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10 Layoff Warning Signs

written by: Krima Olive Molina•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 10/17/2010

Even if you are the best at what you do, you can still be vulnerable to company layoffs. Being the best at your position in the office isn't an automatic ticket to spare you from an impending layoff. What to do to be alert at all times? Here are ten layoff warning signs.

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    1. Increasingly Frequent Outsourcing

    Often hearing of outsourcing in several departments of your company? Outsourcing labor is one of our layoff warning signs. Production at cheaper costs is a stark sign that the company is cutting back the budget, and therefore deserves mention in our list of layoff warning signs. Chances are, the company's financial situation is bad and the budget is suffering alarmingly. As you very well know, outsourcing instead of hiring (and keeping) in-house employees saves a company a significant amount of money.

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    2. Merging

    Do you catch rumors of merger talks between your company and another bigger, more financially stable company? This is another sign that a round of layoffs is possible. Merging generally means that your company needs backup, and can mean reassessing of employees. Layoffs may be part of a move for getting rid of old talent and pushing in fresh, new skills by the partner company.

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    3. Internal Restructuring

    Have your bosses been talking about restructuring the management hierarchy, redefining the company goals and objectives, and interviewing people about how their goals match with that of the company's new list? Brace yourself. The managers may be looking for ways to say "good luck" and "thank you" to some unfortunate employees in the event of layoffs.

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    4. MIA

    Do you often find yourself uninvited in important meetings? Are your weekly routine meetings with your immediate boss slowly becoming nonexistent? These may be other layoff warning signs. There is the potential that the company is seriously assessing whether or not your ideas, or your presence, are valuable to the institution.

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    5. Less Tasks

    Are the items in your task list slowly trickling down to a pathetic zero? If you start to notice that the responsibilities passed on to you are becoming more and more trivial, it's a screaming sign that your bosses don't believe in your capabilities anymore. Worse, some managers even use this to set the stage for your layoff.- They could eventually bring up your mediocre tasks as the reason for your layoff. Be wary of this.

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    6. Suddenly Aimless

    Once upon a time, your boss excitedly talked to you about your future plans in the company. Name it, he mentioned it - career path alignment, suitability of trainings given, and even an orientation of the job descriptions of the bosses. If these talks have completely stopped, then accept the fact that those conversations are but a distant dream that you shouldn't dwell on anymore.

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    7. Cost Cutting

    Out of the blue, your company suddenly cuts back on the drinking water supplies. Then, you find yourself scrimping on precious paper because the company has drastically limited paper supplies per department. If cost-cutting scenarios happen all over the company in almost every department, it signals a deep financial problem that might result in unavoidable layoffs.

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    8. Less Emails

    Your inbox which was once teeming with emails is now sitting empty of new messages. Colleagues and bosses who had been corresponding with you have now become online ghosts - remnants of what was once a healthy exchange of career plans, tasks, and delegation of responsibilities. Be alerted by this and start becoming more in tune with possible circulating layoff rumors.

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    9. Announcement of Low Earnings

    Sure, every company lets its employees become privy to annual earnings and costs of labor and materials. If your company announces dangerously weak sales that are accompanied by announcements of cost-cutting and minimizing of supplies, this usually means a graver problem. This is one of the very obvious layoff warning signs. Take this as a sign that your company is on the brink of shedding off employees from its organization.

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    10. Weird Smiles

    This isn't a joke--be sensitive to times when you would bump into your bosses and they give you a weird, fixed smile that has insincere written all over it. They may also suddenly become too nice to you. Don't take offense in this, though. Your bosses are probably just as devastated with losing you and they know no other way to deal with you about this than to treat you extra nicely during your last days.

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    Double Action Plan

    What to do when you observe some of these layoff warning signs? Immediately launch your two-sided action plan. First, do all possible means to amp up your performance--you should become someone your company could never let go of. Think it's too late to do this? Last impressions always last. If your bosses have been observing lately how professional and diligent you are, that image of you will stick in their minds.

    However, when layoffs are just around the corner and you feel that it will actually happen, plan your escape simultaneously with your action strategy above. Start getting in touch with your outside network and become more available to them. Establish your presence in your other existing networks and show them you are one smart worker they would want to hire as their own. Yes, layoffs are ugly, but it may just be the next big thing in your career that you will be thankful for later on.