Ask Ken: July 2010

Hi Ken,
What are some signs or indicators that a layoff is about to occur? And how do I avoid the cut?
Thanks for your insight,
Dear Rick,
Hopefully you are asking out of curiosity and the hypothetical instead of your current situation. Unfortunately, this has been a reality of our current economy. I think there are things that make you less likely to get laid off, but I don’t think it is completely possible to avoid the cut altogether all the time. Layoffs have a lot of causes but ultimately boils down to one underlying problem, profitability. All businesses need to turn a profit or if nothing else (for non-profits) break even, which is to say money spent doesn’t exceed money coming in.

Put simply, a good sign of potential layoffs is that business is down. It could be the business you work for or the clients your company serves. How is business doing? Are you hunting for work to do? Lots of idle time? Are they reducing your hours, limiting overtime? While some of us appreciate the break from time-to-time…slow times are generally a bad indicator. If the company is not busy, if you don’t have steady work or clients, than you might worry. If your employer is publically traded it might be a little easier to figure out if a layoff is coming by keeping your eyes on the financials. All publically traded companies are required to provide financial information to the public (via annual reports, press releases and stock exchange information). Some business regularly go through hiring and layoff cycles. Some businesses try to bank a lot of their profits to keep large amounts of cash on hand for down cycles or rainy days others don’t due to credit lines, assets or outlook.

The best thing you can do to avoid the cut is to be the most valuable asset you can be. That sounds a little vague but that is because the answer depends on who you are, what you are doing and where you fit into the organization. You want to be so valuable that they can’t afford to lose you (if that is possible). You want to be their MVP without

the MVP attitude/arrogance. It also helps that you make a positive impression with most everyone. I don’t have any statistics to back me up but I would imagine that unhappy, unliked or abrasive people, unless they are VERY good are probably some of the first to be laid off.

Thanks for the question and hope that helps,


By Norma Riehle
Published July 22, 2010
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