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Why top performers get axed and prevent it from happening to you

Why top performers get axed and prevent it from happening to you

In order to succeed in your job, you have to start thinking like a company. Even the best performers can get fired for not looking out for themselves and their own career. While you may be one of their most valuable and productive employees, your company is working in their own self-interest, which means you need to learn how to adapt your thinking. Here is some advice to help.


Do

Do think like a company

Companies think differently than people. They have their own drives, needs and motivations. You must learn their ways, speak their language, and figure out what drives them today.

Whether you’re an employee within the company or a supplier to it, you need to understand what the company wants and needs; and that’s different from what you want and need.

Companies -- like countries -- act in their own self-interest. You’re either seen as an asset to that corporate self-interest or you’re not. Ensure that you are.

Do learn to act

No, I don’t mean fake it or feign authenticity. By act I mean extend yourself, don the costume, adopt the role, and immerse yourself in your corporate role.

After all, that’s what they’re paying your to do.

You say: ‘Oh my!’ I can’t pretend; I won’t compromise my integrity, morals, values, blah-blah-blah…

  • Did Nicole Kidman sell out by portraying Virginia Woolf (she won an Oscar)?
  • Did Russell Crowe cop out to portray a Gladiator (he won an Oscar)?
  • Did Geoffrey Rush compromise his integrity by imitating a pianist (Oscar winner)?
  • Did Heath Ledger surrender his virtue by portraying the Joker (Oscar winner)?

No, they acted. They did their job, fulfilled their role’s requirements, and picked up a paycheck. Just like you.

They did it while maintaining their pride and dignity. So can you (Oscars are optional).
Your Integrity is rarely an either or choice. It’s usually a case of you being astute enough to understand that the people who hold values and priorities different from yours just may happen to be your boss. Act accordingly.

Do get on the bus or get thrown under it

In times of flux, toleration decreases in companies. Companies react by creating a more homogeneous culture. Your record matters less now than ever. Now, being a team player is the prized characteristic. Why? Because it’s a time of flux and that means “all hands on deck”. Now is the time to exercise your conflict-resolution skills. Now is not the time to question the bus driver’s skill.

Do use the common currency

To purchase something in a foreign country, you use their currency. Foolishly insisting that they accept your currency reveals your ignorance and rigidity. When their currency changes, you adapt to it, not vice-versa.

Likewise in corporations. Even top performers must adjust to the prevailing company environment, however foreign, and trade in the new currency, especially when the company is cost-cutting.

Do wave your antennae

Axings, firings, retrenchments and outplacements all have antecedents. There are cues and clues that it’s about to happen. Attend to these signs and signals for they are surely being broadcast even if you’re not receiving them. Keep your political antennae in good working order.


Don't

Do not make it a morality play

A morality play is a genre of Medieval entertainment which reduced everything to good vs. evil. Corporate life nowadays is a bit more complex. Don’t pretend that you are on the side of the angels while senior management are eternally aligned with Satan. Such silly, self-righteous posing will undermine you faster than anything.

Do not pretend It’s them when it’s you

Too many axed people blindly insist that it’s all management’s fault, that they themselves did nothing wrong, that they were epitomes of excellence, and on, and on, and on. But business -- indeed, life -- is not like that. Business is a cauldron of competing ideas, priorities, values and actions. You win some, you lose some. Sometimes you carry the day, sometimes you don’t. Business is a collegial endeavor and if you render yourself irrelevant through your attitude, words, or actions, whose fault is that?

It’s always a case of the top performer simply not adjusting (consciously or unconsciously) to significant changes in the work environment.

Do not forget the game you play

The corporate world is like professional sports. Not everyone can play at that level, not everyone can stay at that level. It’s demanding, taxing, and highly competitive. It’s played fast and hard. It’s full-contact. Livelihoods are at stake. Only somebody who’s played at that level truly understands this. This is the corporate game you play (voluntarily). So either play or get off the field.

Do not fail to learn

There’s nothing wrong with being axed. It happens to the best of us. And will continue to happen. But if you fail to learn anything from the experience, if you overlook the lessons contained therein, then the emotional and economic dislocation that you suffer is all for naught. Which is stupid.

The first lesson is to learn is to see it coming. The next lesson is to learn to prevent it.

Do not be stupid

Seriously. See #4 above.


Summary
Jumping cartoon

Bottom line: Companies act for their survival, not yours. So they should. And so should you.


More expert advice about Career Success as a Manager

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Dr. Duff WatkinsManaging Director

Duff is Managing Director of ExecSearch International- Australia. He has conducted searches, from senior management up to Board level, across Australia, New Zealand, US, UK and Brazil. He has 25+ years’ experience in coaching and leadersh...

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