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Keeping your job 101—Managing You Inc.

The economic downturn and the prospect of a crisis of demand forced many companies to scale back, and, according to many analysts, remove much of the “fat” that had built up over multiple years of sustained growth—laying off underperforming and unproductive employees.  Regardless of whether this observation is fact or fiction (in many cases structural changes lead employers to lay off well-performing as well as unproductive employees), it stands to reason that companies couldn’t afford to keep George Castanzas (the iconic Seinfeld character) on their payroll.  The fictional character George Castanza epitomizes laziness and poor work ethic. Within the context of this discussion, he might be seen as the perfect example of the “bad employee”—that is, someone whose professional behavior seems to demonstrate a complete lack of care for, and interest in one’s professional well being.  And while George Castanzas may or may not exist, it is in the best interest of employees everywhere not to exemplify any of his personality traits, in any degree or form.  So what are these professional sins one ought not to commit?

Wall Street Journal contributor Joann Lublin, reflecting on her many years of imparting advice to aspiring and experienced job seekers, concluded, “No one can manage You Inc. better than you.”  Just like any large corporate enterprise interested in maintaining a positive public persona, the image projected by You Inc. must be carefully monitored and maintained.  To do this, it is important to be vigilant—ever mindful of how your actions and what you say might be interpreted by coworkers.  Lublin suggests that to effectively manage You Inc. you must “sweat the small stuff,” from bathroom habits to using colloquial expressions or profane language in the workplace, from your appearance (whether disheveled or neatly manicured) to how and where you perspire.  Of course, though left off her list, outright demonstrations of laziness will also taint the image of You Inc.

Though minor infractions—for example, using a profane word or showing up to work slightly disheveled—might be forgiven, repeated violations of workplace protocol might provide an employer an additional reason to bring to an end its contract with You Inc., even when not faced with dire financial straits and layoffs.

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