It's nearing the end of the year and companies are calculating bonus pools and budgets for the next year. That means your boss could be discussing the fate of your job at this very moment. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but to fill your holiday season with joy, here are five ways to help ensure you won't get laid off.
Increase Your Visibility
If you toil away in your cubicle without anyone knowing you're there, you're setting yourself up for disaster. You need to promote your work not only to your own boss, but to your boss's boss. That means sending your boss regular updates on your numbers, forwarding along compliments from colleagues and clients and making sure you're the go-to person even for just one project. Be gracious and thank others for their help and your self-praise won't come off as self-aggrandizing.
Become Your Boss's Favorite
At the end of the day, it's not about numbers, it's about relationships. You need to have technical competence, but if your boss just doesn't like you, it doesn't matter how much quantum physics you know. A new survey shows that despite companies' efforts, favoritism still exists in the workplace. So apply yourself to building strong relationships with your superiors just as you would to working on a particularly rigorous balance sheet issue. Don't layer on the brown-nosing, but make a concerted effort to know their favorite topics, sports teams and other personality aspects that will help you to connect with them. Do that and you'll be sitting in the company box come Super Bowl.
Time Your Vacation Well
If you've only been with the company three or four months, taking a week-long vacation isn't likely to be received well by your superiors. If you've been there for some time, however, it won't be frowned upon if you go away at Christmas with the family. If your boss tends to "forget" the person when they leave the office, make sure to check in daily and also make clear you're accessible on e-mail. If your boss asks you to cancel your trip, however, it's a good idea to acquiesce.
This piece of advice seems counterintuitive in an age where we're expected to juggle multiple documents, news reports, sets of data and Gchat conversations with the click of a mouse. But don't be lulled into complacency: Research shows you're not working at your best when you switch rapidly from task to task. Taking the time to refocus even after a brief conversation with a friend can eat up valuable brain activity. So slow down, concentrate on the task at hand and really apply yourself. Anything less will demonstrate your work may not be good enough to justify keeping you in place.
Still Ask for What You Deserve
If you've been doing the work of several people, you should be compensated for your extra time. You don't need to walk on eggshells simply because it's a bad economy and many people at your firm have been laid off. Those who rise in their careers know their self-worth and know to ask for a bigger salary or bonus if they deserve it. Career experts say it's worth a shot, especially if you've got a strong justification for asking for more money.
Write to Julie Steinberg at Julie.Steinberg@dowjones.com