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‘I’m Worried About Layoffs at My Company’

A woman with curly black hair and wearing a black blazer stands looking off to the side, her arms crossed over her chest.
Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Getty Images

Hi Kimberly,

I’m a middle manager who’s not in tech, but I know that layoffs happen in all industries. I continue to read stories online and hear whispers at my office about the potential for significant layoffs. It’s not officially confirmed, but I know they will be coming in the next three to six months. At the same time, I absolutely hate my job and I’d love to start a job search. How can I balance job searching during a time of recession when everyone is so nervous about getting laid off? Is there anything that I can do to avoid being laid off at my current company, or at a new company immediately after starting?

There isn’t a sure way to avoid being laid off by your employer. You can watch out for the signs that a company may be thinking about doing layoffs, though, and position yourself as best you can to avoid being on the chopping block should they happen.

First and foremost, performance is critical to setting yourself up to keep your current position. While some companies may eliminate entire departments to increase cost savings, others may opt to get rid of low performers, since it’s much easier to lay off workers than terminate them during a time of recession. In other words, this isn’t the time to quiet quit. Think about your day-to-day responsibilities and your skill set, then determine if there are any gaps you could fill or problems you could solve in your department, given your unique background. Step up to the plate if you have the bandwidth to do so. It’s not about overworking yourself; it’s about aligning yourself with your employer’s needs. Also think about areas where you can acquire new, in-demand skills that are relevant in your field, which will help both in your current role and in pitching yourself to potential employers in your job search.

Next, make sure that you’re building and maintaining strong relationships with colleagues, managers, and sponsors across your organization. During times of uncertainty, you don’t want to be your company’s best kept secret; you want people to know who you are and what you do. If you don’t already have a network of relationships with key stakeholders, make a list of the colleagues you’d like to connect with and set up coffee chats to introduce yourself. If your employer is creating a layoff list, advocates who are supportive of your work and invested in your career may speak up on your behalf.

It’s also crucial that you remain adaptable and flexible. During an economic downturn, companies may need to make adjustments in order to pivot the business and retain key employees. This could include instructing you to take on additional responsibilities or a new role that you may not be excited about. If that happens, respond by positioning yourself as a resilient, team player.

At the same time, keep tabs on your employer’s financial health, industry trends, and market conditions. This knowledge can help you anticipate potential challenges and position yourself strategically in your current role — or in your job search. Make sure you have insider information prior to making any significant career moves. Reach out to your existing network to learn more about how your current company (or other companies you may be interested in working for) has handled layoffs in the past and stay up to date on any public-facing announcements that could reveal signs of impending cuts.

If your company is experiencing financial difficulties, such as declining revenues, profit losses, or cash-flow problems, it may signal that layoffs are imminent. Watch out for cost-cutting measures, such as reducing employee benefits, freezing hiring, implementing furloughs, or scaling back on existing projects. These actions are often taken to reduce expenses and streamline operations. Organizational changes, such as mergers, acquisitions, or significant restructuring, can result in redundancies or job eliminations.

Pay attention to any changes in communication from the leadership team as well. A sudden lack of transparency, frequent rumors, or a decrease in open communication about the company’s future plans could indicate that layoffs are being discussed or planned. If your company starts outsourcing work to external agencies, relocating work functions to other countries, or even bringing work back in-house that was previously contracted to individuals or agencies, it may be a sign that it’s trying to reduce costs.

It’s important to note that these signs are not definitive proof of impending layoffs. Gather information from multiple sources and maintain open communication with your team to get a clearer understanding of the situation. It’s always a good idea to save toward a nest egg that can cover your expenses for three to six months in case your employer eliminates your position. But many of my clients (and myself!) have successfully moved into new jobs during a recession without being laid off. The keys are to keep yourself informed, remain active in your network, and look out for new roles in your industry that align with your skills.

Sadly, today will be my last day answering questions on the Cut. I’ve loved writing this column, and I will forever hope that your next career move is your best move. I’ll be continuing to answer your questions on the Your Next Move podcast and in my weekly newsletter. You can keep up with me on my website,

‘I’m Worried About Layoffs at My Company’