October, November, and December could be my favorite months of the year. We’ve got Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah and the first signs of snow! Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, work slowly shuts down and it starts to feel like one long extended holiday. Getting paid to kick back and be merry is great!
Despite all the holiday cheer, there is a scary truth most employees don’t see behind the curtains. Managers are busy figuring out who to hire, promote, and who to fire! If revenues are below expectations, managers either have to 1) make believable excuses, 2) convince their managers to give them more time, or 3) start cutting people.
Although cutting people is a painful process, the retrenched serve as scapegoats for why a business unit is underperforming. Clearly it is Bob not getting it done, rather than have all eyes on the manager who led the team in the wrong direction. A fired employee shows that the manager is taking action, thereby lessening his/her own chances of getting retrenched or underpaid.
* Know where you stand. Go back to your mid-year review and have an honest assessment of where you stand vs. your yearly objectives. If you are on track to meet or beat your objectives, you should be relatively safe. If you are underperforming know that you are at risk, even if this is your first year of underperformance.
* The magnifying glass is on you. Everything might seem jovial, but know that your managers are scrutinizing your every move. The 4th quarter is when bonuses and promotions are decided. This is when you’ll see a heightened increase of people kissing ass and flying to HQ to meet with their bosses. Although their actions are somewhat sickening, they are strategically doing the right thing to at least not get fired. Relationships are what it’s all about.
* You might be getting tricked. Crafty managers will treat you nicely, but punish you financially in the end. I’ve seen some of the most two-faced managers treat their employees with love, only to fire them a week before Christmas. I’ve seen many more examples of managers not keeping their bonus or promotion promises in the New Year just so they can extract maximum productivity from their employees only to let them go or cut costs. Watch out because skillful managers will try to use you to the max.
* Managers want to get paid and promoted too. Managers are just like their employees. They have a manager and want to get paid more and rise up the ladder as much as anyone. In order for them to keep rising, they must demonstrate they can run a successful business unit that contributes to the well-being of the firm. If it’s between them getting fired and you getting fired, you lose. The ideal is if a manager makes you look good so that you can make him/her look good. However, these types of managers are rare.
* Go back to the beginning. Remember when you first joined your company how full of enthusiasm you were? Transport yourself back to that eager beaver time where you would come in early, stay late, and volunteer to help where you can. It is inevitable that your enthusiasm fades after a while. The loss is even more apparent as new hires come in and work next to you.
* Rekindle the relationship. The more you get to know your manager, the harder it will be for him/her to fire you. The human element of guilt plays a huge part in deciding who to let go and who to keep. If a manager has little interaction with one employee, doesn’t know about his family, and shares nothing in common, you can bet that employee is on the top of the list for getting cut. If a manager knows the name of your daughters and shares a common charitable cause, you are much safer.
* Talk about the future. You need to believe you belong. One of the key ways to believing you will still be around is talking with your manager about next year’s business goals. Once you have laid out your objectives and highlighted your plans to get there, you can then move on to personal goals. The personal goals is what uppercuts the guilt out of your manager’s soul. How can s/he fire someone who is about to get married, have children, or buy a house? Test them out and observe how they react.
* Plan your exit now. If losing your job is an inevitability, then you must pre-empt getting fired by strategizing your exit and speaking with your managers and HR department about your future plans to save them money. Turn the tables around. It’s not pleasant firing anybody during the holidays. If you can have an open dialogue and prevent a manager from going through such guilt, then you have a much better chance of negotiating a great severance package. You will potentially also negotiate a much better severance package.
Be on your best behavior during the fourth quarter. It’s the best of times that could very quickly become the worst of times. As a manager during the last five years of my career, I’ve seen it all. Those who are able to tactfully navigate the landmines of corporate politics wins.
Those who best know how to get laid off are also the ones who best know how to get promoted and thrive in the workplace. Think about it. A great example is when you’re trying to understand women. A great strategy is to just read the latest women’s magazines written by women who write about what women care about! If they don’t, the magazine will go out of business. The same strategy goes for trying to understand men. Simplistic, but highly logical and oh so effective.
Best of luck to everyone and don’t get too drunk at the holiday party! And remember, nobody gets promoted during the holiday party. Nobody.
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Updated for 2021 and beyond.