Dos and Don’ts of employees who want to keep their jobs

It’s not up to other people or the company to keep you engaged and encouraged. It’s entirely up to you!

The above is a key takeaway of what we learned from the Great Recession. It applies to the COVID-19 crisis as well.

Many will lose their jobs, this we know. But who will be laid off first?

That might have something to do with whether you are someone who’s chosen your specific job because you really love it …

… or if you’re one of the 86% of employees that more or less only have the job you have because of the paycheck.

Psst … need help getting your business through the crisis? We can help. Schedule your consultation right here.

Those 86% are roughly divided into 4 groups:
  • 15% purely have their job to secure some kind of income.
  • 24% have average skills with none nor very little interest in the company or product.
  • 31% have solid skills, and could work in any company of that type, but no specific attachment to the company they work in.
  • 14% have extraordinary skills but lack of confidence in management’s ability to lead the company (in any given situation).

In the two first articles of my series about ‘positive management during crises,’ I touched upon company behaviour and leadership. I argued why most companies were doing worse than others.

In this article, I’ll discuss how management chooses between which employees to keep and which to let go.

How to be a good employee

Before jumping into it, here’s some common sense about how to keep your job, regardless of business, education or talent:

  • Be on time
  • Make an effort
  • Be ‘high energy’
  • Have a positive attitude
  • Be passionate
  • Use good body language
  • Be ‘coachable’
  • Do a little extra
  • Be prepared
  • Have a strong work ethic

Can you tick 8 of 10 boxes every day?

Why some people lost their jobs

Before we go on, answer this: Would you let anybody other than yourself manage your personal brand?

If your answer is yes, don’t bother to read the rest. You won’t like what I have to say next.

When people are let go, what happens to the staff staying on? Most get even more afraid of losing their job. That means they hide from management, or even worse everything they do they don’t do well enough or on par with their own standard.

It’s not easy to separate lack of stewardship from employer mentality. But a few things about employer behaviour surfaced from the aforementioned study that I took part of in 2010. (A study of no less than 86.000 companies worldwide.)

Here are the 12 most common reasons people lost their jobs during the Great Recession:

#1: Complained about the level of information presented by management

#2: Not part of teams in close contact with management

#3: Waiting to be told what to do

#4: Contacting unions that turned into management contact

#5: Didn’t do a difference before the crises

#6: More focused on own rights than the company’s well-being

#7: Had no or little contact with the rest of the organization

#8: Lost the ability to service customers

#9: Wanted more to do more

#10: Talked too much (many went from ‘doers’ to ‘talkers’)

#11: Did their job but not good enough to get the effort recognised often enough

#12: Lack of trust in management (on all levels)

Most of the abovementioned came from companies and employees (who were traumatised).

… and why others kept their jobs

On the other hand, others took mutual and very transparent steps and leaned into the challenges. They adapted and overcame, so to speak.

Only very few rushed out of own comfort zone eager to do different, and yes, some did a lot more than what could have been expected. They understood how important it was to fight. Not for the sake of keeping their job, but for the survival of the company, which they were passionate about working for.

The staff that stayed on had a very different approach, which meant they kept their job or stayed on to the bitter end.

Here are the 10 most common reasons people kept their jobs during the Great Recession:

#1: Eager to do more, every day, and not afraid to dream up new ideas

#2: Did the unexpected or go the extra mile for the customer or colleague (nearly every time)

#3: Came up with ideas on how to spend less (on any given subject)

#4: Keen to develop own competences in new directions to support the company

#5: Kept the focus on the company constantly coming up with ideas getting more out of fewer resources

#6: Always ready to test management’s ideas, and not afraid to give the necessary feedback afterwards (even if it turned out to be a complete disaster)

#7: Not afraid to take lead to keep the momentum

#8: Customers and colleagues (extraordinary high integration)

#9: Proud of own brand and ability – but not afraid to compromise

#10: Working hard to be better at your job – not focus on getting a better job

When talking to the employees that stayed on, it was very clear to see that neither leadership nor stewardship had anything to do with focus and determination. Those people simply just understood the need to fight to stay in the company that they truly loved working for.

Key takeaway of this article

It’s not enough to love your job. You need to be passionate about the company!

If you don’t love your job or your company, now is probably a good time to start looking for something else. Because there is no room for people without a passion for the company, product, business, colleagues or the ability to secure self-encouragement.

Spending 8 hours, five days a week doing something that you’re not proud of or really interested in is probably not a healthy cocktail either.

On the other hand, if you’re driven and passionate, there will be work for you.

If you need our help getting your business through the crisis, we can help you. Learn more about what we can do and schedule a consultation here.


Brian has worked with international business and double-digit development for the past three decades. He travels the world to share knowledge on consumer behaviour and disruptive leadership. He mentors and support to senior management. And if that's not disruptive enough, we're proud to call him our number one choice in photography.

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