Ideas for this column are usually provided by people just like you. You guys share your thoughts and anecdotes, and the columnist does the arduous job of spellchecking your comments and then filing them with his editor. And those are on days when there’s nothing good on TV. Mostly, your emails get forwarded directly.
So, two nights ago, this columnist was in conversation with several office-goers about issues that were close to their hearts. What were they excited about? What was bothering them? Could they put it in words? Preferably in 800-word column-sized pieces?
One executive told me how the only question on his mind right now was: “In this tragic economy, where even people who generously finance Twenty20 cricket are going bankrupt, how do I keep my job? How do I not get asked to ‘find other organizations more suited for my unique skill set and track record’?”
It was an intriguing question. Are there universal strategies that employees can use? Can we draw up a list of techniques so that you, irrespective of how laughable the status of your KRAs, can stay salaried?
We Googled like crazy. We discovered that several experts had expounded on this topic, especially since the stock markets recently began dropping like Sourav Ganguly in first slip. “Work even harder,” said one pundit, “the slackers are the first to get eliminated!” Another one exhorted employees to “participate in every possible social event in the office to increase popularity. Fun people last longest”.
Soon it emerged that this entire body of knowledge boiled down to a few oft-repeated cubicle truths. And these were being rehashed in blogs and columns time and again. We pulled out five of the most popular tips and asked Mata HaRi, our undercover human resources specialist, to evaluate them.
Her response was shocking. Not only were most of these tips pointless, but some of them were completely misleading. For your benefit, we present Mata HaRi’s demystification of some popular myths concerning job security. In these times of strife, we ask readers to adopt her feedback in the full knowledge that this column is in no way responsible for what will happen to your career.
Myth 1: Network heavily within your company. The more people know you, the lesser your chances are of getting fired.
HaRi’s take: “Utter nonsense. Anonymity is the friend of the insecure. If you remain low profile, no one will know what exactly you do in the office. This makes it risky to fire you. Management will not take that chance. On the other hand, if everyone knows you and what you do, chances are high that you’ll come up pretty early during their ‘potential layoffs brainstorming conclave 2009’.”
Myth 2: Make your boss’ job easier. If he likes you, he’ll save your neck for last.
HaRi’s take: “Puke! Think about it. If you begin to make your boss’ job easier, that means he will have less to do. Soon his boss is going to think of firing him. This will unsettle your boss, who will fire you to return substance to his workload and save his posterior. Instead, what you should do is make your boss’ boss’ work easier. And then get your boss fired.”
Myth 3: Participate in plenty of corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. The company always wants good PR.
HaRi’s take: “CSR is excellent, but you know what is better than good PR? Cash in the bank. When the going gets tough companies nuke their CSR budgets. Out with the traffic islands, landscaped public parks and fine arts foundations. And if you have so much time to do CSR, you clearly don’t have much to do in the office. Instead, turn up at meetings and suggest eliminating the CSR expense. Bask in glory.”
Myth 4: Be good. Stay away from all office politics and intrigues.
HaRi’s take: “Excellent. This way when everyone else in your office knows that layoffs are about to happen, you naively believe the circular from CEO assuring you that ‘we will handle this as a team’. Then one morning, your cubicle is missing. Always, always make sure you know everything that’s happening. Move your table to the coffee machine if you can.”
Myth 5: “Never beg or use personal sob stories to win sympathy. If you keep whining about why you need your job, you’ll lose it soon.
HaRi’s take: “Letting your manager know that the job has no impact on your life is a brilliant plan for rapid retrenchment. In fact, you must let them know how important the job is. Bring family to the office often to strengthen bonds. Use holiday snaps as screen savers. In fact, always having a small child in your cubicle will almost completely thwart the danger of layoff meetings.”
In conclusion, HaRi had this to say: “Never, ever take career advice from mass media outlets. Especially newspaper columns.”
Cubiclenama takes a fortnightly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org