Proactive approach helps ensure work

Dear Joan:
In these quickly changing times, my situation may be of interest for your weekly column. (I find your articles enlightening and helpful.)

I work for a local county. Most of the direct services are contracted through private-sector providers. I, too, am a contracted employee. My current position is grant-funded and is guaranteed through mid-1996. My position has provided me with a lot of job satisfaction and growth opportunities. I also believe that my efforts have made a contribution to my employer and the community. I have demonstrated my creativity, initiative, flexibility, professionalism and ability to be a team player. I feel too, that I am well respected by peers and administration alike.

The county agency with which I am contracted is about to undergo a major reorganization and consolidation. Changes are occurring, mostly at the management level. Some contracted positions, however, are expected to be eliminated.

I experienced a similar reorganization approximately six years ago when employed by a different agency. I did not take an active role in the reorganization. Subsequently, I lost my job.

Given the uncertainty of the future, I now feel that it is important for me to be more proactive. What steps or actions would you suggest I take? I have considered a number of options to include:

1.)   Try to find out what management may have in mind regarding my future;

2.)   Participate as much as possible in any redesigning of my future role, to include appropriately expressing what duties I would not feel comfortable performing;

3.)   Not knowing the certainty of my future, seek other employment opportunities.

I have an advanced degree and state certification in my field. Comparable positions, however, appear to be quite scarce.

How would you handle this type of situation?

I wish more people would realize what you have already discovered; you must take a proactive role in shaping your own career. In fact, readers should take a close look at your letter, because it is an example of what many careers will look like as we move to the next century.

It's estimated that less than one half of all workers will be in full-time traditional jobs by then. The rest of us will be in flexible arrangements such as freelancers, contract workers, temps, part-time, and leased employees. Companies will be scaling back to their core competencies and contracting out for various services as their needs change.

You are well positioned to be very successful in this model. Your education, performance contributions, and interpersonal skills will give you "work security" (no one will have "job security").

Because of all this, I don't think you should run for the door at this stage of the reorganization. However, to be smart, step up your networking a little and update your resume.

At the same time, follow your own instincts and do number 1 and 2 on your list. Ask for a meeting with your direct manager. Tell him or her that you have enjoyed your position and hope to keep it through the 1996 date. Ask about the reorganization and about when decisions are going to be made (and who's going to make them).

Request an opportunity to give input into the reorganization--not just your job but any other organizational design ideas that you may have. Your past experience in a similar reorganization may have given you valuable insight into how to structure things as well as how to handle the people issues.

Don't focus too much on the duties you feel you wouldn't be comfortable performing. Instead, offer any ideas you have about how the jobs could be consolidated and streamlined.

(As an aside, management usually does not seek advice from the people who are performing the jobs, when, in fact, they have the best first-hand knowledge of what would work best. In addition, studies show that employees usually are less fearful when they are part of the process, even when they stand to lose their own jobs, because they know what's going on, instead of being afraid of the unknown.)

During this process, whether your manager says reassuring things or not, it's fair for you to ask if you should start looking for another job. If your relationship is an honest one, put some faith in the response. But be forewarned your manager may not be the one making the ultimate decision.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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