The Squeeze: How to (Maybe) Save Your Job During Layoffs
A top career coach's advice for every rung, the first in a new series about the personal toll of Hollywood's financial crisis
Today is the first in our new series, The Squeeze, about the impact of entertainment’s worsening economics on the livelihood and mental health of workers at every strata. The series will dive into producers, execs and agents, actors, young Hollywood, below the line, and writers over the coming weeks. The series is for paid subscribers only.
Lacey Leone McLaughlin is president of LLM Consulting Group, Inc. Coaching leaders across all industries, she specializes in teaching management skills to creative talent within entertainment, and has worked across studios and production companies.
When the stock market is booming, corporations measure employees on various factors. Some Hollywood CEOs evaluate C-suite executives on everything from future growth to employee feedback to staff satisfaction surveys. When showrunners consider staff writers’ skills, they consider their backgrounds, collaborative skills, conduct in a room, and other behaviors before they rehire them for a second season. But when the market tanks, companies and managers evaluate everyone on one basis: the bottom line.
Profits matter right now — more than they have in years. After a decade-plus bull market, stocks are down, and interest rates are soaring. Like all businesses in 2022, studios are going from being willing to spend big on new projects, such as the now-faltering streaming dream, to thinking about how to cut budgets. It’s a dramatic shift for all workers and managers but especially for many Millennial and Gen Z employees who have only worked during a bull market. Since they knew the job market was hot, younger staff felt empowered to speak their minds in ways previous generations’ entry-level employees wouldn’t have dared.
The workplace may feel more heads-down now, but it also isn’t the time to cower. Whether you’re a vice president or an assistant, the worst decision in these gloomy times is to “chicken-out” of making decisions and lay low, hoping not to be found when names start to be reviewed. Right now, you need to over-perform, and over-performing requires getting creative. It’s just as important to think big during a downturn as during an upswing. You just need to think big while staying within, or ideally, below budget.
Time and time again, the people I have seen get laid off are the employees who follow the status quo and do not adapt to meet the changing business needs. When you do not look for opportunities to grow, develop, and add value, you put yourself at a higher risk than those looking to do something differently. Employees are more likely to survive when they cultivate strong relationships across all levels of the organization, make clear contributions to the company, and look for ways to contribute more to, yes, the bottom line.
There’s no way to guarantee you won’t be let go — even the most talented leaders and most dutiful assistants get canned in mass layoffs — but there are some changes you can make so your boss doesn’t look your way.
From my 20-plus years coaching leaders on how to lead and manage in the workplace, here is some advice on how to (hopefully) save your job. I’ll cover:
Showrunners and writers
I believe however that most of the advice is applicable to almost anyone who works in a corporate environment.