Desperate Times May Not Call for Desperate Measures

Posted by on Sep 9, 2010 in Jobs & employment | 0 comments

Although it’s clear that the slowdown in the economy has affected us all dramatically, this is not a time to panic.  For the first time in a decade we’ve seen budgets slashed, projects cancelled or postponed, both blue and white collar layoffs, and rising unemployment rates.  For those of us who remember the last recession, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen conditions like this, and perhaps the first time we’ve seen them arrive so quickly and unexpectedly.  For those of you newer to the industry this is probably like nothing you’ve ever seen before. 

The temptation when faced with such threatening and unwelcome conditions is to take drastic actions that would not be considered under other circumstances.  But often enough what seems to make sense at the time often ends up being regrettable disasters.

Here are few things to avoid if all possible.

1.  Taking on work that you know will turn out badly.  Whether you are a consultant or an internal employee it doesn’t really matter because everyone is faced at one time or another with an opportunity to do work that you know you shouldn’t.  For consultants facing reduced revenues and utilization rates the pressure can seem almost unbearable to accept a project that you know cannot be successful or to work with a client with whom you are fundamentally incompatible.  My advice is to resist the temptation because most of the time things that you think will turn out badly will turn out badly.  And in the long run your personal reputation or the reputation of your firm is worth too much to jeopardize for short-term gain. 

2.  Draconian staff reductions.  While tight budgets and reduced revenue present an opportunity to correct hiring mistakes, it’s easy to get carried away and cut staff so deeply that you’re unprepared for resuming work when the economy turns around.  You should be very careful about making excessive staff cuts that leave an organization a hollow shell.  Remember that IT is a knowledge based business and with every staff reduction you’re losing knowledge as well as damaging the motivation of those who remain.

3.  Canceling all investment.  Tough times do require tough choices and at this moment continuing to invest in a business can be one of the toughest of all.  The most common reaction is to simply stop all forms of investment such as training or infrastructure deployment or development.  But this isn’t a choice at all.  By not choosing you avoid all the difficult contention that prioritization requires, but ultimately it is an abdication of stewardship that harms an organization’s long-term prospects.  The toughest choice of all is to separate critical projects and investments from those that are just nice to have. 

4.  Forgetting to have fun.  It’s important to remind yourself and all those around you that we still work in a very privileged industry and that work can continue to be fun.  In fact, it may be better at this moment and it has been for quite a while given that most of us continue to earn comfortable livings and now can balance our personal and professional lives more easily than we have for years.

Once the shock of the slowdown wears off, things will begin to return to normal, not what we thought of as normal in the late 1990’s, but a more sustainable normalcy in which we can thrive.  But preparing to prosper in this new environment requires careful thought to avoid taking such desperate measures that might prevent either your personal or your organization’s future success.

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