The Workologist | Don’t just wait for the downsizing.

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Q: What do you do when you know your job is unnecessary and you can no longer bear coming in and twiddling your thumbs all day? I’ve been proactive, asking my manager for projects, but the work just isn’t there. I’m currently filling my day with various online training classes.

The role I’m in was new when I started a little over a year ago, and I suspect the company was anticipating new business that hasn’t materialized. Recently we even migrated some tasks to an underutilized offshore team.

Is it a good move to ask to be downsized? I’m in my 40s and leery of starting the job search again. But this is not a good use of my time (or their money), and I’ve never been so unmotivated.

A: Few people are excited by the idea of starting a job search. But I’d say anybody in the situation you describe should get over that, right away. If business doesn’t pick up, it certainly sounds like being downsized — whether you ask for it or not — is a distinct possibility.

That said, I don’t see much upside in basically volunteering to lose your job. I understand that you’ve been proactive in asking for work, but some managers will just respond to that as another problem to solve; it’s easier for them to brush you off than to think up ways to keep you busy. So maybe shift that strategy. Instead of inquiring, propose. If you present work or useful tasks that you could do — especially anything that solves a problem or otherwise lightens a manager’s load — you are making “Sure, go for it” the simplest answer.

You can also sound out colleagues (without announcing that you’re passing your days killing time with online courses, which some might not appreciate) about what they’re working on and what help they could use. Be a team player and don’t convert this into anything that may seem like stealing credit, but keep your manager in the loop about what you’re up to. Even casually asking around might give you ideas. In particular, think about skills you’d like to pick up. That may help you find opportunities to get busy again.

But prepare for the possibility that this paid vacation could end abruptly. The only thing worse than wading back into the job market is being suddenly plunged back into the job market. See what’s out there, and maybe instead of saying “downsize me,” you can just say, “I found a better job; I quit.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times. Submit questions to Rob Walker at