The workplace is like a bus. We get on board and each person has a bus stop, unique to him or her.
For some, that bus stop is called retirement, for others it is death, for others it is resignation and still for others it is the worst, a termination. Regardless of the reason for stepping out, it is important to be strategic and to prepare for it. Key in preparation is to ensure that you see your bus stop coming.
Obviously in the case of death, this is not possible. However in all other cases, it is possible to plan ahead and to prepare. One might argue that because the words "permanent and pensionable" are now an adage, it is not possible to see a termination coming. On the contrary, it is very possible. What are the subtle signs that your goose is cooked?
You want leave from tomorrow? OK!
If you never have to explain why you are taking leave suddenly, this is perhaps one of the easiest signs. I do not mean leave applied for in advance but leave that is applied for just a day or so before the date. It means that perhaps your boss does not need you as much as you would want to leave.
Have you been away?
You returned from leave and no one noticed that you were gone and especially your immediate boss. Perhaps it is time to plan your next move. If your manager did not notice your absence, perhaps you have worked yourself out of a job.
Achieng' was a high flying professional, wore trousers because she was determined to be equal to male colleagues. Drank with the boys and was excellent in handling company politics. It worked so well for her that she landed herself a full paid six--month scholarship at a prestigious graduate school in London where she would graduate with an executive MBA.
No one in the Company could understand how the department would run without her as she was such an important junior manager. The position was advertised and a suitable match was identified and hired in time for her to do a handover.
Her handover was shoddy as she wanted to ensure that her position would be available upon return. She also informally confirmed that the contract duration was only 6 months just to be sure that she had a job to come back to.
Shanice who took over from her struggled after Achieng' left as the handover that had been done was bleak and hurried. She decided to understand the role without the handover and check what had been done. Slowly she began to put in place systems and processes and by the third month, her boss kept asking her, "Where have you been all my life."
She worked well with everyone and breathed new life to the position. Shanice also identified areas that the department could do better and generally contributed to the overall efficiency of the team.
Instead of working the political card, Shanice simply reported to work earlier than everyone and worked through a deliberate checklist, ensuring that all assignments were handed in before the deadline and that the boss was up to date on everything she was handling. She had become an integral part of the team and created for herself a place.
In the meantime, Achieng graduated with flying colours and returned to work with her papers. On her first day back, the boss was shocked to see her and asked her to go home and rest as ,she had been on a long-haul flight. She was told to "take all week". Achieng' thought nothing of it and if anything felt privileged as she did not need to fill a leave form. When she returned to work after a week her boss was out of town and she still had not been set up on her computer. Shanice was in the meantime very busy and not talking of a handover. Achieng' carried on with her political gift, catching up with everyone and all the office gossip.
When her boss returned to work, Achieng' went to complain about IT and the lack of set up. She also wanted to know if she would get a salary increment now that she had an MBA. At 4pm, Achieng' was called to the HR office and assumed that she was getting her salary increment letter. She was shocked be given a termination letter. Her absence had actually revealed what an inefficient liability Achieng' was.
What do you do again?
If your boss ever asks what it is that you do, your goose is cooked! In the event of a restructuring, you are likely to be on that list for the next bus stop.
Carol, a young administrator, worked herself to the bone. However, as is usually the case with administrative work, everyone thought she was running around all day doing nothing.
She fussed about everything, nagged about everything and wrote meaningless updates. Everyone asked "what does she do again" every time there was a management meeting. It did not help that she was strikingly beautiful. Everyone labelled her a blond because of her looks and no one noticed what a critical role she played.
On new year's eve, her little baby was admitted in hospital and she reluctantly sent a text message to her boss saying that she may not be able to report to work on January 2 as her child was very ill.
Her boss sent a text wishing the baby a quick recovery and telling her to take all the time she needed. Carol, who was feeling so guilty about not being at worked on the first day sent another text message to the boss thanking her and saying how sorry she was about the sudden turn of events.
The boss, irritated, sent back a text message saying, "I'm sure we will manage, it's not a big deal." Carol relaxed and focused on her baby not knowing that the managers were laughing amongst themselves because she thought she was indispensible.
On January 2, everyone returned from Christmas break and all hell broke loose. The person who opens the office was stuck upcountry in Bungoma because there was no transport. Carol would normally coordinate this and come in herself if need be.
The boss had a set of keys and was called by the cleaners who could not reach Carol. The milk was not delivered and the water in the dispensers had run dry. Furniture was delivered at the reception but no one knew how to get it to the branch offices.
That afternoon, the boss took a bunch of flowers to Carol and some goodies for her baby. They were still in hospital. She seemed tense. When the baby woke up and was running around, the boss finally let out a sigh of relief and asked when the baby would be discharged. Carol informed her that the discharge was set for the following day but asked if it was okay for her to take a week off. Her boss went into a panic and blurted out "Carol, we all did not know how much you handle until this morning! Please we need you in the office immediately! You can work flexi time but we need you back urgently".
Your boss reassigns your work
Your boss will usually give you assignments, correct them, follow up and if he or she is very good, provide you guidance on how to do it. If however your boss finds that you are unreliable or incompetent, it is a sure sign of lack of confidence in you.
You hate coming to work
If you hate coming to work and hate your job, your manner will say it loud and clear. The first place to take a hit is your attitude, your relationship with your co workers and eventually your output. Deal with the reason you hate coming to work, slap yourself, find another solution quick, any solution! Or your goose is cooked.
You hate your boss
Your boss manages your performance, evaluates you and is responsible for advising the management or HR office on any recommendations affecting you.
While the management and HR will hopefully be unbiased in making the final decision, your boss' feedback is critical. If you hate your boss, you are best advised to learn how to pretend and learn fast.
Your boss is not your pub pal after all, so get a grip and focus on the assignment at hand. If you hate your boss because he or she is incompetent, that is perhaps the only permissible reason to hate your boss.
After all, your boss is responsible for growing you and how can you grow beyond someone who is incompetent, right? Wrong! If you manage your boss well, either you will both grow or it will be clear to all that you should be the boss. Grow up or your goose is cooked!
You are lazy or all talk but no results
Need I say more?
Lack initiative in personal development
A big bank realised that it was losing customers to a smaller bank and could not understand why. After calling in bank operations consultants, they still could not identify the problem.
Finally, after a HR skills gap analysis, they were able to pinpoint the problem. The managers had worked for the bank for a long time. Many were promoted through a suspicious process that had nothing to do with qualifications or merit.
They were paid huge salaries and had fat loans. They became complacent and none of them did anything to improve their skills. In fact, they became clever and hired very well qualified mid-level managers, worked them to the bone and subdued them to ensure that no one knew that they were the ones doing the work.
A new CEO was hired by the board and his immediate assignment was to sort out the rot at the top. All the senior managers were moved into an open plan office and given their newspapers and plenty of tea and coffee but no work. The CEO instead assigned all the work to the mid level managers.
The senior managers complained and glumly waited for the CEO's fall which they were certain was imminent. In the meantime, the bank's financials began to turn around but because the managers no longer attended board meetings, they had no idea. Their goose was cooked!
Companies are progressive. If you are comfortable with your current skills and do not pursue personal development in line with your career plans, it is just a matter of time before your goose is cooked.
Find out the Company's strategy, familiarise yourself with the job description for the position you aspire to and focus on developing yourself to fit that job.
Companies no longer promote people based on length of service. And remember, your MBA or other such qualification is only helpful if your performance is improved due to the qualification not the other way round.
Sure, everyone gossips. But be careful who you gossip to and what it is you are saying. If your employer thinks you are not acting out of good faith, it is just a matter of time before your goose is cooked. No employer will entertain an employee who is a negative influence on others.
You consistently fail to meet your deadlines, complete your assignments or do your work shoddily but you are never out of excuses for why this is the case. Take responsibility for your failures and turn around. Show your boss that you are a reliable and competent worker, or she or he will reassign your work and we already know what happens when your work is reassigned. Your goose is cooked.
Fidel joined Company Y as a senior manager with a good salary. He also had a fantastic curriculum vitae, qualifications and the reference checks all checked out. It seemed the company had hired a great manager and for Fidel, he could not have been happier.
However, he had one problem, a naughty secret habit. It would never have come up in the workplace except it involved abuse of the company's internet. Fidel was hooked to pornography. He spent a lot of his time on pornographic sites feeding the habit. His work began to slip up on deadlines and his supervisor and HR thought that this was just because he was new and was adjusting to the different systems and working styles.
As fate would have it, as his secretary walked into his office unexpectedly, the computer froze as he tried to minimize the picture. She pretended not to have seen anything but immediately she left the office, all the secretaries were talking about nothing except the explicit image she saw. It was just a matter of time before the information got to the 'wrong offices'. The HR went to ICT and that is how Fidel's goose was cooked.
One might argue that twitter, facebook and other emerging social media are harmless. Porn is considered a moral issue but when it gets into the office and very often it does, the rest is history.
When social media and the internet are used for the benefit of the company, your work output will be great and may even attract a promotion or merit-based salary increment.
However, when you spend time on social sites and subversive sites such as pornographic sites, there are chances you will allow viruses into the Company's system.
A simple audit will point to the computer that is being abused and therein, to you. Further, it will be very clear to your supervisor that your focus is not on the job.
With time, your performance will nose dive, your work may be reassigned or you may make mistakes that lead to excuses. You may even be deemed lazy or sloppy as your boss may not be able to pinpoint on the problem.
You will hate coming to work because you are always in trouble and you may already be so hooked to the internet that you cannot stop, very much like a substance abuse addict. Because you are frustrated by the heat you are taking, you may gossip to someone. Eventually, your goose is cooked! Game over!