Tips for Making Yourself Layoff Resistant in a Tough Market

I recently wrote about how you can make yourself layoff-resistant by becoming a category of employee that is rare yet highly prized by employers: the creator/operator.

Creator/operators are individuals who can not only introduce new ideas, remedy challenges, and develop innovative solutions, but they also possess the ability to launch, execute, and guide their plans with the outcome being the consistent delivery of valuable benefits that create revenue, save revenue, and improve the organization’s image in the marketplace.

Since I presented this strategy, I’ve received some great questions from people seeking more details about how to armor themselves against downsizing.

Here are a few:

Q:  I’ve seen articles that offer information about how to make yourself completely indispensable to your company, which would prevent you from ever losing your job.  Is this possible?

A:  Unfortunately, no.  In fact, for a career writer or “expert” to claim that his/her guidance offers a 100% foolproof way to protect someone from being fired is irresponsible, misleading, and dishonest.

Here’s the unpleasant reality of what’s happening in this economy: Everyone, at every level, in every organization, is walking around with a target on their back. The only thing that you have under your control is to make the target smaller, and the successful implementation of the creator/operator strategy will do just that.

Will it prevent you from ever being laid off?  No.

But the creator/operator strategy will help to make it difficult, inconvenient, and extremely expensive for an organization to replace you.

Q:  Can you give a real-life example of what a creator is and what an operator is?

A:  Let’s look at a restaurant. The creator in the restaurant would be the head chef.  It would be her job to imagine, plan, and devise the recipes that would allow the restaurant to attract customers and boost revenue.

The operators would be the people in the restaurant who fulfill a specific job role that builds, delivers, and supports the chef’s recipes:  the cooks, the waitstaff, the dishwashers, the managers, etc.

In our current economy, it’s not enough for a creator to just concoct tasty recipes, or ideas.  The creator must also take on operator skills by coming up with a way for the ideas to be built, delivered, and supported.

In addition, the creator needs to envision ideas that produce measurable profits, savings, or improvements to the organization’s image in the marketplace. If a creator is only able to create ideas without also creating strategies to make the ideas successful, he/she is expendable.

The same holds true for an operator.

If an operator is solely fulfilling the bullet points of his job description, even if he’s doing it well, he’s also expendable: his job can be combined with someone else’s or eliminated. To survive rounds of layoffs, operators need to acquire creator skills by developing initiatives that produce profits, savings, or positive enhancements to the organization’s image in the marketplace.  By doing so, they become difficult, inconvenient, and extremely expensive to replace.

Q:  Once I’ve started generating results as a creator/operator, what should I then do to help make myself layoff-resistant in my company?

A:  The key to converting your achievements as a creator/operator into layoff-resistant job protection is to effectively communicate the details of your successes to key executives throughout your organization.

You’d begin with your immediate superior. (NOTE:  Before you move forward with your idea, you’d want to talk about it with your superior first. You’d introduce the idea, describe how you’d launch and guide it, and explain how the idea would benefit your department and your organization.  When your superior approves the idea, you’d need to confirm the details of your discussion in an e-mail. Be sure to thank him for his support, and let him know that you’ll keep him apprised of all developments as the idea launches.)

When your idea gains momentum and you’re seeing measurable, factual dividends, you’d want to bring this data to your superior as well as other upper-level executives within your communication sphere. Positive, reportable, and verifiable results would include a percentage increase in revenue, orders, prospects and/or savings since the launch of your initiative as well as improvements in the company’s image or presence in the marketplace (supported by citations, facts, and evidence).

Information about your accomplishments shouldn’t be shared in a bragging, obnoxiously triumphant manner:  you should focus on the facts and the key metrics that validate your successes.  The impressive and truthful results will tell your story effectively without the need for puffery, boasting, or embellishment.

Q:  My boss tries to claim credit for everything that everyone does in my department, even if he has no involvement with it.  How can I become a successful creator/operator if I’m never being recognized for my results?

A:  Credit hogging by a superior is frustrating and irritating, but if you’re able to produce valuable results for your organization as a creator/operator, your boss will make certain that you’re spared when it’s layoff time, since it’s in his/her best interest for you to stick around.

Healthy organizations will ultimately acknowledge who’s truly responsible for improvements in revenue, cost savings, and image improvements in the marketplace, so if your superior is smart enough to allow you to introduce and initiate your ideas, focus on the continued delivery of positive results.  At best, you’ll eventually get the credit that you deserve.  At worst, your boss will receive undue credit for your achievements, but your job will be safe.

Rafe Gomez is business strategy and marketing communications consultant, and the author of the audiobook WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME? A POWERFUL NEW INTERVIEW STRATEGY TO GET YOU HIRED IN TODAY’S CHALLENGING ECONOMY, available on  Follow him on Twitter @rehirementcoach