Is a layoff in your future? It might be time to sniff out clues that might protect your own interests, as you can be certain your employers are protecting their own.


This is a guest post from Deb Perelman of TechRepublic’s sister site ZDNet.

Before a company goes under, just about everybody knows it. And before everybody knows it, a bunch of people are already whispering in the corridors and around the water cooler, certain they see the writing on the wall. But what about you? Can you read the clues sprinkled like breadcrumbs down the cubicle aisles?

The benefits to the common worker of seeing the doom in your company’s future before they get around to mentioning that, oh, paychecks are running a few days behind this week, are immeasurable: First of all, the sooner one has the inkling that their organization isn’t doing so hot, the sooner they can get their resume in the hands of friends and former coworkers, in hopes to make an exit before the pink slips are shipped. Second, it is a lot easier to find a job if you already have one — or in this case, while you already have one. Finally, say you’re in an IT group of 1,000 at a company that has decided to offshore the whole shebang (there are almost too many examples to choose from, sadly) in a desperate cost-cutting measure one day. Rather than be in that job market flooded with techies with experience similar to yours, you could be ahead of the rush, and hopefully in the front of the line for the best positions.

Here are some of the most common things to look out for. Do any one of these mean you should go into a full-out panic and take the first job you can get? Of course not. But if some of them sound all too familiar, it might be time to sniff out further clues that might protect your own interests, as you can be certain your employers are protecting their own.

  • It’s no longer focused on what was once its business. Straying from the business’s main product or service is a common occurrence when a company is struggling. You work for a widget manufacturer that’s suddenly making outside real estate investments? You’re absolutely right to find that fishy.
  • Their customer base is limited. Say your company only sells their widgets to one or two buyers; if either of their accounts are lost to bankruptcy or the buyer is opting for a competitor’s widgets instead, your company may struggle to stay afloat until they can find a new one, if they find one at all.
  • It hasn’t bounced back from its last downsizing. If two years after laying off 50 percent of the workforce, your company is still making the same number of widgets because employees are still doing the jobs of four people, you’re right to feel a little unsettled.