The Ultimate Job Protection Program

| | General Leadership

Fear of losing your job is certainly valid in this economy. But unfortunately that fear often provokes protectionist behavior that is likely to backfire for both employees and their companies.

The kind of behaviors I am referring to are things like: hoarding information or knowledge; shifting the blame for breakdowns to others; keeping your mouth shut hoping you’ll stay out of the line of fire; always agreeing with your boss so you stay on their good side; etc.

The list of things we might do, and perhaps have even done in the past, to protect our jobs is endless.

But will they actually work now?

These kinds of behaviors are certainly nothing new and are not unique to the current economy. However, I believe they are far more risky than ever before.

Why? Because while they MAY strengthen your individual position, consider that they WILL weaken your organization. And if your company goes down, saving your job becomes irrelevant.

The bottom line…your job is only as secure as the future of your company.

What is the Ultimate Job Protection Program?

I say it is being willing to act like a leader whether you are THE leader or not. It is speaking up, stepping up and standing up for the things that matter to the future success of your organization. You don’t have to be THE leader to be a leader in these difficult times.

Here are 5 ways you can start leading to help secure the future of your job by helping to secure the future of your organization.

1. STOP Blaming and START Offering Solutions

Blaming is a drain on precious time and energy. Want to be seen as indispensible? Be the person who always contributes to making things better.

2. STOP Hoarding Information and START Sharing It

Knowledge may be power for an individual, but sharing it powers successful organizations. Lead the way in sharing knowledge and you can be a catalyst for creating value and opportunity.

3. STOP Trying to Do It Alone and START Collaborating

No one person has all the answers. It is time to start find ways to tap the intelligence of your entire organization not just a limited few. Include new people in what seem like old conversations and you will gain fresh perspective. Find ways to engage the people who are less likely to speak up. You may be surprised at how much you learn.

4. STOP Reinforcing the “Status Quo” and START Challenging It

We can unwittingly reinforce the very things that are not working because it is uncomfortable to challenge the way things are done. But if your organization isn’t where it needs to be, chances are the ways things are being done are not working very well.

Remember to challenge the thinking not the person and you will increase the likelihood of both being heard and making a difference.

5. STOP Protecting Your Turf and START Acting Like One Organization

“Us vs Them” relationships are rampant in organizations. They are incredibly costly, too. Time to start acting like you are on the same team.

Assigning a shared (and meaningful) goal for two groups that have historically been at odds with each other is one way to create the opportunity to experience being on one team. This can be a very powerful way to start transforming an “us/Them” relationship into a “we”.

These are just a few examples of what we can do to support the companies we work for in being successful. Consider that if you start focusing your attention on how you can contribute to the success of your company, you will need to pay less attention to securing your job.

What can you do to make a difference in securing the future of where you work today?

If you are interested in learning more about how you can cost effectively increase leadership at all levels in your organization please contact Susan Mazza at susan@randomactsofleadership.com or (772)539-7003.


Enter A Comment

Gwyn Teatro   |   23 April 2009   |   Reply

A penchant for Self preservation type behaviours, like the ones you describe, are very human and also very counter productive and unattractive.

Your words remind me so much of many of my experiences while working in a large financial institution. Not only was all the bureaucracy and protectionism frustrating, it was also very costly

While this sort of behaviour has been around since Noah was a deck hand, (as they say), I couldn’t agree more that it does nothing to secure a positive and fruitful future….for anybody.

Another timely post, Susan. 🙂

Bruce Carlson   |   24 April 2009   |   Reply

These are very timely words Susan! The “hunkering down” that is going on due to perceptions about the economic situation is indeed the scarcity mentality writ large.

This kind of tightwad living can do all kinds of physical damage too, whether in the workplace or in a home and family environment or in plenty of other situations, can’t it?
Health problems come to mind immediately. I’m sure you’ve seen situations where it manifests itself in peoples’ physical appearance, as muscles get tight and folks can’t relax. The smile becomes a grimace. Ugh!

Thanks for your as always wise insights. 🙂

Mike Henry   |   24 April 2009   |   Reply

Great post! Couldn’t have said it better. We’re always measured by what we contribute, not by what we collect.

Thanks for the wisdom. Mike…

henieone7   |   24 April 2009   |   Reply

Hi Susan!

What really made an impact for me is “challenge the thinking not the person”…if only, if only, if only!

You offer such timely insights…thank you! :~)

Talk to you soon and many thanks for your support!

Lisa Hickey   |   24 April 2009   |   Reply

It does get SO easy to just want to hide in an organization when things get tough. But what better time to think of new ideas, new ways of working. I love your thought that everyone should be a leader. I think each of your suggestions are ways to show leadership in very specific, easy to implement ways. Bravo, Susan, and thanks again for a great post.

How I Was Able to Lose Thirty Póunds in Under a Month   |   06 May 2009   |   Reply

Hi, good post. I have been pondering this topic,so thanks for sharing. I’ll probably be coming back to your site. Keep up the good posts

Joe Williams   |   24 April 2009   |   Reply

Speaking up, stepping up, standing up, and leading up – great formula for success for everyone, Susan! Thank you for a very thoughtful and well-written post.

Aaron   |   26 April 2009   |   Reply

What about managerial leadership by rewarding employees with equity instead of hoarding stock options for themselves? Employees who own stock and aren’t treated as wage-earning cogs will give more of a damn about office supply pilferage, waste, downtime, health plans, etc..

When an employee is empowered to see a direct benefit to their own bottom line that isn’t tied to the subjective opinion of a middle manager who is rewarded for keeping costs to a minimum, that will inspire employees to produce more and better DESPITE their immediate superior.

The problem is that reviews and financials are closed books. No ability for the employee to audit what’s happening, whether the upper management is an old-boy’s network and planning to get their golden parachutes within the next year by maximizing profits for the next few quarters.

If boards of directors and CEOs would openly publicize the incentive carrots and the benefits they’d pay to accomplish those goals, they’d find more inspired workers.

We make a mistake by pitting shareholding management against salaried staff.

JuergenB   |   28 April 2009   |   Reply

Excellent post, Susan:

I feel that this same protectionist attitude has proliferated in many areas, and I’d love to extent the metaphors you raise past individuals to organizations as a whole:

I’ll use a Sports example, where when the “old guard” of historically winning sport franchises start to experience difficulties, they are often at a loss on how to prevent the downward spiral.

In Formula One Racing, usually dominant Ferrari and McLaren/Mercedes are off to their worst start in decades. The smaller and more nimble teams have adapted better to changes in regulations, are able to make more out of lower budgets and have been more innovative.

What strikes me is that the strategies and attitude of Ferrari and McLaren are ill equipped to deal with their failure and setbacks so far this season: They exhibit a sense of infuriating entitlement, lack of foresight, disbelief in the fact that they are not winning, no sharing or partnering skills, reliance on legal maneuvers, and very little humility in recognizing that in a flattened world they could learn from the smaller players.

Other examples are the US car industry as a whole. Or how about the GOP?

All would benefit from the START portions of your post’s recommendations…

I feel my own POLYMASH blog post on this coming on to explore a little more…

Kneale Mann   |   28 April 2009   |   Reply

Hey Susan,

There is no shortage of chatter and articles on “sharing” and “relationships” but the deeper I dig, the more I realize that this requires much more finesse than simply sending an email or making a phone call or exchanging tweets.

It takes time and commitment – from both parties.

An old sales’ axiom states you are not selling a drill, but rather a solution to put a hole in the wall so they can hang their favorite picture.

The world – and we are share blame – has taught us to be guarded but reality (not “new reality) states that if you want their stuff for free then you must expect they want yours for free as well.

It’s been interesting to offer help to others and watch how quickly they pull out their sales pitch – no thanks.

“Win/Win” is not a cute phrase tossed around in presentations – it is a human need. Without it, we may as well go back to pitching our wares on street corners to strangers and hope for the best.

Are you offering a drill or a solution?


Susan Mazza   |   28 April 2009   |   Reply

@gwynt Protectionism or as you put it self preservation is indeed costly both in terms of energy and $’s.

@brucecarlson Great point that the context for protectionism is scarcity. And it does affect people’s health and even their physical appearance.

@mikehenrysr “We are measured by what we contribute not what we collect” – excellent point Mike

@henie particularly when we are upset it can be hard to remember to challenge the thinking and not the person but it makes a huge difference when we do

@lisahickey There really is no where to hide try as we might. Thanks for your encouraging words Lisa!

Susan Mazza   |   28 April 2009   |   Reply

@rikerjoe (Joe) Thanks Joe – It really can be that simple! Not always easy, but opportunities abound to speak up, step up and stand up for the things that matter.

@cmusciano (Chuck) Your point that the little things really matter is an important one. Doing those little things that create forward momentum consistently build trust in your commitment and reliability especially when the going is tough.

@aaron Compensation models certainly affect behavior. There are good models and bad, just as there are people who implement those models well and people who do not. Although I would say that a paycheck is a direct benefit and one that today many people appreciate. Whether it is enough to motivate the right kind of behavior in the end is up to the individual.

@juergenB Thanks for the great examples of where protectionist (and even entitlement) attitudes have been costly. Let us know when your post is up!

@knealemann Thanks for the great insights on sharing. Effective sharing is not a mechanical process. It is less about sharing content and more about collaborating.

Perhaps another way of saying “Are you offering a drill or a solution?” in the context of today’s knowledge economy could be “are you offering “the” answer or are you offering your thinking?” There are few simple answers these days. Besides engaging in thinking together actually builds relationship, too.

Tom Volkar / Delightful Work   |   28 April 2009   |   Reply

“STOP Hoarding Information and START Sharing It.” Very well said. So much about employment is fear-based and that starts at the top of an organization. If learning and growth is encouraged then the right stuff gets shared naturally.

strategicsenseinc   |   28 April 2009   |   Reply


I love each point you make. Silos and protectionism is personal and feeds one person not the company. Knocking down the walls, collaborating and learning to work toward the win of the company will be the best thing a person can do. Perhaps companies can learn a paradigm switch in performance measurement to include some of the positives you mention.

Great post – should be hung on the bulletin boards of every company!

susan kuhn frost   |   05 June 2009   |   Reply

Ah, Susan, you are wise and correct. Defensive actions are essentially passive actions; what we need are creative actions that seek to extend, expand and grow, not just to protect from harm.

And isn’t is incredibly difficult to do. It’s not like anyone is exempt from these regressive emotions when we are under stress. We are all together in the struggle to find the gold in the midst of dross. And your words are cheering as we all try to be our best selves, and to pick ourselves up time and again when we are not….

Thanks for this post!

Chuck Musciano   |   25 April 2009   |   Reply

Susan, the five “start” behaviors are good things to be doing even in good times. They are key to being a success driver in the organization. Those who drive success and build an organization are the ones who are chosen to stay when things get tough and cuts get considered.

I know that in my organization, these kinds of behaviors are noticed and remembered. They need not be big things; in fact, little things often make a bigger difference in the long run. So many people think they need to hit a grand-slam home run to get rewarded. More ball games are won with a few solid singles, and more jobs are saved with a consistent stream of small positive behaviors that build an organization up.

Thanks for a good post, Susan!

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