Layoffs are classic blind curves up a mountain road. One simply cannot predict them. These mountain roads have so many warnings of curves, landslides ahead, etc.. However, the rush of going up the mountain can blind one to those warnings. Those traveling up in the Himalayas may remember the Border Roads signs. One particular one which has stuck with me is “If you sleep, your family will weep.”
The polite request for meeting by HR or your manager, where one is told “your services are no longer needed,” can turn out to be a numbing, life-altering experience. Even though we know better, we do bind our self worth to our job and position. With the logo, the slick workspace with its fun colours, swanky cafeteria, funky meeting rooms, fast escalators and all the routine of going to a workplace gone, one is left with a huge emptiness, like you are staring down a deep well which does not end. The thought of the fast depleting wallet doesn’t help either. All of one’s self-doubts come rising to the surface and anger clouds all other emotions.
The layoff almost always is not to do with only performance reasons. Absolutely, quit feeling bad for yourself. Stuff happens. Did you not fall down as a kid, brush off and get up? That’s the right approach for all of life’s knocks.
In hindsight, what could be the signs that you ignored? Could you have prepared your lifeboat earlier? You would be surprised how many people ignore the clear-as-day signs that their job is in jeopardy.
7 “obvious” signs that a layoff is coming:
1. Industry changes: New products, AI may be already replacing jobs. Your 80 hour work weeks cannot save your job. The business is reeling under regulatory changes or huge input costs. Telecom and Airlines are two classic examples in today’s world scenario.
2. Ready for outsourcing: Your job in the in-house call center or hr service delivery may just get outsourced as companies look to slash costs on vanilla roles. Chances are if there are big outsourcing players for your roles, you need to work on developing more skills.
3. Budgets start getting slashed: The office picnic is now a pizza meet at work, the coffee has gone from an exotic roast to regular fare and birthday celebrations have gone from once a month celebration to none at all.
4. Projects and products getting postponed: In good times, there is a lot more investment in new initiatives, products, all of which tends to get postponed in bad times.
5. Senior leaders resigning: More often than not, it is an indicator that these leaders have lost confidence in the firm. They jump ship before things get worse.
6. Your influence is shrinking: A new boss, or some developments at work, whatever may be the reason, you discover that you are no longer being sent emails, or getting invited to meetings. This happens over time and sometimes one misses the writing on the wall.
7. Performance ratings: 14 years of solid performance ratings and you now start receiving poor performance reviews which truly baffle you. You have been overlooked for that promotion for the umpteenth time, despite being on the “radar,” and a plan for more than 3 years.
A not so obvious sign could be your compensation. Many a time, one gets happy at that huge pay hike. It could be a double-edged sword. Someone wielding an ROI sword over compensation vs productivity might just come up with a “unique” suggestion to replace the costly resource with a less cost resource. All your years of hard work and loyalty could just vanish in a moment.
Have you been guilty of slacking? Or sneaking behind your boss? Or has there been an embarrassing moment for your boss because of you? Chances are your name may just enter the layoff list for any of these reasons. Human behaviour is unpredictable. Having a professional attitude at work cannot be emphasized enough.
So start facing what you have been ignoring and take stock of your position. Work on your lifeboat. Use your Sunday afternoon to assess the health of your lifeboat.
Do watch out for the next article on “7 Ways to Keep Your Lifeboat Ready” – coming soon.
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