Owners, Presidents and CEOs aren't the only ones who have to make tough decisions and navigate the difficult economy. Employees need to take an active role in our companies as well. Now is not the time to sit back while someone else makes potentially life-changing decisions for you. It's time to become active subordinates.
Think critically and constructively about yourself. Am I confident in my role? Do I like this job/position/company/career? Is there something else I'd rather be doing?
This is not the type of economy conducive to sitting back and going with the flow. Take some time to evaluate how comfortable you are with what may or may not happen to your current position. Do I believe in and support company leadership, my peer group and my opportunities for growth? If we get through this together, do I want to be here on the other end?
What do your personal finances look like? What does your living/transportation/family situation demand of you? Is it time to return to school? Re-evaluate careers? Tighten your budget? Telecommute? Network? Become a monk?
Honestly. Think about what you need. I find sliding scales nice — what does my bare minimum, happy medium, and deliriously happy range look like? Consider what sacrifices, if any, you are willing to make to stay with your current company. If that list is uncomfortably short, ask what changes you need to make.
Ask the questions you need to to feel as comfortable as is possible during turbulent times. When I'm worried about things that are out of my control, my productivity, focus — and sometimes even health — can suffer. All of which are detrimental to the overall business and my ability to contribute.
Talk to your applicable managers. Your direct manager may have the same questions, so move up the ladder if you need to. Ask questions about your specific role and position, and don't expect to be told you're "safe". Ask what you can do to help, ask where you can increase productivity or decrease cost.
Ask what you can do to become invaluable. Then do.
Work hard, work efficiently, and work smart. If you're already doing that, someone smart has probably already noticed. Go outside of your comfort zone. If you can, help with even the most basic or mundane tasks for the busiest members of your team — they're usually the ones keeping the company running.
Take care of yourself. Meet with friends and industry peers to get a temperature on how you all are feeling, and how your companies are doing. Trust me, we're all concerned. Some of us are handling it better than others. Spend time with the people who can talk constructively about the state of business; be a smart and active participant in the conversation. This is not a pity party, consider it a support group. Learn from each other.
If you need to, make changes. If you believe you're all just "going down with the ship", start looking for alternatives now. If you can't ask the right people the right questions, and get honest answers, ask yourself if you're working in the right culture. Take appropriate actions for yourself. Know your boundaries and and your willingness to invest in the bigger picture.
Be comfortable with your decisions. Be comfortable with your options.
Find people who are as smart and smarter than you are. Together we'll be the ones who come out the other end swinging.