Layoffs — they're every employee's greatest fear. But there are ways you can protect yourself, even in these recessionary times. First and foremost, you must fulfill what I call The Ultimate Expectation: Figure out what needs to be done and then do it without being told.

Few employees demonstrate this virtue. But those who serve a customer, solve a problem, assist a co-worker, make a money-saving suggestion, develop an idea, or improve a process are the ones that can make things happen, and management knows this.

Take Harold Chattaway, director/manager of Bugcentral.com, Ashby, Mass. He was hired as an internal database developer at USDatacenters Inc. two years ago. The company went out of business over the summer. The only profitable part of the business was a subscription Web site — it generated nearly $30,000 a year — and Chattaway developed it. So when the layoff beast reared its ugly head, Chattaway survived while 90 others did not.

Was it easy? No way, says Chattaway. “I survived because I did some real hard work and consistently exceeded the expectations people had for me.” Because he was so successful, his new management team gave him even greater freedom in his job.

Not sure how to make a difference in your workplace? Consider these ideas:

  • Make your job more difficult

    Take on work, volunteer to help others, and ask to be on projects or teams.

  • Think about how things could be improved

    Make at least two suggestions a week.

  • Become the office cheapskate

    Every organization is interested in ways to accomplish more and save money in the process. Be on the lookout for cost-saving ideas that will make you more valuable.

  • Ask silly questions

    There's no such thing as a silly question, even if something sounds silly at the time. The question you ask may have never been asked before, or if it was, perhaps the timing has changed and the idea is now more viable.

  • Turn needs into opportunities

    Learn to look at your customers' needs and ask how you might satisfy those needs. Learn to look at your organization's needs with an eye toward how those needs might be creatively solved.

  • Make things happen

    Don't overanalyze situations; rather, size things up quickly and act. Doing so will help you achieve more and develop your skill and judgment for future actions.

    Employees who fulfill The Ultimate Expectation make a valuable contribution to their organizations — and take control of their careers. In today's workplace, no one can afford to be just average. Shape your future by remembering these simple words: Don't just do what you are told! Do what needs to be done.






Bob Nelson, PhD, is author of Please Don't Just Do What I Tell You! Do What Needs to Be Done, 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, and Managing For Dummies. He is president of Nelson Motivation Inc., San Diego (www.nelsonmotivation.com). You can contact him at (800) 575-5521 or by e-mail at BobRewards@aol.com.

Take Out

Fulfill The Ultimate Expectation: Figure out what needs to be done and then do it without being told.

  • Ask silly questions

    The question you ask may have never been asked before; if it was, perhaps the timing has changed and the idea is now more viable.

  • Turn needs into opportunities


Learn to look at your customers' or your organization's needs and ask how you might satisfy them.