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Signs You're About To Be Laid Off

Having an edge on the competition is always a positive, even when it comes to identifying signs you're about to be laid off.


Today's economy is not one where you can count on your job to be there in the next two years. It's just not. Between outsourcing, stock upheavals, cost-cutting and the occasional company folding, smart employees will learn to watch for the signs that layoffs are going to start happening. 

By looking for these signs of certain doom, you can prevent yourself from being blindsided by a very common problem in today's workplace - and prepare yourself for the worst. 

There's a lot of personal tension, bickering, and "icing out" going on between employees.

Image via The Devil Wears Prada

In almost any situation where people feel threatened, a very common response will be to start attacking people that they feel may harm their ability to stay secure. 

In the office, people who feel like their job is at stake are way more likely to start making mean digs at people who they feel outperform them. Cutthroat employees may even go so far as to steal others' work, turn into yes-men, or go full tattletale in order to avoid getting fired. 

Both employers and employees may also try to subtly "push" people out of the company in order to avoid having to actually lay them off. This is done to save their jobs - and also make them feel better for not having to tell you that you're laid off. 

Either way, if you notice strained relationships, this is something you should be worried about. 

The company's profits just aren't doing as well as they used to - or worse, your results sucked.

Photograph by Ruby Yeh

Layoffs don't usually happen when companies are booming and profits are soaring through the roof. Rather, that's usually when most businesses are expanding because they don't have enough help to run things with all the new demand. 

If your company is lagging, or your results aren't as good as what you've promised, then you should be worried. This is particularly true if it's been a longtime trend. After all, there's only so long a company can take before you end up getting fired for not producing enough. 

In many cases, industry-wide problems are a start to major problems in terms of layoffs. Always pay attention to these kinds smoke signals, since there's often fire not too far away from it.

The bosses are changing up.

Most career experts agree that seeing a string of fires in the higher up positions is a key sign that heads are going to roll. New bosses may take a look at all the employees and try to hire their own new stock as a way to cut costs and "refresh" the company. 

Additionally, if the position of your now ex-boss is very hard to replace, you should definitely take note of that. This often indicates that the entire team may be let go or outsourced. 

Similarly, higher ups that leave of their own accord may know something that you don't. If a lot of them are leaving while everything seems good, you may want to follow suit. 

An increase in closed door meetings, whispers, and secretive moves by management.

Generally speaking, managers like to keep an open door unless something is really looking bad. When they begin to get secretive, it could be because they know that their employees may end up balking at some of the moves that they're deciding to do. 

The most upsetting offense would be layoffs, right? And, if people find out that they are about to be laid off, it may cause lower productivity as well as sudden exits. Neither is good for company profits - so they'll keep their mouths (and doors) shut until it's formally announced. 

You're noticing a lot of younger people sitting in cubicles near you - and you're asked to train one to do your job.

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer

A common trend these days is to hire young people who want to learn the ropes to a business, get them trained by higher ups, and then fire the higher ups when the junior trainees learn the skill. For most people, this tactic is considered to be "writing on the wall"-level obvious. 

Should you notice a lot of younger people in your company, or if you notice plenty of people who aren't really as qualified as you doing your job, you need to start planning an exit plan. You're up on the chopping block - and they're literally having you train your replacement. 

You hear the word "restructuring" and it applies to your company.

Illustrated by Sydney Hass

When a company is restructuring, they're doing so because they need to save money or because the company's current employees aren't as efficient as they could be. Restructuring can be great for the company.

But, it's pretty terrible for employees. 

If you hear this word, you need to start applying for jobs as soon as you possibly can. Most of the time, restructuring comes with massive layoffs - and even management isn't immune.  

The projects that you helped spearhead are being reassigned without warning.

Illustrated by Sydney Hass

A big warning signal that things are going to get ugly for you is when you see the work that you were always assigned going to other people. Additionally, if you were the one who started a company project, getting it yanked out of your hands may be a sign that they're scrapping your department. 

You also should be very concerned if you notice that your overall workload is dwindling. If you regularly find yourself with less and less responsibilities, then you may be dealing with a layoff sooner than later. 

You really don't feel like part of the team anymore.

Photo by Andrew Neel

People who know that someone is about to get fired will often get very uncomfortable talking to them. They may be unable to make eye contact with you, may have a hard time talking to you, or might even start giving you a cold shoulder. It's a difficult thing to mitigate on an emotional level - so most people just don't

Overall, people who are about to get laid off or fired will typically feel like they're no longer welcome in the company. If you're getting this feeling in your gut, it's probably time to dust off the resume. 

You got a bad review, or you seem to be getting warnings over little things that never mattered before.

Illustrated by Sydney Hass

Be careful if you notice an uptick in scolding or bosses that seem more keen on discouraging you than encouraging you. Many companies will devise reasons to fire someone so that they don't have to pay unemployment insurance. 

Generally speaking, any time that you end up with an employer that gets way more critical of you than before is a time that you should be asking questions. Why are they critical all of a sudden? Do they have a legitimate point, or does it seem like they're grasping at straws? 

If it doesn't feel legit, or if it feels like abuse, you need to leave before the axe comes down on you.  

Amenities begin to disappear.

Illustrated by Sydney Hass

A common but subtle sign of layoffs happens when employers decide to start by trimming the fat on corporate goodies. If you notice less free coffee, less free cookies, and generally a less inviting atmosphere, things aren't running well at the business. 

The only exception to this rule are Kleenex boxes. If you notice a box of these sitting on a board desk all of a sudden, that may be a sign that there are group layoffs about. 

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