How To Save Your Job And Not Get Fired

Want to learn how to save your job and not get fired? You've landed on the right article as I was a manage in investment banking from 1999 – 2012. During this time, we went through MANY layoffs given how cyclical the industry was and still is.

There were many employees on the edge, who we ended up saving because of certain things they did or said. Let's get to work.

The Most Important Time Of The Year

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.

Related: Getting Fired Might Not Be So Bad For Your Life

How To Save Your Job And Not Get Fired

If you want to save your job, it's important to know or do the following things. You must also realize that you should never get fired or quit. If you do, you won't be eligible for a severance package.

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.

Related: How A High-Performing Employee Negotiated Her Severance

Here's How To Save Your Job If It's At Risk

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.

Related: Quitting Your Job Is Selfish, Negotiate A Severance Instead

Save Your Job By Being Aware

Be on your best behavior during the fourth quarter of the year if you want to save your job. 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 (link to my severance negotiation book) 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.

How to engineer your layoff - a book about how to negotiate a severance

Now You Know How To Save Your Job!

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.

Related Post: Examples Of Good Resumes That Get Jobs

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21 thoughts on “How To Save Your Job And Not Get Fired”

  1. Derek - Freeat33

    I used to get laid off 6 or 7 times a year.
    NOT because I was a slacker or unwanted, but because I worked as part of a unionized work force. This meant I would get hired on to jobs to help finish a large project quickly. once complete there was no longer any reason to keep me around.
    I think this article is written for corporate America, as I know that is the world Samurai knows. In my world, none of this matters.
    There is no performance reviews or HR. You get laid off if you don’t perform for a day or two. There is no saving face in the last quarter.

    1. Please tell me more, as I can only provide my perspective.

      Can you collect unemployment each time you get “laid off”? There’s a great article about how pissed off Darwin is from about the situation.

  2. Jason Clayton | frugal habits

    Holiday parties are when you get to laugh at the idiot who gets drunk and makes a fool of themselves. They also usually don’t ever know they were the joke of the month, and a common joke for years to come.

    In regards to savings your job, relationships are everything. Do a decent job and form relationships with those in power and you’re golden.

  3. As someone who’s only worked in media companies (where nobody is really making any money), these insights into old school corporate ways is rather chilling.

  4. Great tips. I’ve been used, abused and fired unexpectedly. It’s a good learning process. I learned to not get fired again. I make myself indispensable to the management! It;s worked so far!

  5. Darwin's Money

    Decent companies will defer layoffs until after the holiday (at least ours won’t do layoffs during December), but that provides little solace to someone getting laid off in January, it still sucks. My advice, which takes a long time to entrench – is to make yourself invaluable in one or more ways. You really need to differentiate yourself from your peers, be it through being a great leader, a visionary, someone who can just “get stuff done” where others toil away with churn, or even, get the company to spend a lot of money on you with say, a PhD or an MBA. Even though such sunk costs shouldn’t matter to an employer if they’re trying to be objective and cut heads at some point, managers still feel somewhat guilty or stupid having to fire someone they just “invested in”, so all things being equal, that might give you an edge as well (not to mention, you should actually be viewed as more valuable following completion of an advanced degree).

    1. Good idea about getting the company more to invest in you so they feel more reluctant to let you go after. My company paid $75,000 for my MBA as well, which might have prolonged my career for three years in retrospect.

      When you quitting your job Darwin to go full-time?

      1. Darwin's Money

        My company paid probably 40-50K, so decent “benefit” I suppose. As far as full-time, the day I start making $200K and my wife has benefits? I’m there LOL. Until then (which may be eternity), I’ll be trudging along…

  6. I’m always surprised how many employees don’t look at where the fit in the economics of the firm. If what you’re doing isn’t making the firm money, eventually someone’s going to realize that. If you can very clearly explain the value proposition of keeping you, the you’re probably safe unless an entire division gets cut or something.

  7. Great post Sam. I find at my work if I can constantly remind people what I am working on and why it has value than I seem to be ok. When I go quiet things get dicey. I do try to be very open book though and ask lots of questions so that I don’t guess wrong. I guessed wrong once or twice and it didn’t go so well.

  8. I think that forming key relationships is the most important factor in being successful at keeping your job and doing well. Attitude also goes a very long way. Great post!

  9. When I worked in private industry, the fourth quarter was the busiest time for CFOs and accounting. It was the time for us to shine! The first quarter was performance review time, not in the usual sense, but to showcase our performance. The good performers start planning their exit, but usually hang around long enough to get their prior year bonus.

  10. Hi there. I’m in the advantageous position of knowing the spot light is on me as a potential candidate for termination, but also have a new job waiting for me when I am laid off or quit. I’d love to engineer my own layoff, and am intrigued by your book, but have one question to ask before purchasing it. Obviously you’ve written your book for your fellow Americans, but being a Canadian, I was wondering if (and hoping that) your strategies would apply in Canada. Do you have any thoughts or experience on applying your layoff strategies to Canadian employment?

    1. Hi Brewer, Chapter 8 is entitled, “Negotiating A Severance Package When Joining A Competitor.” This is the holy grail of layoff engineering because it entails getting severance from your employer you planned on leaving anyway AND getting paid by your new employer. I call it “double dipping.”

      Employment rules are different in each state, let alone each country, which is why I wrote the book to transcend the rules. The book is very much about negotiations and building the right relationships to allow you to move on. From what I understand, labor laws are even more pro employees for Canadians than Americans.

      Good luck whatever you do!

  11. I’ve had a lot of what you talked about on my mind lately. We’re right in the heart of the year end review process and this is the time when a lot of things happen, both good and bad. I agree with all of your tips and am anxiously awaiting my own review. I don’t expect any surprises but it’s natural to get a bit giddy and excited this time of year.

    I can’t imagine how awful it would feel to get let go right before Christmas but I’ve seen it happen too. Even if we think we have rock solid job security you just never know what could happen. It’s a good reminder for all of us not to go crazy over spending during the holiday season. Gotta keep our budgets in good shape!

  12. I always find that the office was almost empty during this month. Everyone is taking vacation time around the holidays. It is really easy to let productivity slip when not many people are around.

    Now I dont have an excuse. One of my websites is a coupons/deals website and November and december is the busiest/most profitable months of the entire year.

  13. Great tips, Sam. You’re right: people don’t have much of a long-term memory. If you can pull it together in the 4th quarter you might find yourself with a much nicer raise….bonus….or even save your job.

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