Job Security: Some Do's And Don'ts In A Vulnerable Time

Who isn’t worried about their job right now? No matter how high up on the organization chart, any executive who isn’t looking over his or her shoulder these days needs a reality check.

We are all vulnerable in this kind of economic turmoil and with unprecedented business changes likely in 2009. It seems like an excellent time to brush off the lists of do’s and don’ts in the important and still-popular game of Office Politics.


  • Understand where the power is, how decisions are made
  • Know the mission & priorities of your operation
  • Volunteer to champion new projects
  • Appreciate the culture of your operation and adapt to it
  • Communicate your successes assertively
  • Accept responsibility for mistakes quickly


  • Point fingers (“those who live in glass houses …”)
  • Complain (people will listen politely but no one wants to hear)
  • Dwell in the past
  • Advance your own career by hurting the business or harming colleagues
  • Second-guess decisions already made

This last one is critical, especially in a difficult, fast-moving environment brought on by the current economic climate. In a new book about career success (There’s no Elevator to the Top by Umesh Ramakrishnan) the author quotes Coke CEO Terry Marks who says: “When we break huddle, when we leave there, everybody runs the play. If the quarterback thinks you’re running a post and you run a curl, you’re going to have an interception. You’ve let everybody else around you down, not just yourself.”

  • More from Executive Careers: What To Say When You Get Laid Off

Even worse is the co-worker who breaks huddle and runs over to the sideline to complain about the play to the coach or other team members. Also problematic is the player who is still complaining in the second half of a game about a play run in the first quarter. Not only will it turn teammates against him, the behavior runs a serious risk of screwing up the next play called and the one after that.

I know some “free thinkers” in the career space wish for a less dogmatic set of principles but sometimes the truth is the truth. Human nature really doesn’t change and the fundamentals of good teamwork are eternal.


Erik Sorenson is chief executive officer of, Inc. Mr. Sorenson, 52, oversees the strategic direction of the global, New York-based media company. He is widely regarded as an expert on media strategy and industry trends, with experience spanning radio, local and network broadcast television, cable and syndicated TV, and the Internet. From 1998 through 2004, Mr. Sorenson served as president of the MSNBC cable news channel. He has won more than twenty Emmy awards as a writer, producer, and television executive.

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