Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How to Keep Your Job

Recently, a thirty-year-old analyst, working in a bank, wrote to Financial times columnist Lucy Kellaway asking for advice on how to keep his job. The letter and many excellent comments are dated June 12.

This man calls himself a "solid performer," but not a "star." He has a child, a pregnant wife, and an excessively large mortgage. It is not a good moment for him to lose his job. He asks Kellaway whether he should play the sympathy card or whether he should embark on "a shameless bout of self-promotion" at the expense of his colleagues?

So, how does he keep his job?

First, by doing it. Several respondents emphasized that he must work harder and make himself more essential to the business in ways that are quantifiable.

Surely, he should make himself more visible at work. He should be the first in the office in the morning and the last to leave in the evening. The extra time will allow him to work harder on his reports, and hopefully, this will produce better results. If he is a stock analyst his work will be judged by the way the stocks he recommends perform. Harder work, coupled with less time wasted in self-pity, will surely improve his performance.

Second, he should act like he respects himself. As several respondents noted, playing the sympathy card is a bad idea. Telling his boss that he is incompetent at managing his personal finances does not inspire confidence. No boss is going to base his decision on pity. The fact that this analyst would consider begging for his job does not speak well of his character.

Third, he should avoid psychological manipulation. Anyone who promotes himself at the expense of his colleagues is going to sow dissension in the ranks. At that point, firing him will contribute to group morale. No one should ever put himself in the position where his absence will contribute to the good functioning of the group.

Besides, every boss worth his bonus knows that people who self-promote shamelessly are probably not doing their job.

This analyst should not make a spectacle of himself and cause the office to descend into drama. He should make himself someone others can trust and rely on. His goal should be to become the go-to person on projects. If his boss knows that when he takes on an assignment it will be done effectively and efficiently... to the point that the boss does not even have to worry about it, then he will be less likely to fire this man.

If shameless self-promotion leads him to bad-mouth others, then they will likely return the favor. At that point he will not only have more difficulty holding on to his present job, but he will have problems getting a new job in the future.

Fourth, as a respondent noted, praise and compliments work much better than self-promotion and confrontation. Offering praise for the good job that his boss or colleagues is doing will make it far more likely that they will return the favor. If he does it well he will become a source of office harmony and general good feeling.

Finally, the fact that his solution to the problem involves manipulating his boss and promoting himself at the expense of his colleagues tells us why he is not a star performer. It also suggests that he is about to lose his job.

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