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How to Tell if a Layoff is Coming

How to Tell if a Layoff is Coming

Larry Buhl | for HotJobs

Almost all mature companies have shed employees at some point—and in most cases the pink slips don’t come as a surprise. “Very often senior management will delay a decision to cut headcount, so unless there is a quick catastrophic event, layoffs have been a long time coming,” explains Scott Steinberg, CEO of TechSavvy Global.

How can you know if your job might be on the line? Employment experts point to several signs.

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Subtle signs

These are clues that it might not be “just your imagination.”

1. Nonessential budgets are reduced or cut. Executives are flying in business class or coach. The gourmet coffee in the break room is now a lesser brand, and the Friday bagels are gone.

2. Products and projects are postponed or canceled. In prosperous times, businesses are awash in initiatives for growth. In leaner times, they hunker down and return to basics by focusing on what is guaranteed to bring in revenue now, rather than looking to the future.

3. Your sphere of influence shrinks. “This is something employees ‘feel’ but often can’t quantify,” says Jim Link, managing director of human resources for the staffing and recruiting firm Randstad. “It may be that certain people used to ask for your opinion but now bypass you,” he says.

Serious signs

These are clues that you’re probably not imagining things.

1. Budgets are cut way back. Travel is permitted only for people who are actively bringing in the bacon, and they fly coach. Office parties are eliminated. The coffee in the break room is generic. (Bring your own mug.)

2. Senior managers resign. One resignation might not mean a lot, but two or more resignations could mean that executives in the know are seeking lifeboats, according to Mike Manoske, a business development manager and recruiter for the staffing and consulting firm Yoh. “When key people leave abruptly at the same time, it’s typically because they don’t have a lot of confidence in the company.”

3. The flow of communication changes. Things that used to come verbally now come in writing or vice versa. Or worse: you’re excluded from meetings where you used to be a key player. These changes could be due to reorganization or a manager who wants to do things differently. “But when no rationale is given for the changes, it’s a bad sign,” Link says.

Next: Alarm Bells >>