The economy is looking up lately, but not everybody is feeling secure about their job prospects. After all, layoffs can occur at any time. Not to make anyone an alarmist, but there are signs that may allow you to plan for the worst — or make yourself feel better. After all, if you are a bit of an alarmist, and there are no red flags waving, maybe you can put your mind at ease.
Are layoffs coming at your company? Experts typically suggest looking for the following signs:
— Your company has already been laying off people.
— Your company is hiring outside consultants.
— You’ve been asked to fill out a questionnaire.
— Your company is experiencing a lot of financial losses.
— There are signs of a merger or acquisition.
— It’s the end of a budget cycle.
— People at the top are leaving.
— The company isn’t investing in its people.
— You’re no longer in the loop.
— Your manager isn’t communicating with you.
— There are whispers of layoffs in the workplace.
— You’ve had a bad review.
— An emergency all-employee meeting has been scheduled.
Your Company Has Already Been Laying Off People
This is the most obvious sign. If your company has been laying off people or furloughing them, yes, there is a reasonable chance that you’re next.
On the other hand, your company can’t run on zero people, can it? Not everything can be automated — yet. So you shouldn’t assume you’re on a list. But if co-workers are being laid off, you should start prepping your resume.
[READ: How to Survive a Layoff.]
Your Company Is Hiring Outside Consultants
Nick Kamboj is the CEO of Aston & James LLC in Chicago. His company is an advisory firm to prospective MBA graduate students.
Before that role, however, Kamboj had experience facilitating layoffs. “I am the one who has managed, unfortunately, many scenarios of managed attritions, layoffs and company closures,” he says. “In addition, I was also part of a very large managed attrition — layoff — activity at Accenture seven days post 9/11.”
According to Kamboj, “One of the first signs that a layoff is coming takes place several months before the actual event takes place. The first telltale sign is the hire of some external consultants, if it is a large organization, who are chartered with process optimization, improvement, re-engineering or business redesign.”
Those consultants are often tasked with deciding how many people can be laid off without the company falling apart, according to Kamboj.
You’ve Been Asked to Fill Out a Questionnaire
This may not always be the case. Some companies may send surveys for business improvement reasons.
But if you get a survey about your job, Kamboj says your antennae should be up.
If there are questions about whom you report to and what your role in the company is, that’s a bad sign, according to Kamboj.
“All of these questions are intended to do one thing, which is to better understand the impact that you make and what the challenges would be should you be downsized,” Kamboj says.
Granted, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be out of a job. But if every employee is asked to take this survey, some layoffs may be imminent.
Your Company Is Experiencing a Lot of Financial Losses
To nobody’s surprise, this is a sign that layoffs are coming.
Kamboj suggests following the quarterly earnings reports from your company if it is publicly traded. If it’s private, you can probably get an idea of the firm’s financial health through interoffice communications, he says.
One low quarter often isn’t a big concern, he adds. Six months or more of the same, and there’s a good chance that layoffs are coming. Of course, the rolling impacts of the coronavirus pandemic may speed up the typical timeline a bit.
Jennifer Lee Magas is the vice president at Magas Media Consultants LLC, a public relations firm in Monroe, Connecticut, and she is also a clinical associate professor of public relations at Pace University. Before that, she was an employment law attorney for the human resources department of an international commodities firm that employed 9,600 people.
She agrees with Kamboj. “When you receive that email from the president about a grim financial forecast with words such as ‘lower profits,’ pay attention. If the email includes the line, ‘We’re going to implement cost-saving measures and freeze all hiring,’ dust off your resume and update it immediately.”
There Are Signs of a Merger or Acquisition
While a merger or acquisition in the future can mean great things for a company, including hiring, it can also sometimes mean firing.
Employees could also face the prospect of losing their jobs unless they’re willing to relocate to a new headquarters.
You shouldn’t panic if you learn your company is going to be part of a merger or acquisition, but it does mean you should be on guard.
It’s the End of a Budget Cycle
There’s no need to worry if your company seems fine, and you happen to be coming to the end of a fiscal quarter. But if you are coming up on one, and you see a lot of other clues that a layoff may be eminent, then, yes, this could be a dangerous time for everybody’s employment.
[See: 25 Best Jobs That Pay $100K.]
People at the Top Are Leaving
This can be a bad sign. One or two people, maybe not. People do change careers, after all. But if a lot of your higher ups are going off to greener career pastures, they may know more about the health of the company than you do.
Still, it could just be that there’s a shakeup in management at the top, and you, safe and snug in the middle or at the bottom, have little to worry about.
The Company Isn’t Investing in Its People
Kamboj points out that this can be a bad sign.
“An organization that is hemorrhaging financially and is evaluating job transitions and layoffs does not invest as much into self-learning and formal training efforts as they have typically done so in the past,” Kamboj says. “The reason for this is that if the company believes that many of its people will be transitioned and no longer contribute to the company, then there really is no need to further their betterment.”
It also means that the company is saving money by not training, Kamboj adds, and if the company isn’t doing well, it probably wants to save money.
You’re No Longer in the Loop
This, too, is a pretty big red flag. But if it has happened gradually, you could miss it.
“When you’re not invited to closed-door meetings, and your boss is no longer including you on projects or asks you to pass the project to someone else, it’s likely your days are numbered,” Magas says.
Your Manager Isn’t Communicating With You
This, too, is a sign that maybe your manager doesn’t want to give you bad news.
“If you’ve asked your manager about layoffs and they can’t give you a definite no, layoffs are being considered,” says Nicolle Merrill, the founder of Future Skills, a training company based in Portland, Oregon, that helps people learn new skills and adapt to an ever-changing workplace.
There Are Whispers of Layoffs in the Workplace
Obviously, listening to the gossip mill isn’t smart. And yet, it is a clue. On its own, the fact that people are discussing layoffs may not mean much. Maybe there’s a big, wonderful investment in the company coming, and management is keeping it a secret, and everyone’s drawing the wrong conclusions.
But if there is mumbling in the company about layoffs and management isn’t taking pains to correct those perceptions, sure, that could be problematic.
You’ve Had a Bad Review
One bad performance review may not mean a thing, especially if your manager gave you a lot of hope and clearly wants to help you do better.
If you had a bad review, and you’re seeing other ominous signs, like your manager isn’t communicating with you, there are whispers of layoffs and you aren’t being picked for training seminars, you may want to become fast friends with a headhunter.
An Emergency All-Employee Meeting Has Been Scheduled
That, Merrill says, is “an immediate sign that layoffs will happen that day.”
Of course, if an all-employee meeting is scheduled, that doesn’t mean you’ll be among the layoffs.
Still, if at some point you do lose your job, Merrill says that it’s important to remember to keep everything in perspective.
“Layoffs are a business decision, even though it feels personal. It doesn’t reflect on you as a person or your ability to do good work,” she says.
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Update 04/12/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.