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We got hit with another wave of layoffs. Typical - comes Friday morning the boss calls everyone that still have a job to the conference room and give the news. However there is no assurance that there are more shoes to drop, and this is impacting my ability to concentrate on my work. I simply have no idea if I should just start looking for alternative employment, or if I should flat out ask them if they consider me to still be an asset and needed by the company, who knows, they may actually need the core remnants of the group to provide some continuity.

Is it advisable to ask them or would that reveal my potential intentions to move my career someplace else?

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Regardless of whether they plan to you around or not, I would start looking. If you don't feel safe, then get out. –  David K Jul 2 at 17:19
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You have no idea if you should start looking for alternative employment. I have a very strong idea that you should. And consider that your strongest responsibility is towards you and your family, and an employer who has laid off several people without warning would not be my strongest priority to care about. –  gnasher729 Jul 2 at 17:42
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To take it a step further, instead of starting to look for alternatives when things are iffy, keep your job search on a simmer at all times. Even if things are going well it doesn't hurt to reach out and even interview with potential employers. This way you develop contacts that may become valuable when you need to leave-- or when you need to hire. –  teego1967 Jul 2 at 18:32
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Put simply - yes, you should be looking for another job. Do it now while you're in a better negotiating position. Do not mention the layoffs as a reason you want to leave your job as this will impact the offer you get (lower) and make your negotiating position worse. Best of luck. –  Bob Jarvis Jul 4 at 0:55

9 Answers 9

up vote 58 down vote accepted

Rarely if ever will an employer give a direct, honest & unwavering answer to this question. Either because they can't/don't want to show their hand, or because they honestly don't know. Or the answer they give today could change tomorrow.

I have a former colleague who was told by a trusted source on one day that "no layoffs are coming." 2 days later, we watched as 25% of our department was laid off.

Even if you're "assured" that you're safe, never assume that you're safe. Things can change fast.

Asking this question has almost no upside for you, and several potential downsides:

  • You could be seen as disloyal, and added to the current layoff list
  • You could be on the next layoff list, regardless of whether you ask the question or not
  • You could be left as the only member of your group who isn't laid off (because you're the "most essential" person), and you're suddenly left doing the work of 3 or 4 people.

Start your own job search now, quietly. Don't give the company any direct indication that you're looking to get out (they'll probably assume you are anyway, it's not uncommon in the wake of layoffs).

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+1 Agree. Start searching, if you do it discreetly there is no downside to it. If you aren't laid off, no problem. If you are, you have a couple of weeks headstart to you colleagues who will be competing for the same jobs as you. –  Fredrik Jul 3 at 13:12

Unless you occuppy a critical position in the firm, you are just as expendable of the rest of the staff.

My advice to you is that there is no point to waiting for the other shoe to drop. There is a lag time - resume and references updates, scouring of wanted ads, etc - before the job search to revv up, so I suggest you get proactive and start now. The other good thing about getting in gear with the job search is that you have less time available to get anxious about you within the context of the future of the company :)

Don't bother asking whether you will be spared from layoffs. First, this is a guarantee they can't give you in good faith and if you were truly critical, you'd know from your day to day relationship with the firm that you are critical and they should have reached out to you and given you assurances. Second, they'll know from your question and their inability to answer your question that you just telegraphed that you will be looking for a job soon. So at best, you wasted your time. At worst, you just woke up the whole neighborhood. Don't telegraph and sign your punches.

As the Bible says, there is a time to speak and there is a time for silence. This is not the time to speak.

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I would add, never assume even if you're in a critical position you are safe. I've seen CEOs go through a layoff then lock the doors and turn off the lights, I've also seen layoffs lead to a CEO being forcefully removed by their board. Always have a plan B, often that's having some solid leads on job opportunities line up just in case. –  RualStorge Jul 3 at 14:49

Always be ready to start looking for another job. These days, there's no such thing as "stable." Companies, including large companies, are constantly in a state of flux. And if you a) don't get on really well with your team and b) provide more value to the company there, than not...you could potentially be up for being let go. Heck, even if everyone loves the daylights out of you, you could be up for a pink slip if things are rocky enough for the company.

Echoing what others have said, it's true that companies will rarely give out honest answers about whether or not a position is going to be retained. That's sometimes because they don't want to reveal anything that may potentially be leaked to the press/competitors, but more often it's because the person you're asking doesn't know. (And the situation could change in an hour.)

The way I would approach something like this is:

  • be prepared to be unemployed at any point (have savings built up, have resume updated, keep network connections alive)...and once you have those preparations in place, stop obsessing about them

THEN

  • ask your boss about the overall team's stability, and what they know about the team's directions for next week, next month, next quarter

OR

  • ask your boss about other ways you can contribute, or ask about moving to other roles within the organization. Don't just express "I'm worried about being unemployed," say "I really love doing X, and I'd like to start doing that more. Is there a way I can do that while staying on this team, or is there another role in the company where I can contribute those skills?"

I would not just sit back and hope for the best, because that isn't wise; but I wouldn't live in fear of being jobless either, because 'being jobless at some point' is pretty much an accepted fact of life in today's work world.

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tl;dr

Don't ask. and Start looking for a new job.


Reasoning:

If you are in a position where you're looking for reassurance about your job security, that gives you a lot of information about you and your state of mind, and very little information about the company that you're working for.

The reassurance is really a change in your own mind - and not a change in the company. you're looking to have some sort of confidence in the future.

Also, in general, no matter what your goals or state of mind, the action of asking about your job security is:

  • unlikely to increase your security. if there is any change to your job security as a result, it will be almost always to less secure
  • unlikely to give you useful information. almost no one else, at the company, other than you, knows more than you do about how secure your position is.

The best way to gain confidence in your position is to have alternatives lined up. So, don't ask, and start looking.

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Asking may not help you. Nobody may know. If the company is in a bad situation things may be starting to spin out of control. As they lay people off. they can lose other business, which requires more layoffs. Cash outlays due to the layoffs, may impact their line of credit, which could cause a cash flow problem and more layoffs.

Local management, and even the board of directors may not have a good idea if this is the last of the layoffs.

If you are uncertain start the process of finding a new job or a second job. Dust off the resume/CV, start working your networks.

While asking too many questions may indicate that you are a potential painless cut next time, they also have to realize that once there is blood in the water everybody starts looking. The next losses may actually be the quitting of good but nervous employees. I have been there.

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would that reveal my potential intentions to move my career

The employer would be astoundingly stupid to think that most of its employees don't have at least potential intentions to go elsewhere. Ongoing layoffs do that to your workforce. So you wouldn't really be "revealing" anything. You'd be confirming what they already think they know.

The reason it might create awkwardness, is that you'd be bringing up something they don't want talked about. So whether you can raise the issue depends a lot on the personality of the person you raise it with and how you raise it. Everyone else is in the same position that you are, with the same concerns, including your boss. Everyone wants as much information as they can get, about the prospects of the company and themselves. It's natural to ask, and they'll be expecting people to ask, but they also won't enjoy the fact they have to tell everyone who asks that they can't guarantee anything. Make your decision based on that.

ask them if they consider me to still be an asset and needed by the company

Yes, they do. If they didn't they'd have laid you off already. Since they're making layoffs, there is no reason not to have included you if they didn't want you. If you need to hear that directly from your managers, and it will help your feelings about work, then go for it, ask. They will tell you "yes", and you will say, "great, that makes me feel a lot better", and you don't look disloyal.

However there is no assurance that there are more shoes to drop

Correct, and you cannot get that assurance. The company is in trouble, or it would not have already made more than one round of layoffs. The people they laid off, especially in second and subsequent rounds, are people they previously valued and thought they needed.

Aside from more layoffs, the company could go out of business. It could get a big new contract and start hiring again. Realistically the former is more likely than the latter, but you need a job, and no job or employer is secure forever, so you accept some risk.

I've been in this position, although there was only ever one set of layoffs, not multiple rounds. The time from the layoffs until when the company (actually, a sort of follow-on company, the details were complicated) went bust was about 8 years or so. Not everyone plans to be at their current employer for 8 years anyway, and in fact I left 4 or 5 years before the bust. So what the heck. I don't think I played the situation perfectly, but whenever anything ends badly you'll wish you'd ended it sooner. Accept that.

this is impacting my ability to concentrate on my work

You might be able to improve this with some kind of cognitive self-trick like, "I don't have to worry about this. I have a couple of months salary saved. I will work for this company for as long as the job still exists and I still enjoy it, and then I will find another job".

Alternatively, if you simply cannot bear to work for a company that's in trouble, then the job isn't good any more and you should look for another.

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The companies that doesn't plan to fire people doesn't usually call people to tell them she doesn't plan to fire people.

If there are no reductions on horizont, it's also not typical to tell you your position is stable. There's simply no need to say that unless someone asks.

It's just like with kids. If you come home and your child stands in doors and says "daddy/mommy, I love you", something bad had happened ;)

So if you boss is calling everyone to say they still have the job and shouldn't worry, you should worry because it's an obvious warning signal.

As what should you do, it depends on your priorities and financial situation. If the company breakdown would be a nice pretext to take 3 months vacation, do nothing. However, if you need constant money income, you should start looking for new job now!

Please note, that looking for job is no obligation. You doesn't have to take a new offer, or even an interview. But you should just look what's going on around - who is recruiting, what competences are currently on top, what are the wages etc.

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Using the "Spidey Sense" metaphor. If you suspect your job/position is in danger of being cut, then it is. You need to be looking now. Never reveal your intentions to leave until you secure the new position and you are going to be giving your two-week notice. If you reveal your intentions of looking for a new job and you cannot find one or one that you want, a lot of times, they will place you on the chopping block, next. Be very careful with that!

A couple tough questions:

  • Are you "married" to your position that you have to keep in there?
  • Is the current job that good?

Things to consider:

  • Keep your resume/vitae/cover letters up-to-date. All of the time, even when you do have "great job"..
  • Network, network, network.. As much as possible, keep your connections intact, LinkedIn is a good resource

When you do land:

  • Keep your training, certifications up-to-date and relevant (I have an CompTIA A+ Certification that is no longer valid or recognized).. Maybe go back to college or trade school (if you have the financial wherewithal to do it)
  • Listen to that "inner voice". Is this really what I want to do for the next 30-40 years? Am I the rat on "exercise wheel" just going round and round? Do you really like to do something with say kids at your church? Reading to them.. Teachers and teacher assistants are not paid very well, but their benefits are (or at least) used to be awesome!
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A lot of people think in terms of being loyal to the company but as you've seen that loyalty only ever goes one way. The company expects you to be loyal to a fault but thinks nothing of dropping people without warning when it suits them. So the first thing to do is be clear that you owe the company nothing more than your contract explicitly states, and your first loyalty is to yourself and, if applicable, your partner and children.

If you ask the obvious question "is my job safe" the chances are you'll be assured it is, and the chances are the answer means precisely nothing. If the company thinks they'll need to keep you, they'll assure you your job is safe. If the company isn't sure whether they'll need you, they'll assure you your job is safe so you'll stay until they don't need you. If they know full well your job is next in line to be cut, they'll assure you your job is safe so you don't get any ideas about revenge or even jumping before they're finished with you.

I once ended a contract having done almost no handover at all because the person "managing" me (I use the word in its loosest possible context) assured me that my contract would be renewed right up until the day before it expired. Because I still hadn't heard I called him at home and he finally admitted that I wasn't being renewed. It had been obvious to me for weeks so I'd made sure I left things in as professional a manner as I was able but because he'd been trying to maintain the pretense that my job was safe he hadn't designated anyone to take over where I left off, so all I could do was send an email to my user base thanking them for their support over the years and a separate email to the people I thought were best placed to take over letting them know what I'd done and where to find the documentation I'd written, and wishing them good luck.

I've also known someone told in totally unambiguous terms that her job was safe the day before she left on a two-week break, only for her to return to be told she didn't have a job any more. The manager's reason for lying to her was that he didn't want to spoil her holiday. Quite how returning from a holiday to be told you don't have a job any more is any better was never made clear.

If your job is specifically uncertain the thing to do is take a look around for another job. The worst that can happen is you get a job offer and decide not to pursue it.

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