“Can I reverse my company’s decision to outsource my work?”

Question: Dear Alan! Very clever recommendations and excellent ways to think about new jobs. I forwarded your articles to my students and followers.

At the same time, I did not find ideas that can help me with the problem I am now facing. I am the head of a top Research & Development (“R&D”) Center of one of the biggest Russian gas companies. I helped move our organization to one of the top-rated in the world energy sector. From our efforts, our company’s revenues increased 500%.

However, the mother company is now looking to move our R&D Center outside of the parent corporation, and instead to outsource our work to less expensive sources. They also seem concerned about our R&D Center’s growing independence of them. This could likely result in our jobs being lost. Can you recommend some course of action for me to take?

Roman S.
Moscow, Russia

Answer: Dear Roman:  

It is good to know that our efforts are being enjoyed by people in Russia. I think you may be the first person to submit a question from your country. Welcome to our Sklover Working Wisdom family!!

1. Remember the “Number One Rule” of workplace navigating and negotiating: Don’t ever lose sight of this important part of human nature: Most people – and that includes Decision-Makers – will respond most quickly and forcefully to their own perception of their own self-interests. They don’t care as much about your concerns and interests, or even the company’s concerns and interests, as they do about their own. And that getting what you want is primarily a matter of changing their perception of their own self-interest

2. So, focus on what the “Decision-Makers” view as “of value” and “risky” to them. From what you have written, it seems as if “Decision-Makers” at the mother company view your R&D Center as either, or both, (a) too expensive – which is a question of “value,” and (b) too independent, which is a matter of “risk.” Might the Decision-Makers at the “mother company” reconsider their decision, and maybe even reverse their decision, if (a) they became confident that the R&D Center would cost them less money to run than outsourcing would cost them, and (b) the R&D Center was totally under their control? The odds are certain that, at the very least, these things would encourage them to change their decision to outsource the R&D Center’s work to others. Perhaps, too, you could remind them that, if the outsourcing does not go well, they would personally look bad, and as a result of such a poor decision, they could even lose their own jobs.

3. Then you need to alter the Decision-Makers’ view of how they perceive you. Now, consider how you can convince the Decision-Makers that closing your R&D Center (a) will hurt them financially, that is, will cost them more than at present, and (b) make them lose even more control of their R&D efforts. You know, Roman, these days many companies are now deciding that “outsourcing” their efforts is not such a good idea, and are bringing those efforts “home.” Here in the U.S. many companies in many industries are finding that when they have people far away do the work (i) the quality suffers, or (ii) there are many communications difficulties, or (iii) they did not take into account all the cultural differences, or (iv) the time zone differences cause many unforeseen inefficiencies, or (v) other problems arise. That is why so many U.S. firms are starting to bring their work back in a wave of what is being called “in-sourcing.” That is, they are reversing the decision that your Decision-Makers are now making. 

4. Consider this effort to be just one more R&D effort. I suggest you prepare a report – sort of an R&D effort – showing that these problems are likely to arise, and that your company would be quite wise to, instead of closing down the R&D Center and outsourcing all of its work, try instead a smaller “pilot program,” that is, merely engage in a small test of outsourcing. Overall, the Decision-Makers need to be shown that it is in their own interests to either “go slow” or “reverse course” in their R&D outsourcing. And the Decision-Makers must be convinced that it could be this decision, if not reconsidered or reversed, that could hurt them – personally, and a lot. 

5. This process is simple, universal and the most effective one there is to getting job security. Roman, I am not fully familiar with the details of your company, your industry, or you, personally, but from the limited facts you have presented to me, this is what you need to do. In fact, it is almost always a matter of viewing the circumstances from the viewpoint of the Decision-Makers, and then altering that perception in your favor. This analysis is universal, because it goes to the heart of the matter – the other person’s interests – and there is never a downside to focusing on that.

I hope this is of help to you, and your colleagues. Thank you very much for forwarding our articles to others. Good luck to you. 

Best,     
Al Sklover

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