Mass layoffs are coming across corporate America, and while most employees will remain employed throughout the upcoming recession, millions of employees may find themselves out of a job. While in some cases entire divisions or business units will be eliminated, leaving employees no way to avoid termination, there are many other cases layoffs will be more selective, for example, a 10% companywide reduction in force.


It’s important for employees to understand that such layoffs are not random. In layoffs of this nature, the people who are let go are picked very carefully. In fact, most bosses already have a plan in their heads about whom they will let go if they are asked to cut their team.


How do you keep your job? Here are a few places to start:


Be a star.  Bosses will go to almost any length to keep the members of their team they consider to be stars. Why? Very simply, great results are extremely important in a down economy and the best way to continue to ensure great results is to have the absolute best players on the team.


How you can become a star is perhaps a topic for further discussion, but it involves a lot of hard work, constantly exceeding expectations, and contributing to the organization as a whole, not just to your narrowly defined job responsibilities.


Don’t be a thorn. Even the best players can become a liability for their boss if they take too much time and effort to manage. Generally speaking, you want your name to come up in positive contexts, never in bad ones. This means that you don’t whine, you don’t pick unnecessary fights, you don’t break company policy, you don’t constantly demonstrate how you are superior to everyone else.


Be nice. If people like to work with you, they will keep you around even if you are not the best performer on the team. That’s human nature. Wear a smile on your face, have a positive attitude, be optimistic. Make people feel good about themselves. This does not mean that you need to be a hypocrite or a brown-noser. All this mean is that you should try to be a decent human being that people like to be around. Hey, that’s good advice for life in general.


Don’t be an easy target. Here’s the trick: When it’s hunting season, it’s generally not a good idea to wear a target on your back. In the context of upcoming layoffs, the following would be considered volunteering for target practice: asking for raises, asking for special treatment, causing trouble or hurting morale. If you can’t distinguish yourself by being a top performer or a particularly cooperative and fun team player, at least don’t distinguish yourself by being the guy your boss constantly needs to defend and put out fires for.


Solicit feedback and drive change. Talk to your boss and to your colleagues and solicit honest feedback regarding your performance. Ask them to tell you — point-blank — two or three things that you can do better. When they give you the feedback you requested, don’t get defensive. Thank them for being helpful and go change.