How to Survive Sabotage and Save Your Job

When layoffs are announced, coworkers may play dirty to save their own jobs--and sacrifice yours.

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Suzanne Lucas

Layoffs have been announced and it’s likely that more than half of my department will be affected. Several of my coworkers are actively trying to destroy the reputation of everyone else in the group (including mine). I suppose they are doing this in the hopes that they will be the lucky ones. What should I do to increase my chances of surviving?

I’m going to say something that a ton of people will vehemently disagree with: Most managers are smart. Oh sure, not your manager, who is a big idiot and all, but other people’s managers are. Honestly and truly. If you can see that these people are attempting to sabotage others’ work, your manager can see it as well.

Don’t go running to the boss every time Heidi or Steve tries to take credit for something you did, or cry foul when they forget to invite you to important meetings. Sure, you can point it out, but do so politely and without malice or anger. Yelling and screaming, no matter how justified you are, makes you look like the crazy one.

Your goal is to work hard, learn as much as possible and rise above the politics. Now, I’m not so naïve as to declare that politics don’t matter in the work place. They do. It’s just that the pecking order and preferences for people were established before the layoffs were announced and current behavior is not likely to change those opinions. (Although, it’s much easier for someone’s opinion of you to decrease than increase, which is exactly why you should not be attacking your coworkers. It makes you look bad.)

Not that it necessarily matters at this point. It's likely that management has been having closed door conversations about the layoffs and the resulting restructuring for a long time before the announcement. All this posturing may be for naught if the decisions have already been made. Besides, if the layoff is supposed to affect more than half your department, it’s likely that your manager’s job is no more secure than your own. In which case, the decision on who to terminate will be made at a much higher level.

And the more people being affected, and the higher the level of decision-making, the more hard data matters. These are things you have limited influence over now, such as tenure, previous years’ performance ratings, your job description, and what transferable skills you have.

You need to get your resume updated and start networking. (Or rather, continue networking because you, of course, have been networking all along.) You won’t be able to control your slimy, coworkers’ behavior. You can control your own. Don’t slack off and don’t give up. And don’t give into the temptation to join them.

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of h uman r esources experience, most of which has been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources Certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady .

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