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Six Workplace Challenges You Need to Master to Survive a Recession

By Robert Half International
Robert Half International

Professionals didn't need the government's official declaration that the economy is in recession to know that these are difficult times.

Most have witnessed the signs of a struggling economy in their workplaces. Perhaps there have been layoffs or other troubling developments, such as a suspension of year-end bonuses.

Even if you have not been personally affected by a job loss, the steady stream of bad economic news has made many professionals fearful about the prospect of a layoff. If you've been able to keep your position thus far, you may still notice some unsettling changes in the work environment. Here are six challenges that you're likely to encounter and some suggestions for managing through them.

1. New priorities. Businesses are re-evaluating their priorities and often changing their minds about which initiatives are most important. It's not unusual for the focus to shift from longer range strategic projects to those that seem more likely to have a shorter-term payoff. Finance and accounting professionals are wise to adopt a flexible stance when it comes to changed directions. Be receptive shifts and work with your manager to identify projects that are more immediately beneficial to the bottom line if that's the approach your company has opted to take.

2. Internal moves. If there are positions needing to be filled within your company, your employer may be more inclined to look internally for a candidate rather than making new hires. If you're delighted to have a job but are itching to grow in a new direction, this could be a good time to express interest in a different type of position within your company.

3. Added responsibility. Employees may be asked to take on additional tasks as companies become leaner. Look on this as an opportunity rather than a frustration. Your willingness to learn new skills and expand your responsibilities can enhance your job security while offering you a chance to build your resume, which is always a gift in a recessionary environment. In addition, your company may be willing to foot the bill for the training you need.

4. More reports. Managers performing cost/benefit analysis of specific programs may request more detailed accounts of the time and expense associated with your projects. Carefully track expenditures and monitor how your time is allocated so you don't have to scramble to provide this type of information at the last minute. Also, demonstrate that you, too, are concerned about cost-effectiveness by being willing to volunteer recommendations that could trim expenses or increase a program's impact.

5. Pared-down perks. Firms looking for ways to reduce budgets may cut down on pricey "extras," and you need to be willing to roll with the punches. For example, companies may reduce budgets for employee events such as luncheons and holiday parties or eliminate some altogether. Free parking may become a thing of the past. Rather than grousing about such cutbacks, accept that sacrifices are needed in the current environment. A good attitude is even more of a career enhancer when companies are looking to keep their teams lean.

6. Layoffs. It's not a prospect anyone likes to think about, but it's wise to be prepared for any eventuality, especially if your firm is struggling. As a defensive move, make sure your resume is up-to-date so you can launch an immediate job search if necessary. Also, increasing your involvement in industry and business groups can be a good way to shore up your career in a down economy. Professional groups allow you to nurture your enthusiasm for the accounting field, expand your circle of contacts and stay on top of trends in the industry. Whether you hope to advance at your current firm or change employers when the economy improves, increased professional networking can help you lay the foundation for the next step in your career.

Especially during a recessionary period, make sure that your focus is not on mere self-preservation. You'll be deemed a more valuable employee if you demonstrate through your words and actions that you're just as concerned about your company's livelihood as your own. Employees who go the extra mile to help their organizations weather business downturns are likely to be remembered and rewarded when the outlook brightens.

For more advice on management and career issues, listen to The Management Minute, Robert Half's podcast series at


Founded in 1948, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of Robert Half International Inc., the world's largest specialized financial recruiting service and a leading authority on workplace and management trends. The company has more than 350 offices throughout North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region. Learn more at

Copyright 2008 Robert Half International. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authority.

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