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With the economy shrinking faster than George Bush’s legacy, many workers fear they’re going to be laid off and end up homeless wandering among strangers.

This is a legitimate fear given recent news that tens of thousands of workers are being riffed by major companies.

And we all know who will be the first to get pink slips. The older workers so companies can escape funding pensions. Women. Minorities. Plus, anyone who has a boss that wants to get even for some slight.

That’s a whole lot of us on the chopping block. And we can’t get younger, change our sex (no health insurance plan covers this one), or get whiter. And whatever we did to plant the seed of revenge in the boss has been festering for way too long to do anything about it now.

The first tactic that seems to work for some is to become invaluable to the company.

A friend of ours got laid off a while back…an older guy. The corporate wizards had the bright idea that if they got rid of all the old folks in the company who cost them a lot of money, they could fatten the bottom line by hiring a lot of young folks. Problem was the young people didn’t know anything about the technology of the company and when management realized the older people actually were adding value to the company, they hired some of them back.

So make sure you are the only one with the computer codes, and other proprietary information of your employer so if they lay you off, all their screens go dark and their financial records vanish.

Another friend dodged a layoff because the store she worked in had a lot of customers who only spoke Spanish, and my friend is a very fast language learner. She actually doesn’t speak that much Spanish, but the customers would talk to her and the bosses only saw that she was ringing up sales. So what if the customers thought they were buying a shirt instead of a rope.

The second tactic is to have no expectations about being hired back at the same pay and benefits. My older friend got offered his job function back, but only as an independent contractor so the company didn’t have to fund his pension or health care benefits. Better to have some income than none, he figured.

But don’t give the bosses the codes or access to the proprietary information unless they write you a really big check.

A third tactic is always look really busy. See our prior advice on Avoiding Work. There’s nothing worse than a boss catching you with your feet up on the desk doing absolutely nothing, even if there is absolutely nothing to actually do. The New York Times Sunday January 24, 2009 had a great article about looking busy in order to survive being fired.

The fourth tactic is lawyer up. Age or racial or sexual discrimination is still illegal in this country and if someone has to get the ax, let them be the ones who can still be legally discriminated against…the white guys. Always have plenty of cards for the law firm that sues employers for discrimination in your pocket, and post them on the company bulletin board. Retaliation is also illegal.

A good tactic is splitting jobs….better to have half a job than no job. This creates some really interesting dynamics in a work place. Who would you split your job with and why?

Next, consider going into business for yourself. If the store is going to close, there’s a good chance there’s a great deal for the lease of the space, and a chance to buy the inventory for a song. Actually, you might get to rent the store space cheaper than your home. Ditch your home and live in the store.

Finally, if there is no way to avoid being bounced, remember that for every door that closes another one opens. The sad reality in America today is what we used to do for a living has become obsolete or worthless in the current economic environment. That doesn’t mean you have to become extinct. It means you’ve got to evolve. Change. Adapt. Retrain.

There are jobs that are less prone to being eliminated because the functions are necessary. Exactly what those are we’re not sure of at the moment, so that will be a topic of another piece of Squirrelly Advice.