How to stay invaluable at work — and still get fired

A friend of mine did all the right things to keep his job at a big banking company.

1. He showed up early to work three days a week, at least, and stayed later just as many.

2. He volunteered to take on extra projets, and never asked for any bonus money for doing so.

3. He brought new ideas to his bosses, ways in which his company could cut costs or earn more dollars.

4. He even brought in donuts or muffins on the odd Friday morning.

Pretty good employee, right? Yes, he was. He even removed all his Christmas cards and decorations from his cubicle before his bosses sent out the annual memo requesting that holiday stuff be trashed.

But none of this mattered. My friend was laid off this week. Another round of cost-cutting at his struggling firm cost him his job.

I’m confident my friend will land on his feet. Like I said, he’s a wonderful employee. But I wonder if this experience will change him. Maybe he won’t be so likely to work extra hours for no extra pay or recognition. Maybe he’ll treat his job more as a 9-to-5 thing rather than a lifestyle. I’m sure his family would appreciate him being home more often.

The point here is that none of us can really protect ourselves from being laid off. We can be the best workers in the world, but if our employers want to shed costs, they won’t think twice before letting us go. It might make more sense, then, to do a good job, certainly, but to not make work our lives. There are better things out there than the office or a presentation to the shareholders, after all.