No Whining in the Foxhole

by Erik Sorenson | May 11, 2009

  • My Vault

Tough timesare getting tougher.  Almost nobusiness is immune.  When Googlecuts back on free food and Goldman Sachs has to cut its work force and WarrenBuffett watches profits drop 77%, it’s a safe bet that we are all in for aworld of hurt.  As revenues formost U.S. companies drop and buyers cut back on spending, the vicious cycle isbound to hit your company sooner or later.  And, I’m afraid to say, probably more than once over thenext couple quarters.

While it’scertainly not pleasant and nobody’s idea of fun, facts are facts and realitymust be confronted.  While execshave to do the dirty work of cutting costs and reducing headcount, we are not,by any means, immune from scrutiny - and should be concerned about our own jobsecurity and income in times such as these.  As an exec who’s been through this at least once or twice adecade for the past 30 years, please accept some advice on how to weather (andmaybe even survive) the onslaught.

There is no crying in Baseball (andDownsizing)

While it’scertainly valuable to be compassionate and empathetic regarding people in thisequation, it’s very important to be part of the solution, not part of theproblem right now.  Your boss (andboss’s boss, depending on where you are in the pecking order) doesn’t enjoythis kind of business moment any more than you do, so resisting or complainingor arguing about the reality and the options is not helpful.  In fact, it’s often a way to getyourself up on the chopping block. The first couple percentage points of cuts are often relatively easy toidentify and agree on, but after that it becomes very tough.  It’s one Hobson’s Choice after another.  And almost every decision you recommendworks to make your job more difficult going forward.  The temptation to argue against the cut is acute.  Many execs find themselves suggestingthat some other division or department in the firm should bear the weight of arequested cut.  Another temptationis to offer to make a large percentage of a requested cut, but not quite thewhole number.

Since it’susually a zero-sum game and the boss has already considered a range of optionsbefore handing down cost-cut goals, resistance is generally a bad idea.  In fact, if there is a way to offer upmore reductions in your area of responsibility that will usually be appreciated,since surely one of your colleagues is trying to wiggle out of his or herresponsibilities.  I’m notsuggesting you be irresponsible in terms of not properly husbanding necessaryresources to achieve your unit’s goals, but your performance in this kind ofperiod will be judged on how quietly you went about your required duties.

On the flipside, take positive action.  If there is something you can make moreefficient, do it.  If you cancreate a savings by partnering with another company or another unit within yourcompany, do it.  Keep movingforward, even while implementing downsizing requests from HQ.

Let me leaveyou with three concrete suggestions for succeeding in this environment:

·      Maintain a positive, proactivedemeanor

·      Demonstrate added value by assumingincreased levels of responsibility

·      Recommend/implement actions thatstreamline ops & reduce costs

 All ideas are welcome, so let’s hearthem ….

Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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