If you’re not particularly interested in baseball or luncheoning, you might want to feign an interest. According to new research from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, it might save your job during layoff season.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the researchers, led by assistant professor Lynn Wu, found that employees who exchange messages with colleagues about non-work-related topics like sports or meals were “significantly more likely to keep their jobs during company layoffs.”

Wu studied two years of electronic communications – including emails, instant messages and calendar scheduling – between 8,037 employees at an information-technology consulting firm. She found that people who used words such a “lunch,” “dinner,” “coffee,” “baseball,” or “football,” were more likely to keep their jobs. Perhaps even more interesting, those people weren’t necessarily those who made the most money for the company. Social words were actually a better indicator of job retention than how much revenue the employees brought in.

It seems logical that people who are social and likeable are going to be more likely to keep their jobs than others. But this is slightly scary news for people who couldn’t care less about sports and who prefer to work through lunch, even when colleagues go out. The WSJ points out that this doesn’t necessarily mean the workplace isn’t a meritocracy. It just shows that there’s value in being viewed as connected and social.

Whether we’re trying to avoid getting laid off or fired, participating in social rituals is just one of the many ways to make yourself more valuable at work.

Here are three more ways to fireproof your job.

1. Lose the phrase “That’s not my job.”

Everything is your job. You can ignore the coffee cup some jerk dropped on the floor, because it’s the cleaning staff’s job, or you can pick up the cup. You can wait for someone to deliver the numbers you need or (often) you can get them yourself. Offer to send emails, clean up, take notes, make the Power Point. People often think employers don’t notice their extra efforts – and resent doing more work when others are shirking – but bosses often do. And useful people are preferable to useless ones.

2. Be the only one who can do it.

Taking extra responsibility is even better if you’re the only one who has all the information. If you have the opportunity to get your hands on a key, password, or file (or whatever), take it. Colleagues come and go. The time might come when you are the only person who knows how to find the client list/work the content management system/open the safe/call off the guard dogs. They’ll have to think twice before canning you.

3. Ask yourself if there’s anything you can do to improve the company situation.

Look around you. Is the store empty? Is the staff getting laid off? You might be about to lose your job! Maybe you should start looking for a new one. You can also see if there’s a way you can improve business. Does your company need a website? Social media account? Innovative new sales strategy? Funding? New brand profile? Are you equipped to make that happen? Then do it.

Yes, following this advice might mean you will be working harder, but hey, maybe you’ll get a promotion, and if you don’t, you can always look for a better job, which you’ll be more likely yo get because you took on all that extra responsibility. So, it’s win-win. How often do you get to say that?


See also:

What your handshake says about you

How to quit your job with class

6 workplace etiquette rules that can boost your career

The do’s and don’ts of talking politics at work


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