Don't Get the Pink Slip

Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on Jan 31, 2011 in , , , | No Comments

It’s all about the bottom-line. In this economy, no job seems safe from the axe. But there is one way to help the odds lean in your favor.

Dollars and Cents

Tyler Cowen, a professor of Economics at George Mason University, suggests in his article, “How to Talk the Boss Out of Giving You a Pink Slip” (Money Magazine), that the employee ask for a meeting with the boss. He suggests, “In a downturn you need to speak the language that matters most: dollars and cents.”

Employers have two choices when it comes to cutting personnel costs, lay people off, or lower wages. Unfortunately, many employers seem to be choosing layoffs over lowering wages. Why? Professor of Economics at Yale University, Truman Bewley, sites the following reasons, ” 1.) they fear lowered morale or 2.) sabotage will take place.” It’s essential you address these issues honestly with your boss, putting any concerns to rest.

If rumors of layoffs are circulating, or you see major cost-cutting taking place, you might want to inform your boss you are willing to work, (happily and productively), for lowered wages until things pick up again. There is risk involved when you declare this to the person you’ve worked so hard trying to convince you were worthy of increases over the years (see “Fireproof Your Job” on

You’ll need to convince yourself this is no reflection on your self-worth, because it isn’t, it’s survival. It’s better to be working for a little less than pounding the pavement looking for another position. This is one strategy someone with a big ego won’t be able to accomplish effectively. That’s why, before you meet with the boss, you need to have a good talk with yourself first, working out any reservations you may harbor.

Company Wide Reductions

There have been companies in the news that decided to go the distance to help their bottom line, while assisting their employees in keeping jobs. Asking employees to take cuts, while ensuring job security, (or in some cases an unpaid day off each the week) morale didn’t sink because everyone was doing their part. Since all employees participated, the amount the company saved keeps business running without a hitch and employees feel good that no coworkers lost their jobs. When the economy picks up, everyone will have their regular salary reinstated.  Keeping those employees working benefits the economy, reducing the numbers of workers collecting unemployment.

This is a win-win situation for everyone: employer, employee and the economy. Those are the best kind of scenarios.

Wage Reduction Agreement

Even if you aren’t in a company that takes the initiative to cut wages, you can be the insightful employee that starts the ball rolling. Be sure to craft yourself a Wage Reduction Agreement, clearly stating how much you are willing to do without, make sure you’ve come up with a livable figure. Reiterate to your boss that you are doing this because you don’t consider your salary a measure of your self-worth, but value your position in the company and want to do your part. Do all of this from an honest place, if you aren’t sincere, it will eventually show. Also, be sure to put a time limit on this proposal. Something like, “When business picks up to a normal pace, (or give specific figures) the wage reduction will revert back to the current salary I’m earning.” Have your boss sign it, give a copy to HR and Payroll. Congratulate yourself, you’ve just saved your job!

Living Not So Large

Most people think they can’t possibly live on less…until they’re forced to do so. Cutting costs takes a little effort and once you start, you’ll find it’s easier than you imagined. Sit down with the new salary figure in mind. Make a list of all monthly expenses, include that Latte from Starbucks at $3 a cup you get each morning. Now, go though the list and cross off everything that is not vital to your daily survival. All that should be left are the bare necessities, correct? Mortgage/rent, utilities, water, garbage, car maintenance (gas, etc.), and food are what you need for daily survival. Don’t panic, I don’t expect you to only live with just those basics. Now, look at what you’ve crossed off. That Latte adds up to $3 per day, at 5 days a week comes to $60 a month, or $720 per year!  It’s much more economical to buy the coffee and make it at home, since the cost of two cups of coffee at Starbucks approximately equals to that of a pound of coffee.

The Future

When the economy picks up, and it will, that’s the time to approach the boss again, Wage Reduction Agreement in hand. It’s time to renegotiate,  you can begin by reminding your boss you helped to cut costs for the good of the company. Hopefully, if you have a wise boss, he/she will not only be happy to reinstate your prior wages, but add a bonus to that amount.

Keep in mind too, that if your boss had originally laid you off, to replace you later, it would cost the company money and time to do so. Therefore, it is to their own benefit financially that they’ve kept you on the payroll.

Your satisfaction comes not with your wages being reinstated, but that you were able to successfully negotiate and keep your job while others were unemployed.

©2009 Judy Anne Cavey, who resides in the S.F. Bay Area of California, is a credentialed, certified, higher education instructor who taught Work Experience/Cooperative Education and ESL at three community colleges. She is also a freelance writer and grant writer currently authoring a textbook, has designed other learning programs, and worked with several nonprofits. Her Edublog, “Work Experience”, is a not-for-profit endeavor designed to assist job seekers of all ages.