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5 Questions to Ask Your Boss About the Looming Recession

Everywhere you turn - news headlines, updates from the Federal Reserve, roundtables of CEOs - you hear about the coming recession.

The last time we had a real recession (Covid 2020 was a temporary shock) was 2008 - 2009. Millions of jobs were lost. Real estate values tanked, and it took years for economic opportunity and investment to recover.

Now, probability models indicate another economic downturn is quickly approaching. What can you do to prepare without becoming overwhelmed?

While there are a number of best practices for steering your career through a downturn, we believe one critical task is to engage with your boss. Here are five questions you can use to create space for you and your supervisor to prepare for what’s coming.

1. what did you learn during the 2008-09 recession?

Many folks who are leading today went through the last recession. Create space for your supervisor to reflect on last time and mine that experience for best practices. This question shows respect for them and their expertise (and may even help draw it out!).

2. how is our company poised for what lies ahead?

This question demonstrates interest in the larger picture facing the place where you work. This is an opportunity to show you are not just thinking about yourself but curious about the big picture.

It also gives you a read on your boss’s level of macro-perspective and business acumen. You may find they have a great answer, or you may find you need to find some other sources of wisdom at your company. This question also may reveal upcoming challenges or changes at the company.

3. what do you think our biggest recession-related challenges will be?

This question is a more narrow version of question two. It is specific to your firm, your market, your working team. Knowing the challenges that are coming positions you to be a solution source.

For a Biblical example of this, look at Daniel in Daniel chapter 4, who helped the King discern what was coming. The King didn’t listen and Daniel held the kingdom together as the king paid the price for his pride. The point is, the answers to this question can position you to serve the company and your colleagues by being ready for what’s coming.

4. what best practices have you employed personally, or seen in others that seem to carry them through economic downturns?

This question takes us beyond the realm of work to personal advice. Even if your boss isn’t older, they still may possess wisdom for you on this point. “How do you survive an economic winter?” It speaks to personal finances, emotional health, and mindset. You are communicating that you value their input and you will likely learn something helpful.

5. how can I be a resource to you in the days ahead?

This is the million dollar question. It communicates, “We are facing challenges, and I want to make that easier.” Every boss is looking for team members who are part of the solution set, not part of the problem.

But this is not about posturing. It’s about preparation. As you hear where you may be needed, you can get ready to make life better for yourself and your boss. Peter Drucker often points out that any wise team member will make it a priority to help his or her leader succeed.

controlling what you can control

There are a number of reasons to talk about the looming recession with your supervisor. It’s a way to deepen your connection with your boss as difficult times lay ahead. This conversation gives you a feel for how your upline is feeling about business prospects in the days ahead. You may get a sense of how secure your job is as the predicted recession unfolds. Even if you don’t get a read on your future prospects, you’ve opened a line of communication which will serve you well.

Ultimately, you can’t control an economic downturn, but you can control how you prepare for (and respond to) one. Our advice at VOCA is surprisingly simple: be thoughtful about preparing for what lies ahead, have intentional conversations, aim for impact, and seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).


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