leadership to consider a downsizing here, represent an existential threat to them.

• I wrote in Parts 37 and 38 of this, of finding a way to negotiate with the decision makers here, as if you were sitting on the same side of the negotiating table as they are, with you seeking to present your case in terms of how meeting at least your core needs would help them to better meet their core needs too.
• The key question that you should be asking yourself, going into your first meeting about this, should be one of how you can show that you can be an effective and meaningful part of the solution to their problems, if you are kept on and allowed to so help.
• And this means you’re presenting your case in such a way and with such an impact, that would prompt the people who you meet with to want to reconsider how they should proceed, at least in their dealings with you. And this means you’re convincing them to want to meet with you again.

If that sounds familiar – if it sounds like a point of detail that I have made in earlier employee (or potential employee)-to-employer contexts, that it because it should. When you are applying for a possible new job with a hiring business, and land that first face to face interview there, one of your primary goals should always be to get called back for a second interview. In both cases: when seeking out a new job and when seeking to keep a job already held, this means you’re successfully passing an initial screening process. But in this situation and when facing a downsizing decision, this means successfully passing that hurdle when the people you are meeting with do not necessarily even start out thinking in terms of initial screenings, or selecting the right people to keep onboard during this, their time of crisis.

• Assume that the people you meet with who would ultimately determine whether you stay or go, are thinking and acting reactively; your goal is to help them to think proactively and with a focus on the positive of what they and others who stay on can do.
• What do you do professionally that would offer specific value as your employing business retrenches and consolidates, and with a downsizing carried out as a part of that?
• What can you successfully convince the people who you meet with, that you can do that would specifically help them and their business succeed through its crisis?
• And what do they need from those who stay on and who are retained, as they set the goals and priorities that would have to meet in order to keep their business’ doors open? I raised this question last here, but it is in fact the first of these questions that you should be asking here.

Together, the above points mean you’re directing these conversations, at least as much as you can, and away from how the people who you meet with would reactively respond to their crisis and even blindly so, and towards the actively and proactively possible and what they could do moving forward. Discuss the why of possible or already beginning layoffs and what has to actively be done to move forward for this business as positive steps. Discuss what you can do to help with that. And present yourself in this as an employee who in a fundamental sense sees this as your business too, for your sense of commitment to it.

And this brings me to Plan B considerations and questions of what might be possible and of what might be acceptable and both to you and to your employer.

• If you can stay on would you have to accept a pay cut or other benefits reduction, at least until this business is more securely on its feet again? This is a possibility that an employer might not even be allowed to suggest, legally, and even if they essentially automatically take it as a given that they will have to accept this personal cost for themselves. But that does not prevent you’re offering to accept this as a necessary part of your helping this business when it simply cannot afford to continue paying out payroll and related expenditures as if everything were moving along smoothly.
• Are there skills that you have that you do not have to routinely use at your current job, but that would offer ongoing value for your employer now, as they have to adjust their business and its work flows to preserve their core? What are they and how can you present them in these conversations, as proven and reliable capabilities on your part?
• Do you have a particularly useful relationship with any of this business’ key or at least significant clients, or with the contact people your employer works through in dealing with their suppliers or other supply chain partners? Could you help negotiate better terms with these external stakeholders, for your employer as it seeks to weather the storm it now finds itself in?
• And if you cannot successfully argue a case for you’re staying on full time, as an in-house employee through this, and even where you can convincingly argue that you would offer real value for your employer’s here and now, would part-time work or you’re taking a consulting position for a period of time offer a possible path forward?
• Keep an open mind and open ears there; what is your sense of what the people who you are meeting with, are willing to agree to as terms of their own employment there during this crisis period? Present yourself as being willing to accept the same types of changes in your terms of employment there too, and certainly until this crisis is over. Represent yourself as a real team player in this, and as someone who is willing to accept and work through the challenges as well as the benefits that come from that.

And if this cannot be made to work, make use of your willingness to do what it takes to offer value to this employer, when seeking the best possible letters of recommendation if you do have to move on. Use your willingness to offer positive value and both to the business and to the specific people who you work with there, to build bridges and to next possible employers if for no where else.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next installment to this series, where I will turn to the second scenario as offered in Part 38:

2. Downsizings, while more usually driven by revenue and expense imbalances as per the above Scenario 1, can also be driven by pressures to phase out old systems and install new ones that might be better fits for a current or emerging business model in place. Think of staff reductions there, as they can arise when a business decides to outsource a functional area and its work, making it unnecessary to keep the people who have done that in-house as ongoing employees.

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. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 38 – the jobs and careers context 37

This is my 38th 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 1-37.)

I have been discussing a succession of workplace challenges in this series, since Part 25, that all explicitly call for effective communications and negotiating skills and that all involve jobs and careers issues and how best to manage them. The first five of those challenges were scope-limited, and in ways that limited the range of issues that would have to be dealt with in finding ways to resolve them. And the sixth and last of that list was and is a more general and all-encompassing challenge, for the range of issues and considerations that it can and does involve:

• 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 type of circumstance (see Part 32 through Part 37.)

Over the course of those five installments I have discussed what downsizings are, when considered beyond their end results, with employee-impacting layoffs and even massive ones. For purposes of this series and for purposes of hands-on and managerial employees who would seek to negotiate better terms for themselves in the face of these events, this means discussing and at least briefly analyzing the Why of downsizings, as considered from their particular employer’s perspective. And understanding that set of issues as it would apply to them, is vitally important for anyone facing such an event. I have also discussed Who is going to be at risk and at greatest risk of being caught up in these downsizings, where understanding that and being able to individually plan accordingly, calls for an understanding of precisely why their business might pursue this path too. And then after discussing the Who of this from the perspective of employees who might be at risk, I briefly discussed the issues of Who would be involved from the business side of this too; you cannot negotiate in a vacuum, and knowing who you might meet with and who they would have to speak for and answer to is important. Then finally, in Part 37, I began discussing negotiations and the negotiating process itself, as that might be made possible and as it would play out in this challenging context.

My goal here is to continue that line of discussion. So for smoother continuity of narrative, I repeat a basic guiding principle that I have held up as fundamental for effectively negotiating about essentially anything of importance as an employee, where mutual agreement would have to be reached. And that guiding principle offers a basic perspective that holds particular importance in the types of situations that I raise and address here:

• You cannot effectively negotiate absent an understanding of what you have to, and can negotiate about. You need to know your own goals and priorities and what you would explicitly seek to avoid too, and why and under what conditions.
• And knowing what you have to, and in fact can negotiate about, calls for understanding the context and circumstance that you would do that in, and the goals and priorities of the people who you would face on the other side of the table for this.
• 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. This, among other points of consideration, means you’re knowing when the person who you are meeting with can only say “no”, because they do not have the authority to say anything else. The first and perhaps most essential step to your actually being able to negotiate can be you’re actually finding and meeting with at least one of the right people for this who can say “yes”.

You need to know and understand what you seek to achieve, and your priorities there. You need to know and understand what your supervisor: your direct boss there seeks and why, and what the people who they have to answer to want. And you need to know that as thoroughly as you know your own needs, preferences and priorities. And you need to understand what the people who you meet with can even begin to negotiate about, and what is more likely not even going to be on the table for such discussion.

• Negotiating is a process; think of this as taking place in steps and with a possibility that new stakeholders might become involved as a negotiating process proceeds.

Once again, this is all context-driven and I keep stressing this for a very simple reason. Most of the time, even the people who are most at risk of being laid off in a downsizing simply seem to drift into it and without planning and without proactive preparation for making an effort to protect their own best interests. And all too often we do not even really think through what those best interests would even be, and even just in the immediate here-and-now that we are facing.

I began discussing negotiating in this context, in general terms that would apply in essentially any impending or early stage downsizing, as there are some general issues and principles that would essentially always arise in them and regardless of the specifics of why a particular downsizing might take place. And one of my goals for this posting is to continue and complete that background-level line of discussion. Then, and with the points raised there in mind, my goal is to turn to and at least begin to consider the specific downsizing scenarios that I raised earlier in this posting progression: the specific Whys that would lead a business to pursue this type of course. And my goal there is to at least shed some light on the types of issues and the types of approaches for addressing them, that would come out for those specific why-based scenarios – so you, the reader can focus in upon the right issues, where you might be able to more effectively argue your case, and with a focus and orientation on your negotiating that would connect with the overall plans of the people who you meet with – and in ways that would help them to address their concerns and help them to meet their needs too.

I strongly recommend that you review at least the second half of Part 37 as explicit preparation for what is to follow here, as my general comments on negotiating here, are grounded in what I offered there. And with that noted, I continue my Part 37 analysis of how you might better negotiate for better terms in a downsizing environment as follows:

• When you negotiate or try to do so, in a workplace context such as a downsizing, you do so when facing what is most likely the most pressingly, immediately significant power asymmetry that you could ever encounter at a job. So while it can be possible to negotiate under these conditions, it is vitally important to take a nuanced approach when considering your own goals and priorities. This is not the time or place for simple binary, all or nothing planning or execution on your part.
• I have been writing of goals and priorities here, but it can be easy to lose track of what is and what really isn’t important, and both in your immediate here-and-now and when looking forward and longer-term, and particularly when facing challenging and impactful conversations that might not start out all that collegial.
• As noted before, your goal is to turn that around: that perhaps more-confrontational start, by finding effective ways to meaningfully, realistically, accurately present your case as one of aligning your needs and goals with those of your employer – and with those of the specific managers and others who you might meet with. (I focus on the people who can in fact say “yes” there, but even a perhaps earlier business-side representative who can only say “no” on their own, might be able to play a role in helping you to reach out to and connect with someone who can say “yes”.)
• That last detail is vitally important; it means you’re cultivating whatever support that you can achieve with anyone you who are meeting with on this, and even if they can only say “no” on their own. They still might be able to play an effective gatekeeper role, and they might be able to help you reach out to those who can say “yes”. So frame your side of any conversation with them, in ways that would lead them to want to escalate their conversation with you up to a higher, or at least different level if that is the one positive response that they can offer.
• And this is where Plan B considerations enter this discussion and the process flow that I write of here. I will have more to offer on this set of issues in discussion to come, and simply note here that Plan B approaches, like negotiations approaches in general, should never be seen as being simple A or B, binary in nature. Effective Plan B jobs and careers preparation, and Plan B execution if that becomes necessary, is not just about you’re getting everything that you want, or nothing of that, and with only those two extreme case possibilities coming out of that.

With this all noted, and at least as a more generally grounded starting point for considering the particulars, I turn to the specific downsizing scenarios that I first offered here in Part 32 and that I repeat here with re-phrasings as needed. I will begin to delve into them individually staring in my next installment to this series.

1. Payroll and benefits expenses can and often do rise in scale and significance to become among the largest ongoing cost centers that most businesses face. So if a business has a set-back in its incoming revenue and they have to cut back on their expenses and significantly so in order to remain viable through a crisis period, staff and directly staff-related expenses are usually one of the first possible places considered when cutbacks are on the table.
2. Downsizings, while more usually driven by revenue and expense imbalances as per the above Scenario 1, can also be driven by pressures to phase out old systems and install new ones that might be better fits for a current or emerging business model in place. Think of staff reductions there, as they can arise when a business decides to outsource a functional area and its work, making it unnecessary to keep the people who have done that in-house as ongoing employees.
3. And a key driver there can be an intended and even vitally needed attempt to move beyond legacy and out of date, and both in what a business brings to market and in how it does that, where this would involve in-house redevelopment too.
4. All of this noted, in reality downsizings, or at least a determination of who would be let go in them, are not always just about cutting down on staff to reduce redundancies and to bring the business into leaner and more effective focus for meeting its business performance needs. They can also be used as opportunities to cut out and remove people who have developed reputations as being difficult to work with, or for whatever reasons that the managers they report to would see as sufficiently justifying. Downsizings can be and are used as a no-fault opportunity for removing staff who do not fit into the corporate culture or who have ruffled feathers higher up on the table of organization and even if they would otherwise more probably be retained and stay.
5. And to cite another scenario that can be more Who oriented, and certainly from the perspective of who is bringing it about, a new, more senior manager who wants to do some personal empire building within their new employer’s systems can use a downsizing and reorganization in their area of oversight responsibility to put their name on how things are done there. Consider this a confrontational career enhancement tactic on their part.
6. And as a final area of consideration here, consider the last-in, first-out approach as it can by default impact on younger employees and more recent hires and regardless of what they do and can do that might be needed by the business. Businesses with a strong union presence often follow that approach though they are not the only ones that do. But this type of retain or let-go determination can also be skills-based, or location based if for example it is decided to close a more peripheral office that might not have been as much of a profit center as desired or expected. So even there, it might be possible to argue a case for being retained at a job.

As just noted, I will begin successively addressing these six scenarios as specific real-world examples of how these negotiations might be pursued, starting in my next installment to this series. 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. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 37 – the jobs and careers context 36

This is my 37th 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 1-36.)

I have been discussing a series of workplace issues in this series, since Part 25 that call for effective communications and negotiating skills. The first five of them were all focused and specific in nature (see Part 32 for a full list of them, with appended links to where I have individually discussed those negotiations-demanding contexts up to there.) And the sixth and last was a more open-ended challenge that in fact includes within it, the first five challenges discussed here and more:

• 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 type of circumstance (see Part 32 through Part 36.)

I have attempted, over the past five installments to this series, to lay a foundation for what I would turn to and discuss here, with:

• A more detailed discussion of what downsizings are, as considered from the perspective of businesses that carry them out – the What and Why of this,
• A discussion of Who is at risk of being caught up in these events from the employee side of them, and
• A corresponding discussion of the Who of this from the business’ side.

My goal for this posting is to at least begin to discuss the How of this, and of negotiating in this type of context as that might be made possible. And to repeat a point already made in this narrative, that is crucially important to all that will follow here:

• “One size fits all” approaches do not and cannot work for you, and certainly if you seek to reach a best-for-you possible resolution from your communications and negotiating efforts.

This means negotiating to the specific context and with the specific people who you would meet with, and according to a then-and-there realistic and relevant understanding of both what you seek to achieve, and of what they can and might negotiate on.

And with that noted, I will return to reconsider the specific scenarios that I have raised in this posting progression so far, each based on a separate and distinct rationale as to why a business might have even considered downsizing in the first place. And I will discuss and develop them in this series as working examples for how you might have gotten caught up in this type of predicament, and as working examples of the types of issues you that might have to be able to negotiate on, and how. But before delving into those specifics, I will set the stage for them by considering more general negotiations issues that would apply to essentially any potential or emerging downsizing scenario that you might find yourself facing.

And in that, I start out assuming only one point of detail on your part as a hands-on employee or manager who is facing the possibility of being let go: that you would prefer to stay on with this employer, at least until a time and circumstance of you’re choosing. I assume that you do not want to be let go now and that if you leave you would prefer to do so as a result of your own decision making processes. And I start out discussing negotiations here, by making note of some of the crucially important details that you have to find effective ways to address and regardless of why your employer is considering this type of path forward.

• The first and foremost point to remember here is that when you seek to negotiate to keep your job in a business that is at least actively considering downsizing as a tactical response, you do so in the context of a very real and significant power asymmetry. And you have to at least tacitly assume, unless and until proven otherwise that your employer starts out already at least half convinced that it would make sense for them to let you go as a part of that.
• But even if this assumption is valid, it has most likely been decided upon, on the basis of categorical considerations of job types, and not after considering you in particular. This is crucially important. Yes, downsizings are used to sweep up and dismiss employees who are at least nominally good enough at their work assignments to be retained there, but who do not fit in, in the corporate culture, or who have come to be seen as trouble makers in some way. But the primary dismissal targets for these events, and officially at least the only ones are good employees who that business would otherwise actively want to keep on staff. And they are selected by the numbers and more usually according to job titles and work categories held. So negotiating to stay, has to be grounded in bringing the people you meet with, and ultimately the person or people who make the decisions here, to see you and think about you as an individual.
• What do they most want and need for their business, coming out of this?
• How can you best present yourself as a viable and even necessary part of the answer that they need to be able to find for that question, as they ask it themselves?
• And how can you come to more effectively negotiate with these people as if you were working from the same side of that negotiating table with them, in helping them to better and more easily achieve their goals? I will propose you’re taking a consultant’s approach there, as I will explain in detail as I delve into the issues raised by the points in this list.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, expanding on these and related general principles. Then after doing so I will discuss the specific downsizing scenarios that I have already at least made note of in this series, to take that out of the abstract. And as part of that narrative, I will discuss Plan B options and fallbacks, and both for their own immediate value as offering specific alternative paths forward for you, and for the value that even having other options can give you in an impactful negotiating setting.

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. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 36 – the jobs and careers context 35

This is my 36th 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 1-35.)

I have been discussing a series of workplace issues in this series, since Part 25 that call for effective communications and negotiating skills. The first five of them were all focused and specific in nature (see Part 32 for a full list of them, with appended links to where I have individually discussed those negotiations-demanding contexts up to there.) And the sixth and last was a more open-ended challenge that in fact includes within it, the first five challenges discussed here and more:

• 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 type of circumstance (see Part 32 and also Part 33, Part 34 and Part 35.)

So far, I have discussed what downsizings are, when considered in more detail than would be possible when only focusing on their end-result layoffs, and on the risks that they create for employees from getting caught up in them from that. My focus there was on the Why side of this, and on knowing and understanding the reasons why a business might pursue such a course of action, and see it is necessary for them to do that.

I have also discussed the questions and issues of who might be caught up in these events, depending on why the business they work for, would consider downsizing. And I turn here to at least begin discussing the business side of who would be involved in this. And in anticipation of what is to follow here, I stress a crucially important point: timing can be everything.

I offer that point of repeatedly validated observation in the context of repeating the core principles that all of my discussions of this topic, up to here, have been grounded in:

• 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 for this, and as well as you know and understand your own goals and priorities here.
• 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.

Timing is everything here. And if you do not, or cannot prepare for the possibilities of an impending downsizing that you might become caught up in and early enough, you might find that the only people who you can meet with on this are ones who cannot in fact negotiate on any of the points or issues of importance to you.

Much of what will follow here will in fact constitute an explanation of that last paragraph with its pair of sentences. And I begin that explanation with the question of who you might face on the other side of what is at least potentially, a negotiating table here.

Who actually manages and carries out a downsizing? There are a number of possible participants there, on the business side of this process. And that list definitely includes lower and middle managers who are to be retained on the job, at least for this round of cuts, and who would have to let members of their direct report teams go. This business-sided participation is all but certain to include their more senior managers too, who would see a fundamental need for them to stay actively involved in this too. You might not see their involvement in this directly. But it is certain that the managers who you do see as being hands-on involved there, see their own supervisors’ guiding hands in this. But even with their inclusion here, this participant list is still far from complete, and even from just a within-business perspective.

Human Resources and Personnel are going to have to be involved, and for planning and paperwork purposes, and for addressing both business and employee needs, and as both a series of procedural requirements and for risk management and due diligence purposes too. This is crucially important for any business that is considering a downsizing, that they not, for example, set themselves up for accusations of being discriminatory in who they select to let go, where people laid off in downsizings are essentially always good employees according to their past and recent performance reviews. Part of Human Resources’ job here is to make sure that grounds for making claims against the business do not arise and that everyone who faces dismissal this way, receive any and every benefit that they are due as part of their severance packages, to help ensure that.

But it is often the case that neither the supervising managers in place, nor their more senior managers, nor the leadership at Human Resources really know the ins and outs of planning and carrying out a downsizing correctly, and certainly where that means making what can become successive waves of layoffs and strategically deciding who to include at all, and who to include when in that. This is where a third party service provider can step in, and offer a more comprehensive package for planning and executing here – with that often including their actually conducting the exit interviews that this all leads to.

Timing is everything; if you wait to act until you find yourself face-to-face meeting with an outsider professional from such a firm, it is essentially certain that it will be too late for you to do anything, except refuse their severance package and walk away, and with you’re seeking legal help (or threatening to do so) in order to try to salvage a better separation package from this situation. Look to my above-repeated core principles statement and its third point here. An outside professional of this type is not going to be in a position to negotiate: to even just potentially say “yes” on any issues that fall outside of the purview of the specific process that they were sent to meet with you on, with you’re signing their papers and clearing out your desk as their one allowed goal.

• The single most important, and challenging point in any negotiations can be in finding and getting to meet with a person – sometimes just the one person who can say “yes.” It is easy to find people who can only say “no” as a safe default. But successful negotiating requires you’re finding and productively engaging with someone who can say “yes” too. And people who can only say “no” are not going to tell you that. This is a type of detail that you, in general, have to be able to figure out on your own.

Timing is everything. If you see an impending downsizing, or one already taking place with an at-least first round of layoffs already started, you need to identify and find people in your business who can say yes and who you can approach and meet with in presenting and arguing your case. You need to know precisely what you want to achieve out of that, and what they seek and what they can agree to. You need to think through how you can align your needs with theirs. But first and foremost you have to find and engage with people who can in fact negotiate at all on this. And if you hear that a specialist outside firm has been hired to plan and possibly carry through on a downsizing where you work, assume that you have no time to lose in actively starting this process, if you have not already done that.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will at least begin to discuss these negotiations themselves. 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. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 35 – the jobs and careers context 34

This is my 35th 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 1-34.)

I have been successively addressing each of a set of six workplace challenges that would explicitly call for negotiating skills and effort and that can arise for essentially anyone who works sufficiently long-term with virtually any given employer (see Part 32 for a full list of them, with appended links to where I have individually discussed those negotiations-demanding contexts up to there.) And as part of this narrative, I began discussing the sixth and more complexly comprehensive final entry to that list, and its issues in Part 32: a negotiating challenge that in a fundamental sense encompasses all of the first five already considered here, and more:

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 type of circumstance (see Part 32 and also Part 33 and Part 34.)

Perhaps the single most important point that I have raised so far in this series, and certainly in this negotiating context is that “one size fits all” approaches do not and cannot work for you, and certainly if you seek to reach a best for you possible resolution from your communications and negotiating efforts. I outlined in Parts 32 and 33, at least in brief sketch format, a series of specific scenarios that can bring an employer to consider and even actively pursue a downsizing, and why they would do this. Then I stepped back to consider a set of more generally stated, “points held in common” issues that, all of my more specific downsizing scenarios come to share, and both for how they arise and play out and for how you as an impacted-upon employee there might better respond to all of this.

I concluded Part 34 by stating that I would add more detail to that set of more general principles and then turn to consider individual scenarios when delving into the details of how best to negotiate them. But on further reflection, I have decided to start with the individual downsizing scenarios that I will cover here and then tie that flow of discussion together with further higher level, more general principles-oriented comments. So with that noted I begin this core discussion of this posting by briefly listing the scenarios again, referring back to Parts 32 and 33 at this time for anyone who would want to read more of their details. And I do so with the following, admittedly general principle in mind, that I have found to be vitally important in any negotiating context, work-related or otherwise:

• 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 for this.
• 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.

I have offered this point of multiply validated observation, several times now in this series. And I repeat it again here. This is, among other things, where you would calculatingly, strategically break away from the trap of going into a potentially crucially important negotiating opportunity unprepared, and where you can break away from whatever your unconsidered default approach to that, might limit you to. And with that in mind, the specific downsizing scenarios that I have raised in this series and that I will at least begin to specifically address here, are:

1. A business’ markets have dried up and can no longer generate and maintain the revenue flows needed to maintain it, at the scale that it has operated at. And to distinguish this from other possible scenarios to come, I approach this one as a response to challenges arising from outside of the business itself, as for example might occur during a trade war and as a response to tariff barrier-limited trade and market activity.
2. A business is no longer competitively up to date for its ongoing reliance on what have become competitively obsolete legacy technologies. And 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.
3. A business sees need to bring itself into better, more competitive focus where that can mean outsourcing functional areas that offer value, but that might not be cost-effective to maintain in-house.
4. A business is facing a possible or even inevitable merger or acquisition with another business, 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, and at essentially any and every level of the new combined table of organization that would be created out of this.
5. A new, more senior manager or executive who wants to do some personal empire building within their new employer’s systems can use a downsizing and reorganization in their area of oversight responsibility to put their name on how things are done there.

These scenarios all address circumstances where good employees who have offered real value from their work at a business, can be caught up in layoffs. But that noted, they are all separate and distinct from each other too. Let’s begin addressing them for purposes of this ongoing line of discussion, by considering who at least categorically might be at risk in them.

• Scenario 1 (an outside-challenged narrative) as offered above, might very easily come to impact upon essentially every area of the table of organization and certainly if this challenge persists. A first wave of layoffs might focus on a first affected area of the business such as production and distribution. But prudence would dictate that employees in essentially any and every part of the business might at least categorically find themselves at risk there too, and certainly with time. This, for example, is where you might find overlap between the above-offered Scenarios 1 and 3, though that is only one way in which ripple effect layoffs might be considered in a more-Scenario 1 context.
• Any Scenario 2 (inside-sourced challenge) event is certain to directly affect employees who hands-on carry out what have come to be seen as sources of avoidable loss and inefficiency: in this case for performing legacy technology work and not necessarily just in production itself. Obsolete and competitively limiting back-office support, and parts and supplies inventory management can come under fire here too, and so can the people who work in any part of this business who come under review, when the types of change management evaluations that are called for here are made and when any inefficiencies that they are involved in are brought to light too. There, downsizings that take place are almost certain to proceed in waves, with an increasing range of impact as successive layoffs coming from them that begin with the most overtly problematical parts of a business, expand out to address what are seen as more peripheral but still significant problem areas there too.
• Scenario 3 (the in-house versus outsource scenario) tends to follow business sector and industry-wide patterns and certainly as what begin as in-house specialty functions become more standardized and when they develop into business sectors and industries in their own right. Consider the emergence of cloud storage and computing options as a by-now standard alternative to in-house networked server farms for businesses as a working example of that. Though this scenario can and does sweep up those who work in more traditional areas of a business too. Consider benefits and pension management, among other activities that would fit into Human Resources as a service, that can readily be outsourced to a support providing specialist business for that, as a working example of this phenomenon.
• Scenario 4 is likely to sweep up people working in essentially any and every area of a business, for those enterprises that enter into the mergers or acquisitions that drive them. The only exception to that essentially open-ended reach of impact that might realistically arise, would be found in services of one of the businesses involved, that in effect drive these business combinings. That, for example, might very well include specialized product development or production capabilities in a business that is being acquired by a larger corporation, where that business is entering into this primarily to acquire that functional competence: that excellence in its own systems and for what it can bring to market.
• And Scenario 5 is, in contrast to the first four, a more localized phenomenon and even if it can only take place if a would-be empire builder can convince senior management as a whole, and probably the board of directors too, that their plans would benefit the business as a whole too.

And with that noted, I have to add that no one at a business can or should feel complacent if there is talk of a possible or impending downsizing. As proof, consider Scenario 4 and the functional parts of a smaller but already-successful early stage business that has and owns a core innovation and a specialized production capability for exploiting it, that a larger business sees absolute need to bring into their own systems if they are to remain competitive and certainly if they are to expand their lead for that. In principle, such an acquiring business would take more of a hands-off position in working with this high value acquisition, so as to avoid challenging and limiting, or even killing off the source of new value that they have decided to buy and perhaps pay dearly for. But I have seen acquiring businesses step in and all but squash the value out of such acquisitions, in an attempt to bring them into conformity with their own corporate cultures in place and their own corporate visions. And this can mean clearing out, or driving out employees in that type of acquisition who do not seem to fit into the new systems and ways that they would now have to work within.

• Never take your continued employment with a business that is facing a downsizing, automatically for granted and regardless of whatever reasoned workplace vulnerability analyses you can arrive at or that you might hear floating around, that might indicate that others would be at greater risk from this than you.
• That noted, such analyses can prove useful, as I will discuss further on in this posting progression, when negotiating your position there.

Up to here, this narrative has at least briefly addressed the Why of downsizings, and something of the Who of them and certainly for who would more likely be vulnerable for getting caught up in them. I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment where I will more directly consider who, on the business side of these events, decides on pursuing a downsizing and how, and who there would actually carry this out. And after that, I will use this overall understanding of the Who, What and Why of these downsizings, to discuss negotiating tactics and approaches per se, that you might want to consider when facing what would hopefully be more fully known and understood circumstances that this would take place in.

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 and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

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