7 ways to create a workplace safety net
We are all walking the corporate tight rope. There have never been many guarantees in life as a corporate employee. But now, despite employment protection legislation, there seem to be even fewer. We live in turbulent and changing times and no one is immune. Unfair dismissal is commonplace. So it’s not just necessary to be strategic about career advancement, but to always have a safety net in place in case of an unexpected fall. Even minor changes which at one time might have produced a little stumble, might send you crashing to your knees. These could be anything from a promotion disappointment, a take over, a new boss coming in, or even an economic blip that might unexpectedly impact results and performance. No one is indispensable. And sometimes our faces, from one day to another, simply don’t fit. It’s not only high-profile CEOs who get fired over the phone.
In the last few weeks I have had two clients, who have been basically, summarily dismissed and they believed had cases of unfair dismissal. For some reason, out of the blue, their contributions were deemed to be below par. Within an hour they have been placed on notice, told to clear their desks and instructed not to return to their place of employment. Access to their company email accounts and records had been immediately blocked. Had they committed some grave offence or were guilty of gross misconduct: hit the boss, lost a few billion, or sworn in front of a client? No they hadn’t. There seemed to be no obvious reason to either of them, nor was there any traceable record of any “sackable” offence, or even communicated under-performance. They both had contracts of employment. For some reason they were both surplus to requirements at one given moment in time and were “let go”, to use that hateful euphemism. Neither were senior enough to negotiate a golden parachute.
Regretfully, they have both found themselves in a void: hurt, angry, confused and wondering what their next steps could be.
The take away lessons to both these clients were signficant and there were some commonalities. They realised with that great gift of 20/20 hindsight that when the going was good, they had taken it for granted and had not taken even basic precautions. Under- performance had been cited in both cases as reason for termination and in reviewing their next steps, the only way both individuals could support their own version of events was verbally and anecdotally. If considering legal action, this can be problematic. With future employers it might also be useful to have support documentation to hand.
Do you have your safety net in place? Check out the career transition programmes if you are in difficulty.
- Always store personal professional information outside the office. Both used their office computers for personal use and had not stored key information privately, or as hard copy. They had no access to vital correspondence on other hard drives, once access had been denied.
- Always ask for annual goals and targets against which your performance will be assessed in writing. Keep a record of that document or correspondence. Neither had done this.
- Save copies ( in either a personal email account or as hard copy) of the good stuff! Any positive feedback or success stories. Once outside the swinging doors, neither had any record of their achievements or access to them, even previous performance assessment documentation where they had received strong ratings.
- Keep copies of requests for support or feedback and document any tricky problems as well, especially the methods you used to overcome them. Neither had hard or soft copies of ignored requests for support and advice, or any conflicting instructions they had received.
- Ask for recommendations from peers and superiors within your company to support your success stories. These can be posted on an online professional profile for the whole world to see.
- Look for a mentor or sponsor within the organisation you can turn to for advice. Both felt isolated.
- Carry on building an external network. You never know when you will be unexpectedly on the job market.
This may all seem very cynical, but change doesn’t have to be cataclysmic to produce a massive personal downside in today’s cyclical job market. Organisations will be equally vigilant in maintaining their records. Unless you have negotiated a golden parachute as part of your contract of employment, having a net under the corporate tight rope is simply a basic and very necessary safety measure.
You’ve heard of driving defensively – well regrettably, although far from ideal, we now we have to work defensively too.
What other precautions would you suggest?