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Agility and Career Power in Recessionary Times

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I've often written about managers and organizations needing to recognize how people feel and to that same end I think in this climate it's important that people understand how managers feel as well.

Managers are harried, overworked and in many cases if they are higher up in the organization they are just as fearful about losing their jobs as their employee counterparts.   To manage company shareholder expectations organizations over the last decade have consistently reduced the top level managers as a way of reducing costs associated with employee salaries.

So whether you're a top level manager or an employee on the front line, the key to stay employed in this market is to make sure you focus your efforts on agility and sustainability.

When was the last time you did a thorough evaluation of what you offer to your organization? What will the employer gain if they keep you on or hire you in the first place? The answers to these questions need to be different than what they were when you first came on board. Are you keeping up with the latest shifts in your market, are you producing new ideas around your contributions to the company and are you finding ways for your managers to take notice of your work efforts in a positive manner.

While organizations and most managers prefer to deal with facts which are neat and measurable, in terms of people it's the messy feelings that really matter. People's desires, hopes and fears are much more powerful than facts in determining how they react and behave. That's clearly true at work where the environment is made up of the more powerful and more powerless, the more influential and the more ignored...This makes Kissing Up normal and straight-forward communication rare. As a result, people's behavior is a thousand times more informative about how people feel -- and therefore how they will behave -- than what they say.

Are you sharing your knowledge at work with peers and co-workers in order for the organization itself to grow? Are you meeting your deadlines? Are you enthusiastic at meetings and bringing forth new options for old problems?

Managers value creativity as an asset and if you have it then you need to exercise it at your job. Too often people who are employed have relied wrongly on entitlement as a reason for being kept at a job. Entitlement never was a valid reason to keep anyone on board and it certainly is not now. In fact, if you are behaving as though you are entitled to have your job, then you might find it surprising how quickly your job can be in jeopardy.

I've spoken all over the world to young people who were idealistic when they graduated with highest honors from college and imagined their offices would be dappled in gold and they would have a ready made staff of minions to do all the hard lifting. In this precarious decade with unemployment levels rising to alarming degrees, you are no longer entitled to a job just because your education meets the hiring criteria.

You must be willing to invest YOURSELF in the organization for them to INVEST fully in you. You must be adept at asking "How can I learn more? How can I find the right mentor in this organization? How can I bring more of my unique specialties to this job and have them benefit my organization?"

Being willing to jump into the fray and learn new things and being the first one to say you will tackle a new challenge often makes the difference in how you stay employed in your market. Being focused, positive, open to change helps the organization see your contributions in a positive light.

When employees are very enthusiastic and involved, the organization succeeds in terms of financial outcomes. The current terms for these feelings are Commitment and Engagement. When people are committed they are proud of their organization and when they are engaged, they see their work as contributing to the organization's mission, which they strongly believe is important.

Commitment and Engagement are so powerful that high positive scores on measurements of them predict financial success. The reverse is also true: strong negative scores of Not Committed and Actively De-Engaged predict failure. That's why organizations need to sustain powerful positive feelings about the organization and the work it does in bad times as well as good.

Today, in most organizations, there's vastly more fear and anxiety than joy and optimism. That's seriously bad. Organizations' must get fear and anxiety levels down, and replace those feelings with a sense of hope, the purposefulness of a united and supportive community, and a conviction the future will be better. To that same end, employees must be agile and make their contributions a part of the organization's overall sustainability and strength in the market. They must view their work as a positive contribution to the organization and must strive to make that the norm rather than the exception.




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Judith M. Bardwick, Ph.D., is a highly regarded speaker, consultant, researcher, and writer on psychological aspects of people at work. For more than two decades, she has combined cutting-edge psychological research with practical business (more...)
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