Must be axing season in tech land.

Last week, news came in that 130 people were now ex-employees of IrokoTV. Same week, we got whiff of another mass dismissal, this time 300 people at Jumia Nigeria.

These things happen, especially at startups as the company tries to balance budgets, projects and personnel. Luckily, there are a few things you could do to keep yourself in the safe zone.

I have a theory, that the HR people ALWAYS have a to-go list of dispensable or firable people. These are people that, once the company is looking to trim its operating costs, will get the axe.

There are ways to ensure you stay off that list though. And while I’m not at liberty to go into the really creative (and more effective) methods like pallying up with the head of HR and becoming his best friend (if that doesn’t work, you could always kidnap him but like I said, I’m not going into specifics), just know this isn’t an exhaustive list.

So, I’m going to explain a few things that would keep you out of the HR black book.

If you’re expecting conventional knowledge like “be the best at your post”, sorry, wrong article. Startups can be pretty brutal when hiring at the initial stages. If you’re inside, chances are you can do the work and really bring it when the company demands it. So can everybody else on the team.

But what would separate you from the rest?

Be fun

If you have a dark cloud hovering over your head like lord Voldermort, if your presence has a way of “killing the mood” whenever you enter a room, I’m sorry to break this to you, but your name’s on that list. Nobody is asking you to be a comedian but the least you could do is try to take a joke. Some of the funniest people I know excel at self deprecating humor. It doesn’t take away from their performance at work.

The daily grind at a startup can be really intense. I know guys who go three to four hours straight, solving and troubleshooting problems, some are stuck in meetings for hours on end. When you eventually come out of that grind, who are the folks you get to unwind with? Your colleagues. And if they’re people who would make you start contemplating the meaning of life (or if jumping off the roof is the fastest way to end it all) the company’ll be looking to change that very, very quickly.

Bottom line: Let your hair down and loosen up. Quickly.

Teach others

This is usually included with being a good team player but I think it deserves a category of its own. If there’s one skill that would work wonders for you, it’s teaching and helping team mates to get stuff done, faster, cheaper and better. And it’s not just with colleagues. Imagine teaching your boss something he didn’t really know how to do, or showing him a cheaper, faster, cleaner, more efficient way to do something which he struggles with. Doing so essentially streamlines his process and if there’s something founders and CEOs are looking for, it’s slimmer, meaner tricks to get more productive.

It doesn’t even have to be a groundbreaking lesson. Something as simple as recommending a website would go a long way.

Bottom line: Helping the team get better, makes you the MVP of the team.

Take on more responsibility. And kick ass at it

This is perhaps the number one way of keeping your job, indefinitely.

Think about it. If you have two or more things you’re doing for the company (which you’re also good at), guess what’s going through the HR’s head if he ever sees your name on the “axing” list? “Firing this guy will mean we have to hire two or more people to replace him.” That sounds stressful, and nobody likes stress. So your name gets taken off the list.

And you get to keep your job.

Bottomline: the work horse is usually the last to get the axe

Finally, passion

This one’s from personal experience. If a startup is like a soup mix, passionate people are your curry and salt. These guys will give the office a sunny vibe, like you guys are really going to make a dent in the world. I’ve worked with quite a few and I must confess, it was like they brought in their own soundtrack when they entered the room.

They’re almost never invited into the boss’ office unless it’s for coffee, or a promotion. Never to get the axe.

Bottom line: love your job and it will love you right back.

Photo Credit: zappowbang via Compfight cc

Ibukun Taiwo Author

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