Signs of a Layoff

Signs of a Layoff

Have you ever been “strategically rightsized” at work? Were you ever part of a “corporate outplacing plan”? Or, maybe, if you worked for one particular Fortune 500 company you were asked to “take a walk around the duck pond”?

Not sure what any of this means? Well, if you’ve ever gone through a layoff, then you can say yes to all of the above. 

No matter what you call them, layoffs are a hard fact of corporate life that many of us have experienced. While you can’t stop layoffs from occurring, you can learn to recognize the signs that a reduction in workforce may be on the horizon.

We’ll discuss 14 signs—from subtle to serious—that a layoff may be coming, and you should start updating your professional resume.

Small Smoke Signals

Signs of a Layoff

Financial difficulties in your company don’t always mean layoffs, but you definitely want to pay attention to these indicators that show that your company is starting to struggle.

  • Stock price plunge: If your company’s stock price dips too deeply and doesn’t recover, then it may be an early warning sign that cost-cutting measures, including layoffs, are on the horizon.
  • Perks go away: Those little extras, such as free snacks and lunches or employee discounts, are no longer available. That’s a sign that the company is trying everything to tighten the belt.
  • A major fail: If your company launches a new product and it bombs, take notice. Hopefully the company can absorb the loss, but if not, they may need to recover costs through layoffs.
  • Aging technology: Whether you work with machinery, computers, or tools, a company’s reluctance to make needed updates to technology or office equipment indicates financial trouble.
  • Hiring freezes: If your company stops hiring, it may be an indicator that there’s no money in the budget for new hires. But don’t panic right away. Your employer could be freezing for reasons unrelated to layoffs. For example, they may be figuring out a new recruitment strategy to bring in a specific type of talent.

Moves from Management

Signs of a Layoff

Another way to know if layoffs are coming is to pay attention to the actions of upper-management and senior executives. Here’s what to look for:

  • Leaderships leaves: If high level employees start working less, or they leave for other jobs, then they may have information that you don’t about the future of the company.
  • More and longer meetings: Is management having day-long meetings behind closed doors or even going off-site? Is HR involved? They might be discussing the company’s financial problems and creating a plan to reduce workforce.
  • Your boss acts weird: If your boss knows about pending layoffs, then she might start acting weird. She may not communicate with you as often. She might act evasive, avoid eye contact, and ignore your mails. These are signs that there’s something bigger happening.
  • New management moves in: Sometimes, you need to pay attention to who’s coming in as well as who’s going out. A new high-level executive might have been brought in specifically to make strategic changes and reduce headcount.

Sirens Start Blaring

Signs of a Layoff

The signs of layoffs above are definite clues that something is amiss in the workplace. But most of them could have another explanation.

These next few examples, however, are flashing neon signs that scream out: layoffs are coming!

  • Buzzwords get bandied about: If you ever hear management start talking about rightsizing, downsizing, outplacement, strategic realignment, increased efficiency, then listen up. These are all just nice ways of saying layoffs are coming.
  • Mergers: Mergers are typically good news. However, soon after a merger, you’ll see layoffs in order to reduce staffing redundancies.
  • Explosive growth: While huge growth is fantastic it usually results in a hiring frenzy. More often than not, the company will overhire, only to have to “rightsize” (i.e., layoff staff) a few months or a year down the line.
  • Arrival of efficiency experts: Efficiency experts or “consultants” are brought when leadership needs to reduce overhead but doesn’t know how. Efficiency experts will almost always suggest a reduction in workforce.
  • Discussions about your role: Your boss might ask you to start tracking your time, provide weekly or daily updates, or simply ask you to define your role. Higher-ups may be determining if your duties can be given to someone else. Or, if your role is needed at all.

Be Prepared for a Layoff

Signs of a Layoff

If your company wants to lay people off, then there’s nothing you can do to stop it. However, if you think a layoff is looming, then you can follow these tips to start preparing for job loss.

  • Update your resume ASAP: You want it to be ready to go as soon as you need it. While you’re at it, update your LinkedIn as well.
  • Start your job search now: If a layoff feels inevitable, then start applying to new jobs while you’re still working. Interviewees who are employed are more appealing to prospective employers than those without jobs.
  • Reach out to your network: Start reconnecting with your network now. Comment on their LinkedIn posts. Send an email. Catch up over lunch. Ask about what exciting things they’re working on. That way, if you are laid off, you’ve already established a rapport. You don’t want your first communication with a colleague to be: “Hi. I was laid off. Can you get me a job?”
  • Save money: If you have an “emergency fund” that’s great. You may need to tap into it. If you don’t have any savings, then start saving as much as you can while you still have a paycheck.
  • Look into unemployment benefits: Even if you still have your job, look into what it takes to get unemployment benefits in your state. Have the proper forms and information ready to go so there’s no delay if you need to rely on unemployment pay to get you through the next few months.
  • Roll over your 401(k): Have a 401(k) with your company? Roll it into an IRA before you’re laid off. You won’t lose the money in your 401(k) if you’re laid off, but you’ll have to move the money eventually. It’s better to get that detail taken care of sooner rather than later so you can put all your energy into a job search.

Layoffs are a fact of life. Most people get laid off at some point, so it’s nothing to be ashamed of. But at least now you can start to notice the signs that a layoff is coming and prepare yourself to bounce back as best as you can.

Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.

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