Survivor – Cubicle Jungle

Like the reality show “Survivor”, work is a reality show of its own in a different environment – the cubicle jungle.  Surviving it on your own terms is complicated as there’s no one thing you can do that will help in the very short term.  The secret to surviving is a combination of value and the visibility of that value both in the long term and in recent memory.

On a daily basis, there’s not much to worry about.  You don’t have someone voted out of the office every couple of days.  However, corporate layoffs do happen periodically.  Unfortunately, in larger companies, this is usually done as a percentage cut.  The result seems quite Draconian in nature.

At one point, when I was the manager of my group of eleven, I got a call from my boss.  He told me to pick two names in my group who could be laid off.  The first name was guaranteed to be let go; the second might be let go.  It was a horrible decision to make.  The people were colleagues and friends that I had worked with for several years.  Ultimately, the decisions weren’t that hard to make.  So, what went into the decision-making process?

A goal as a manager is to keep the most valuable team members.  What makes you valuable?  Here are a few contributing factors.

  1. Solves problems
  2. Has answers
  3. Team player
  4. Self-propelled
  5. Isn’t too cat-like
  6. Versatile
  7. Helpful
  8. Has unique, specialized knowledge
  9. Exhibits leadership

If you have many of these traits, you’re likely to be a survivor.  However, people also have to know that you have these traits and this comes in the form of some self-promotion.  In weekly status reports or meetings, make sure that your boss and your colleagues know what you’ve done.  You don’t have to brag or toot your own horn too loud, but you do have to do a little broadcasting.  For example, if you’re in the middle of a large project, be sure to report the progress that you’ve made.  Perhaps you’ve spent time working on other modules that aren’t yours in order to prepare to integrate your code.  Or maybe you’ve built some base code upon which you will build.  Be sure to point out how your base code will be usable as a toolkit for others in your group or company.  When you report things this way, others will give you the accolades and toot your horn for you.

Be sure that when layoff time comes around, you’ve done your best to be valuable and visibly so.  There are no guarantees, but this is a great way to start.