You must identify the person who can terminate you. You must also determine how much clout your boss has in deflecting such a decision.
If your boss is the decision-maker, then you must go out of your way to make sure he sees you as a vital cog in his plans for his own career.
In a recession, more people are at risk. A company cannot afford the luxury of dead wood. When costs must be cut in a slowing economy, precision surgery is not called for. Axes are preferred. “We can always hire a replacement.” “Maybe we can outsource this.”
You would be wise to have at least a 15-minute discussion with your boss about the joint threat: department-wide cuts. He worries about this. These are things beyond his control.
He should be talking with his boss.
If he perceives you as backing him up for the sake of the department, that is to your advantage. So, your talk with him should focus on two things: (1) what the department must do to defend itself from cuts; (2) what role you can play to make the department work better.
It is best to position yourself as a subordinate whose concern is the same as his: the preservation of the flow of funds to the department. If he sees you as a person who understands his problem, you are more likely to get protection from him.
You must not be perceived as a hanger-on. Too much dependence on him makes you seem like an appendage. He wants someone who can add value to his department. A sponge adds no value.
He has no time to waste. You must tell him why you want the one-on-one meeting. You want clarification about what your role is, given the new environment. This is the #1 question to ask: “What else can I do?” That positions you as a producer, not a sponge. You must show initiative.
Be prepared to take on extra responsibility. The more you take, the more costly it will be to terminate you — the replacement factor.