10/07/2008 12:09 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Save Your Job by Calling Your Employer's Bluff and Renegotiating

Wow! The unemployment figures released last Friday do not have to be as high as they are. Firing people in a frenzied economy is usually good public relations for a publicly-traded company because it's the most visible way to cut costs. And for privately-owned firms, it's simply "monkey see, monkey do," as they follow the patterns of the public companies in the news.

But beware if you're an employee being offered "the package" or a "buyout." This is simply a trick. The "buyout" and "package" are white collar words for "You're fired! Now take some extra money and don't sue us!"

The fact is, it could take anywhere from 24 to 36 months to find a new job. That's especially bad news in today's recessionary economy, in which skyrocketing costs for essentially everything and disasters on Wall Street lead the headlines. So rather than simply accepting "the package," you should consider calling your boss's bluff instead and asking to renegotiate the terms of your employment.

This doesn't always mean taking less money. You can suggest working fewer days or eliminating certain perks. When your boss says "it's nothing personal, just a numbers thing," challenge him or her. What is that number? No, you don't have to automatically volunteer to take a pay cut. But if you're fired (or fear you are about to be)--and are told it's a "numbers thing," not performance--I firmly believe in today's unusual economic climate that you're far better off taking steps to hold onto your current job. And if that means renegotiating your hours or compensation, do it, especially if you're over 40.

In the current economic climate, it's crucial to come up with creative strategies such as these to save the job you have, rather than taking a buyout and crossing your fingers that a new job is waiting around the corner. This is not the time to reinvent yourself and go looking for that dream job that does not exist during a recession. And while you're more likely to find a new position in the industry you're already in, that's far from a sure thing in the current job market. Today more than ever, do whatever it takes to bulletproof the job you already have.

Stephen Viscusi is the author of Bulletproof Your Job (HarperCollins) and can be reached at