Fear of Becoming Obsolete (FOBO) Episode 4 – “Know Thy Organization”

Know thy Leader: Episode 5 FOBO (Fear of Becoming Obsolete)

FOBO Friday is here combining career advice with a heavy dose of pop culture references! Today’s episode includes John Oliver, Logan Roy, Warren Buffet and references to Anchorman, Blockbuster, The Office, Titanic (x2), and Caddyshack.

Who says you can’t have fun while talking about a serious topic.

Hello everybody! Thank you for joining and welcome to Episode 4 of Fear of becoming obsolete at work or FOBO as we like to call it. I am your friendly neighborhood product owner, Tom Auld.

Today we are going to talk about your organization. The organization you are associated with can have a massive impact on your job status. Let’s talk about the signs companies send out to let you know if you are in a good spot or if you are in position to be made obsolete.

Grab a coffee, tea, or your favorite adult beverage, and let’s talk about staying relevant at work.


Quick recap: Episode 2, we focused on you and your individual skills.

Episode 3, we focused on your team.

So, it only makes sense that today, we focus on your organization.

This is the trifecta – this is the final piece to your entire job puzzle. All three of these work

together to give you a sense of security or of pending obsolescence (MAKE VEN DIAGRAM)

Let’s start with a cold dose of reality. Unless your name is on the building and you are the sole owner of a company, you are always at risk of being let go.

Over the last few months, we are seeing layoffs happening on a daily basis so we really think the timing of this video series is perfect.

Getting back to your organization:

“You are either growing or you are dying” Hall of Fame Football Coach Lou Holtz said.

And these are the two types of companies we want to discuss today.

Growing organizations vs. dying organizations:

Your organization is growing if:

· You are building new products and services.

· You are capturing new customers and market.

· You are keeping quality high.

· Leaders are openly investing in innovation, people, and technology.

· You are seen as an industry leader in your space by the market.

· Company morale is positive.

· Team members are excited to go to work.

· Team members feel they can make a difference.

· Team members feel valued.

· Team members are given opportunities to continue to grow in their career.

If you find yourself in one of these organizations, you are in a great place. This doesn’t always happen, so when it does be sure to take a moment to soak it in.

Now how can you optimize this situation to stay relevant and fight off obsolescence?

First off, don’t get overly comfortable. Things can be good one quarter and bad the next.

But, during the good times, what can you do to expand your knowledge, skill set, or organizational control?

Obviously which path you will take will need to fit with your personal goals weather you want to be a knowledge leader that people turn to for expertise or an organizational leader with lots of people, teams, and budget reporting to you.

With a growing company there are always opportunities to move into new roles. This is where you might want to check out episode 3 of this video series.

It deals with revenue generating vs. overhead teams. If you are going to move to a new team, you might want to understand if you are on the revenue side or the overhead side of the equation.

The next thing with growing companies is they are looking for people with new skill sets to help fill the gaps of the new products or services.

You can use this opportunity to ask for training or maybe even tuition assistance to advance your degree. I know this may sound like a lot to ask for, but remember, the company likes you. You have shown value and you fit with their culture. That is worth a lot to them.

To invest in your skill set is in their best interest too. And don’t forget, you get to take the degree or training certification with you if you should decide to leave.

Basically, the idea is to use this growing period to grow your own skills. That way you will evolve with the company and be in a position to lead in the future.

I hope you don’t perceive this as taking advantage of your organization. You are truly trying to help them succeed. It can be a win-win.

At a small, growing consulting company I was part of, we were seeing a large influx of project management opportunities. Candidates with PMP certifications were getting a significantly higher rate. This rate was significant enough to justify an investment in me going to get my PMP. My company agreed and sent me to the 16-week training. It is a core skill set that I still use today and a certification I still keep active.

Now let’s talk about the organization that is struggling.

Typical traits for these organizations are:

· High turnover – lots of people are leaving the organization.

· Key leadership turnover

o Most executives don’t leave an organization when things are going well. They usually have insight to the raw data and may see something coming before the general public or employees do.

· A company policy that all expenditures need SVP approval.

o This is a huge red flag.

o So, the person that we are paying 300-400K, the best use of their time is approving $15 for Janice in accounting to have (john Oliver reference) new office pens.

o When companies start doing this, they are telling you without telling you, that things are about to change.

· HEADCOUNT FREEZE! Companies stop hiring because they don’t want to take on any more expenses.

o The double whammy (anchorman reference) is that the team members remaining are responsible for picking up the slack. A team of 6 reduced to a team of 3 is still being asked to get the same amount of work done.

· Constant rounds of layoffs – Layoffs suck. I have been on all sides of a layoff.

o The biggest challenge of layoffs is how the organization handles them. Are they respectful and well thought out? Are they done one time or are they slowly rolled out?

o The worst part for employees is if the axe is just hanging over everybody’s head. It is hard to concentrate when every new email could be a request to come to the HR manager’s office with your laptop.

§ The minute the employees know layoffs are coming, productivity goes down, making a bad situation even worse.

o Good companies in this situation, make clear decisions, communicate openly (within legal limits), and make the transitions happen as quickly as possible.

§ What they never realize is that the people who “survive” the layoffs are impacted as well. They just lost friends and colleagues who meant something to them. They will need time to mourn the loss and productivity will suffer during that time.

So, what do when you find yourself seeing these signals from a company?

First off, update your resume. I always suggest you have your resume 30 minutes away from being updated.

Dust it off, update it.

Highlight your most relevant skills.

Take off any skills you don’t want to leverage anymore.

Share it with a friend or colleague for feedback.

Then get it to a recruiter for their feedback. Recruiters see 1000s of resumes and they know what gets a company’s attention.

Update your online work profile. If you use LinkedIn or Dice, do the same thing there you are doing with your resume.

Update it with your most relevant experience and highlight the outcomes of your work, not just the activities.

Participated in a team that reduced customer inquiries by 25% is good, but

Reduced customer inquiries by 25% leading to a savings of $250K per month is much better.

Don’t forget, your resumes and online profile is only there to get you to have a conversation with a real person.

Make sure you have hit all the major keywords and skill sets that the AI programs are looking for to help you get through any automated screening that a company might have.

Yep, AI is reading your resumes prior to a human. Make sure your resume is prepared.

Next you will want to find out if it is better to stick it out or if you need to be the first one out the door?

If you want to stay, is there a way to get into the part of the business that is the future core of the organization?

Network you way over there is possible.

Maybe the writing is on the wall, and you are going down with the ship.

Is there a retention bonus for staying on?

Is there increased severance for staying on?

These are all worth having a conversation.

When it comes to the severance situation, sometimes it might be best to be in the first wave.

I have been at companies where the severance offers for people to leave slowly gets worse over time. Keep an eye on that and see what will work best for you.

How an organization treats people on the way out the door, really tells about their true culture.

If they treat people with empathy and respect

If they treat people like easily replaced cattle, then it might be best to move on

Right now SalesForce is being hit by the tech slowdown:

Through the sky’s-the-limit boom years, Marc Benioff, the co-founder and chief executive of Salesforce Inc., told employees they were bound together like family. In today’s leaner times, he is laying off thousands of them.

It is going to be challenging for Marc to get people to act like a family after this because family sticks together when things get tough.

Lastly, on a personal note, understand the trauma of losing a job.

Losing a job is tough. It is ranked in the top traumas many of us will experience.

“Losing a job and being unemployed for a long period of time is a psychological trauma and a financial trauma, and the two are closely intertwined,” says Carl Van Horn, PhD, a professor of public policy and an expert on workforce and unemployment policy at Rutgers University.

Many times, your employer may offer counseling and support.

It will be hard because you might be upset with your company but take advantage of their services. The people providing career and mental health counseling truly have your best interest at heart.

So, what do you think, did you get any value out of this episode?

I would greatly appreciate hearing from you. What did you like? What did you not like? What would you want us to do more of? And what would you like us to stop doing.

Drop us a comment and we will take your feedback to heart.

Please share this with a friend, share it with an enemy, we all have the right to be relevant at work.

All likes and subscriptions would be greatly appreciated. All your support helps us out.

Thank you and have a great week.

I am your friendly neighborhood product owner, and I look forward to connecting with you in the future.

Let's Talk