Dear Career Doctor:
There is a rumor that many people at my firm will be fired in January. What should I do?
Go to the person who could fire you and ask for a “beginning of the year review” or a “belated year-end review.” If you get nothing but praise, you are probably safe. (Or, if your whole department is eliminated, you have a shot at getting another job in the company or, at the very least, will get a great recommendation.)
If you get negative feedback, it is extremely difficult, but absolutely vital, that you stay in control. Employees who act angry or defensive blow their chance to offer effective counter-points. If you think the negative review is incorrect, in an even-tempered way, mention your positive contributions and say why the negative comments are inaccurate. If the negative comments are accurate, your only hope is to say that you like the company and you want a chance to correct your mistakes.
A large lay-off is often no-win. If you retain your job, relief will be mixed with survivor guilt and extra work for those who stay in a company with lowered morale and heightened stress. So rather than worrying if the ax will fall on you, update your resume and make a list of contacts who can either give you a good recommendation or help you if you lose your job. January can be a good month to find a new position since many people leave jobs after they receive their year-end bonus.