Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

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.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 34 – the jobs and careers context 33

This is my 34th 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 1-33.)

I have been successively addressing each of a set of six workplace issues and challenges that would explicitly call for negotiating skills and effort since Part 25 of this series, the first five of which can arise for essentially anyone who works sufficiently long-term with a given employer (see Part 32 for a full list of those topics points, with appended links to where I have discussed them 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 and Part 33:

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,

More specifically, I discussed in at least some detail, more precisely what downsizings are in Part 32 when they are considered beyond their bottom-line outcome to a business’ employees of what can become massive layoffs. And I built from that starting point discussion in Part 33, to lay a foundation for explicitly discussing negotiating approaches and tactics that individuals can make use of in order to at least better manage the impact of this type of event on themselves and their jobs and careers.

My goal for this posting is to at least begin to explicitly discuss negotiations and the negotiating process in this challenging and stress-creating type of context. And I begin that phase of this overall discussion by repeating a crucially important point that I made in Part 33, that success in any negotiating effort of the type that I address here would hinge upon your understanding as a matter of basic principle, that:

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

This means that negotiating in a complex and options-constrained context such as that of an impending (or already occurring) downsizing, can never be carried out as a “one size fits all” effort on your part. Effective negotiations in this context, have to be explicitly framed and carried out on a specific-scenario by specific-scenario basis and according to precisely what type of that you face. And even there they need to be flexible and adaptable from your side of this conversation, and certainly when and as your negotiating efforts bring the people who you would negotiate with, to reconsider their initially planned decisions and actions as they would impact upon you, or alternatively if and when they begin to show increased resistance to that possibility.

Note: I am discussing this set of issues in this jobs and careers oriented first half of this series, from the perspective of how you as an individual would best manage and seek to manage your own work and career context. I will also, further on in this series, reconsider this overall challenge from a business negotiations context too, where I will discuss what at least begin as the same set of issues but from the perspective of negotiating for others too, and when working with others who would negotiate on your behalf.

All of this, of necessity means both reconsidering negotiations from an employee perspective, and addressing them from the business side of the table too. And in anticipation of that line of discussion to come, I note here that effectively negotiating from either an employee or a business side requires as clear an understanding as possible of the other side’s perspective too, and in both directions for these negotiations to succeed. And in that, negotiations can become what amount to teaching exercises as well as exercises in persuasion, as assumptions held walking into them arise in explicit discussion.

That noted, and turning back to focus on the employee side of the negotiating table again, my goal for what follows here is to at least begin addressing the individual employee side to this, with more general comments on negotiating a better jobs and careers path through overall change at a place of employment, such as a downsizing event. And that starting assumption: an assumption of individual negotiating in a context of overall business change, can be the best way to approach these conversations in a downsizing or downsizing-like context.

• The type of negotiations process that I am discussing here is not just about you and your direct supervisor and how you work together, or about you and other colleagues with them included there, and how you supportively and productively fit in and offer value.
• And certainly when considered from the other, business management side of the table for this; it is not just about your employment and its terms there, as a center of attention or concern.
• This is about how you would navigate a larger and more widely involving and impacting context of change as a whole, as it is taking place at the place where you work, and even where that might mean your specific situation being treated as an exception to some more generally considered personnel policy-based decision that is otherwise being followed as a more determined rule.
• But that noted, effective negotiations on your part in this are still going to have to significantly focus on what you individually offer and can offer, do and can do for your employer moving forward.

After completing a more generally orienting half of this line of discussion, I will successively discuss how the basic principles that I have been discussing here, and since Part 25, can be applied to the specific business-needs defined downsizing scenarios that I raised in Parts 32 and 33. And with that orienting point noted and the above negating context-clarifying bullet points offered, I begin addressing more general principles as to how to negotiate better terms of employment, or even just continued employment with a business here, beginning with the absolute fundamentals and by noting that:

• It is vitally important as a matter of basic career planning due diligence, that you be as generally informed as possible and on an ongoing basis, as to what is going on at your place of employment as a whole, and that you not just focus on your own work and responsibilities or your own part of the table of organization there, and on what you and your team does. You need to know and understand the larger context that you face where you work and on an ongoing basis. And this means seeing and thinking through what might be the unpleasant and the undesirable sides of that too, and certainly as they might arise and involve you, your job and your career path. This type of proactive preparation certainly holds value if you are to effectively negotiate where possible and where doing so might offer benefit to you, if events are developing that might adversely affect you.
• At the same time you reach out to better understand the business that you work at, you also need to know and really understand what you seek to achieve from any such negotiations that you might enter into here too. It is just as important that you be thoughtfully aware of your own needs and issues too. You need to think through and understand both your own needs and desires, and your priorities and what you can and cannot comfortably give ground on and make concessions on, if and when jobs and career supportive negotiations become necessary.
• And with an at least significantly considered set of answers in place for the questions that those first two bullet points raise for you, and with a clear understanding of what specific questions you need to ask given your particular circumstances, you need to have at least broadly considered your Plan B options in case you cannot in fact find a way to mutually agreeably reconcile your own negotiating goals with those of the people who you would negotiate with. What are your best options, absent you’re being able to achieve an acceptable negotiated agreement there? The issues and questions that I raise here in this bullet point, at least should come into sharp focus if you do in fact see challenge to your continued employment from an impending downsizing on the horizon.
• And in anticipation of discussion to come, you have to assume that you start out any negotiations that you can enter into here, from a completely asymmetric position with your employer, where it comes to leveraging influence and power. You have to assume that you start out wanting to stay on at a current job or at least with a current employer, even if with a new position there, more than they start out at least, wanting to see you stay. And as a result, you want to think through and be prepared to negotiate from a perspective of how you can establish your value with this employer and from as early on as possible, so as to tip the balance there to one of more equal perceived value.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment by expanding upon these more general organizing notes, fleshing them out to form a more organized foundation for dealing with the specifics of the particular downsizing contexts that you might face. Then as promised, I will take this more general narrative out of the abstract by applying it to the specific downsizing scenarios that I have already mentioned in Parts 32 and 33. 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.

Hands-off management, micromanagement and in-between – some thoughts on what they mean in practice 2

I offered a thought piece on better management practices just over a month ago, as a Part 1 to what I expect to develop into a short series. And my goal there was to at least briefly broach and start to outline a discussion of a basic challenge that essentially any manager can fall into: knowing when to step-back and allow for learning curve inefficiencies and related performance issues on the part of people who report to them, and when to step-in and even if that means actively intervening and seeming to at least situationally take over.

There is no simple, one size fits all answer to this type of question, and understanding the possibilities and the possible consequences there, and on a specific context by specific context basis is a core lesson that goes into becoming an effective, experienced manager and leader.

I tried to keep my initial Part 1 discussion of this in clearer focus, by building some basic assumptions into the range of contexts that I made note of, where the types of step-in or step-back decisions that I write of here, would be made. And my goal here in this continuation posting is to expand that initial line of discussion for its range of acknowledged applicability by adding in some basic complications to its narrative. More specifically, I start ou there by acknowledging that:

• Sometimes hands-on employees and lower level managers who a more senior supervisor manages, can perform certain types of tasks but not others, at least with sufficient speed and effectiveness to meet ongoing business needs. And this is not always something that more training or more learning curve time can correct. What should a supervising manager do in this type of situation? If the tasks and potential tasks involved are central to that person’s job description and their expected areas of responsibilities there, that is very different than would be the case if these performance issues just involve new work that would expand the job and job description of an employee in question. And even then, are the performance problems that are now observed, problems in addressing work responsibilities that of necessity have to become part of that employee’s job description as the business and its needs change and evolve, or has this arisen essentially entirely in the context of add-on tasks that it would be nice if this employee could fulfill, but where those tasks are still separate from what this person would more routinely be expected to do?
• But what of training and offering opportunity to learn new skills? I just dismissed that as a possible solution to this problem in the above bullet point, but sometimes offering training opportunities, or time and opportunity to pursue them to an employee can make all the difference and to the good for all involved. Does this business allow for employee training or related improvement as an employee benefit, or support employees who would seek out such opportunities and who actively strive to become better, more valuable employees there? Does it support and encourage employees who would be willing to put in the time and effort to achieve that?
• But this brings me back to problem employees who cannot in fact sufficiently carry out their assigned and expected work assignments, and on time and correctly, for them to be seen as fully doing their jobs. Any step-in or step-back question always carries within it, a retain-as-is, or reassign or let go question too.

Context and effective communications are crucial here; the questions and issues that I raise here, in fact cut to the heart of what it means to be a manager and supervisor, and a leader in general. And with that noted, I take this line of discussion out of the abstract by offering and at least briefly considering a specific case in point example of how this works. And in anticipation of offering it, I add that my above-offered three point list of alternative context details, was drafted with this example in mind.

You are a mid-level or senior executive at a business that is actively striving to get out from under a history and reputation of being legacy-only, and for what traditionally has been its brand-defining, key production and product line for the business as a whole. And that area of the business is in fact your area of responsibility there now. Some of the people who have been doing this work, and both hands-on and as production line managers are approaching retirement and are deeply set in their ways, and would be good candidates for early retirement with incentives offered to leave now. Pursuing this approach for dealing with them would show a very positive message to all who remain and to any new hires that might be brought in, that this is a great place to work, where employees and their loyalty are rewarded. And it would create openings for bringing in new people with new skills and workplace experience too. But some of the people who have in effect become pigeonholed for the type of legacy work that you have to move the business beyond now, are younger and a lot earlier in their careers, and would in fact like to start working on more current and even cutting edge products and their development and manufacture too. They are not legacy-only, like their more senior peers. And it is these employees who I write of here, and the issues of dealing with them where they cannot simply move into New as a matter of course and immediately be up to speed on their now-expected tasks.

I assume here that it would be better long-term to retain and support these people, instead of simply taking a “simplest resolution” downsizing approach for anyone and everyone who has worked in this key and even defining area of the business, and in effect starting over as if from scratch there.

People who work in legacy areas of a business are all too often automatically typecast as only being able to do that, and essentially as an axiomatic assumption. But I am writing here of employees who in fact do not fit that stereotype and who could in fact move on to become valuable assets for an employer that seeks to retain and benefit from its people, and that can see real potential from achieving that.

How should a manager address this possibility, so as to retain and develop and not discourage and thwart and either by being too hands-on or too hands-off? How should a more senior manager or mid-level executive work with more junior line managers who work under their supervision who actively, day-to-day manage and supervise these people? Once again, simply laying them off, or alternatively frustrating them so much that they look elsewhere and leave, would create a shared message that everyone working there has to be expected to hear of. And downsizings are never exactly supportive of good morale, to put it mildly.

This is a situation where training and even the development of a business updating-oriented training program, probably organized and run by a third party service provider with relevant experience, can offer real value. And the issues of stepping-back or stepping-in and of knowing best when and how to do this, become crucially important during the transition period that attempting this type of change is certain to create for this business.

I end this posting by noting two further details that I will delve into in my next installment to this series:

• You have to expect that any decision you make here will have repercussions and ripple effects that run throughout the business, and that everyone there will come to know about. And if they only hear about this second hand and as rumor, they will only hear versions of it that are negative and worse.
• And with both that and my above example in mind, a key part of actually addressing this type of management challenge is one of understanding, conveying and managing expectations.

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 33 – the jobs and careers context 32

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 32 – the jobs and careers context 31

This is my 32nd 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 1-31.)

I have been successively addressing each of a set of workplace issues and challenges that can arise for essentially anyone who works sufficiently long-term with a given employer, that I repeat here in list form (with appended links to where I have discussed them) for smoother continuity of narrative:

1. Changes in tasks assigned, and resources that would at least nominally be available for them: timeline allowances and work hour requirements definitely included there (see Part 25 and Part 26),
2. Salary and overall compensation changes (see Part 27),
3. Overall longer-term workplace and job responsibility changes and constraints box issues as change might challenge or enable you’re reaching your more personally individualized goals there (see Part 28),
4. Promotions and lateral moves (see Part 29),
5. And dealing with difficult people (see Part 30 and Part 31).

And while all of these issues can arise and can need to be addressed in combination with others on the list, they can also all be seen as separate and distinct jobs and careers issues that can call for largely separate negotiations to resolve. I have in fact discussed them separately up to here as more stand-alone topics. But I added one more issue: one more increasingly common challenge to this list that of necessity involves all of the above, simultaneously, and more. And that is:

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

I added this example of a negotiations-requiring workplace situation last on this list, because navigating this type of challenge as effectively as possible, calls for skills in dealing with all of the other issues on this list and more, and with real emphasis on Plan B preparation and planning, and on its execution too as touched upon in Part 23 and again in Parts 30 and 31. And my goal here is to at least begin a discussion as to how you might better approach this challenge or its possibility. And as a starting point that means more clearly stating what downsizings are, as cause and effect driven processes.

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

I begin this first step discussion for addressing the above Point 6 by acknowledging that I have personally been caught up in two downsizings so I write from direct experience here, and not simply from the perspective of abstract principles. And I have seen them play out when I was not an in-house employee or manager too. And that perhaps-relevant piece of my own workplace experience shared, I begin this posting’s main line of discussion by at least briefly outlining some of the details of the heart of this challenge itself: what downsizings are and what leads to them.

• In principle, this is simple and straightforward. Essentially any business that grows in scale beyond that of a single proprietor owner has at least some hands-on working, non-managerial employees. And as a business grows in scale it generally takes on managers who supervise them and coordinate their efforts towards the resolution of larger tasks than any single individual could carry out on their own. And next level up managers come onboard too if this trend towards growth continues. And payroll and benefits expenses can and often do rise in scale and significance to become among the largest ongoing expenses 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, staff and directly staff-related expenses are usually one of the first possible places considered when cutbacks in expenses paid and due are on the table.
• This can mean last in, first out and certainly in business contexts where seniority of employment has to be taken into account. Businesses with a strong union presence often follow that approach. 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.
• Downsizings, while more usually driven by revenue and expense imbalances, can also be driven by pressures to phase out old systems and install new ones that might be better fits for the current 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. To take that out of the abstract with a specific example, there was a time when large numbers of businesses had their own in-house teams for developing and maintaining the more technical side of their websites and online presence. It is now much more common to outsource that type of specialized work to third party providers that only do this type of work and that can more cost-effectively provide these services. And that widespread change in organizational perspective and priorities lead to a significant numbers of downsizings for people who had worked in-house in Information Technology and related departments, and with those businesses shifting their in-house focus there, essentially entirely to a more Marketing and Communications or other content-oriented focus.
• But to be blunt, and I will add a lot more candid than most senior managers are on this, downsizings are not 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. Downsizings 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. They 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.
• People can be and sometimes are fired with cause. But a business that pursues that path needs to be able to back up any such actions with fact and evidence-based reasons that they could offer to justify those dismissals. Otherwise they run a risk of facing unlawful termination law suits, and with a distinct possibility for that happening if they operate in any of a great many legal jurisdictions.
• Downsizings, on the other hand are entirely no-fault in nature, at least as formally defined. They can and do sweep up skilled workers who have proven their value to the organization and who have supportively fit into it and contributed to it. They can and do sweep up people the business would otherwise want to keep on-staff and long term. But downsizings can also be used, and are used to get rid of people who do their jobs and at performance levels that would mitigate against their being fired per se, but who at least someone in management would like to see leave anyway. All such a manager would need there is the cover of their business seeing need to enter into an actual downsizing, for reorganizational purposes.
• The point that I have been leading to in the past three bullet points of this list is simple in principle, even as it is complex and largely opaque in the details of any given actual downsizing events. People are let go for any and usually all of a complex mix of reasons with that including financial need on the part of a business, with that meaning dismissal of good and desired employees, with that meaning reduction in or elimination of functional areas in-house that could more cost-effectively be outsourced, and with that meaning “housecleaning” out employees who while effective at their jobs, do not fit there. And ultimately, all of these decisions are judgment calls on the part of managers who are involved in carrying these actions out. I will come back to this point and its possibilities, later in this series when I begin to discuss negotiations in this context. But to round out this bullet pointed list of downsizing-clarifying points, and to bring this point itself into clearer focus, consider the following scenario: the CEO of a business that has suddenly found itself in severe fiscal stress tells the C level heads of its functional arms on the table of organization that all of their departments and services are going to have to make reductions in scale, sharing the pain. No one service or functional area will simply take the hit there. So word goes down through middle and lower management that they have what amount to quotas to fill, and then they have to choose who is to be let go. If you work there and can see this coming, what can you do and how can you best present and represent yourself if you in fact want to stay working there? That is where your negotiations and your skills at that enter this narrative.

There are of course, more possible reasons and rationales for downsizings that I could have raised in my above list; my above-offered outline of what downsizings are is just a simplified cartoon representation of a more complex and nuanced process that is essentially always riven by pushback and challenge. Just consider my last bullet point and its “share the pain” example. Every senior manager and certainly every C level officer who is challenged to make their share of these cuts will want to argue the case for why their services should be spared, or at least allowed to make smaller cuts.

I will consider at least one more reason for downsizing at all as I continue this narrative, which I will identify here in anticipation of discussion to come. And it is one that I have seen play out first hand so I know from personal observation how real and how impactful it can be. 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, and I will discuss it in that context. And consider this as an arena where a prepared skilled employee or manager can negotiate their own circumstances with this type of empire builder too.

And with that noted, I have at least laid out the basic issues leading up to a downsizing here, and the basic issues of who gets swept up in them too. I will continue this discussion in the next installment of this series where I will begin addressing preparation and response options that hands-on employees and managers can use when facing these types of possibilities.

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

Hands-off management, micromanagement and in-between – some thoughts on what they mean in practice 1

One of the most difficult issues that managers face – essentially all managers and regardless of their industry or their titles or scope of responsibility, can be found in simply knowing when to actively supervise and manage, and when to step back. Most managers spend essentially their entire careers and work lives, working in the context of their own specific areas of hands-on experience and training, whether that means working in technical and related areas such as Information Technology or Finance, or in soft people-skills areas such as Marketing and Communications or Personnel. They, as such, have training and experience that would at least offer a foundation for addressing challenges and opportunities in the functional areas that they are responsible for, and even when facing what to them personally are the new and unexpected. The challenges and the at least potential opportunities that I write of here are, however, essentially pure management in nature. And they are of a type that is not generally addressed all that effectively in standard MBA and related programs with their all but laser-focused subject area orientations and specializations. These issues do not, after all, clearly fit into any particular arena of business-defined functional area expertise or responsibility.

• When should a manager step back and even knowingly allow at least more minor mistakes, delays and related learning curve inefficiencies?
• And when should they step in and more directly intervene, and even if that means they’re in-effect taking over from a hands-on employee or a lower level manager who reports to them? When does this become micromanagement?
• When does hands-off mean giving others a chance to make mistakes and learn and grow professionally from them, and when does it mean leaving them hanging and without the support that they actually need, and that they might even actively want?
• When does more actively hands-on mean actively helping and when does it more primarily become an otherwise avoidable challenge to those so “helped,” and of a form that undercuts those subordinates and limits their ability to do better on their own the next time?

I have in effect already at least partly addressed those questions from how I phrased them, when I raised the possibility of at least more minor mistakes, delays and related learning curve inefficiencies, and by implication the possibility of more impactfully significant challenges that would require more immediate and effective response and resolution too.

• If a new, more junior manager is slower than might be desired at first, when using a new-to-them administrative tool and its online screens, and when they are still figuring out where everything is in it on their own, it can be better to wait for them to ask questions if they hit a wall in that, instead of automatically, in effect taking over. They might take a little longer at first, in effectively completing the tasks that they would use this tool for. But you’re making the investment as a more senior manager, of letting them learn this new tool as a matter of ingrained hands-on experience, and at their own pace can really pay off for you and for your business later on, and certainly if this means they’re learning their next new software tool that much faster, and if they learn this one better from how they learned how to use it by doing with it, too.
• If, on the other hand, that new more junior manager is on the brink of making a mistake that would create serious problems for a major business client, that would probably call for a more immediate and direct intervention.

But that, at least categorical level context in which a step-in or step-back decision would be made, only represents one of several possible arenas where the questions that I raise here, as to how to better manage, actually arise. What are the work performance issues involved that a step-in or step-back decision would be made about? But just as importantly, who are the people involved in this and what are the most productive ways for working with them, and certainly when everything is not moving ahead like clockwork for them?

• And it is important to note in this context, that addressing the who side of that, can and generally does call for more individualized management approaches and more flexible ones at that, than a focus on business tasks and goals would call for, and certainly as a general rule.
• Business tasks and goals, and certainly as organized and called for from a big picture perspective, are laid out in business plans in place, or at least in effectively drafted ones. They are formally understood for what they would accomplish and how, at least for an organized and efficient business and for its ongoing business systems.
• But few if any businesses have anything like formal guidelines in place for working more effectively with others, depending on their personalities and on what specific ways of completing tasks work best for them. Few if any businesses have anything like formal guidelines in place for working more effectively with others in addressing how they would work when facing special-to-them needs: short term and time-limited or ongoing, and with only a few special exception circumstances such as parental need guidelines, and disabilities accommodations standing out as exceptions there.

Actually addressing the issues raised here as a senior manager, means thinking through the tasks and goals involved and the priorities that they carry, while also thinking and acting with a matching awareness of the other people involved in carrying them out – as well as maintaining an active awareness of other involved parties, including third party stakeholders who need to have the tasks involved, completed correctly and on time. And at least as importantly, this also means better understanding ourselves as the senior managers in charge in this too.

• Management is about organizing and coordinating what has to be done, to get it done and as smoothly and effectively, and cost-effectively as possible. But it is also about working with and enabling the people involved in carrying this work out. Managers are people, who work with, and in this context supervise other people.

Personality and management style, as shaped by it, enter this narrative here, and a need to be able and willing to work with others in ways that they can be positively receptive to, and in ways that can help bring out their best. This means finding the right balance between challenge to perform, and the opportunity for professional growth that the right types and amounts of such challenge can foster, while giving others both the opportunity and the tools needed to get their work done, even as they learn from trying and doing.

I have seen way too many managers who do not allow for any error or delay (from others). And that lack of flexibility and yes – lack of adaptability, makes it all the easier to fall into one or the other of the two chasms of problematical management that I have been discussing here: hands-off that can and will leave subordinates twisting in the wind, or its overly involved counterpart of longer-term performance-thwarting micromanagement. And this brings me to the final point that I would raise here in this brief note: the final point of challenge that not finding the right balance between hands-off and hands-on can bring.

• Whether a senior manager steps back and remains uninvolved as their default and automatic response to work performance problems in their team (taking a sink or swim approach),
• Or whether they make the mistake of stepping in too often and on problems and issues that do not genuinely call for their direct intervention, leaving no room for errors or delays and even when a subordinate is learning, or when they are trying to navigate the unexpected or unusual,
• They make the path that they themselves would follow as a more senior manager in charge, that much more difficult too. The more they just automatically default to either of these two approaches and certainly if they vacillate between them, the poorer their own work performance is likely to be from their failure to focus on and expend effort, and time and other resources where their effort is really needed, and where it would have been expected in their own performance reviews.

And the types of problems that I write of here can radiate down the lines of a table of organization from more senior managers on down. At its worst, poor managerial decision making of the type that I write of here, can come to shape and damage entire corporate cultures, and businesses as a whole, undermining morale at a business as a whole in the process.

I offer this posting with a goal of explicitly raising and outlining a type of management problem. And I will return to this topic area in future postings, with a goal of offering some thoughts on how to better address it.

In anticipation of my next posting on this, I note here that I have made a number of assumptions in this one that are true for many involved participants and across a range of real-world scenarios, but without their being universally true, or even close to that. As an example of that, I have assumed that all of the people involved in the scenarios that I have touched upon here, are good employees who can do their jobs effectively or even exceptionally well, even if they do face at least occasional learning curve slow-downs in that. And I have assumed that such learning would be more autodidactic in nature. But not all employees are as effective as others and not all show the same levels of potential for developing into the good or even great there. And some need and really benefit from more formal training and particularly on more complex training issues.

The devil, it is said, is in the details and that definitely applies for the issues and at least potential problems that I write of here. And the detail-of-necessity nature of the issues that I raise here, explains at least in part why this is not necessarily a topic area that is addressed as effectively as might be needed in at least most MBA and related degree programs. The details that arise here are all experience based, if they are to be fully learned and understood. My goal here is to offer tools that might help to shorten this type of learning curve. And I will continue this effort in a next installment to what will become a short 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.)

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