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There has been a rumor lately about a massive round of layoffs at my company.

Some other company in a neighbor city has just opened a spot for a programmer and I could apply there. If I do though, my current company is definitely going to hear about it, and I don't want them to think I'm looking for another job (I'm really not).

Being one of the latest additions at the company, it's fair to assume that if the rumors are true, they would consider laying me off.

Is it okay to go to my manager and express my worries? If I am to apply to another job, I'd have to do it fast, before they hire someone else. There aren't many opportunities where I live (very small town). The other job is not as well paid as my current one, so I don't want to switch jobs preemptively. How do I approach this matter?

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    I would apply. The manager would be forbidden to tell you if a layoff is coming. – HLGEM Aug 30 '13 at 20:45
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    How is your company going to find out? It would be very unethical for anyone to tell them. – user8365 Aug 30 '13 at 21:19
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    @JeffO, very small town. Everyone knows everything about everyone. – Pedro Cordeiro Aug 30 '13 at 21:36
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    @KeithThompson, in general yes managers know about this stuff months ahead of time and are expected to keep it secret. It would be a firing offense for them to tell you before the offical date that they tell everyone. – HLGEM Sep 3 '13 at 10:43
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    Didn't see the last word in the question title, and quickly clicked it, only to be disappointed. – sampathsris Jul 7 '17 at 13:23
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It depends on your relationship with your manager. If you have trust and respect, it can be done. Go to the manager and tell him that you've heard rumors of layoffs. Then tell him about the other job, that you prefer this job: for the pay, the work, and the leadership (or whatever the reasons are). Then ask if he thinks you should apply for the other job. As others have commented, he may not be able to tell you if you are on the layoff list, but his reaction to that question should give you ideas of whether you should or not. He may even assure you that the rumors are not true.

Of course, there is no guarantee you would get the other job, or even an interview. But by talking to him first, you're avoiding the problem of him hearing of it from another source.

I was once on a layoff list and knew it. I went to my boss and said that I suspected I was on the list, and asked for the consideration of 2 weeks notice if it was true, so I could wrap up projects and make sure things were not left hanging. He said he couldn't give me that notice. He didn't reassure me that I wasn't going to be laid off, he didn't seem concerned by my question, and that non-answer was also an answer.

So, even if your relationship with your boss isn't great, it is still possible to get an answer, although that will be more dangerous. You could get put on the list if he figures you have a fall back opportunity.

In many ways, even if you have a good relationship with him, you're looking at what he doesn't say.

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I worked for a company that was in financial stress - in fact the entire industry was in stress, but I didn't know about it until about six weeks after I started my job. Basically the VPs showed up one day and said they'd had a cost overrun on a project and were implementing a hiring freeze. Yup. Been there, done that. Realistically, it meant downsizing, sooner or later.

I put my resume in circulation immediately. It took me well over a year to find another position. While most likely a coincidence, I had been given an offer on Friday and discovered I was in the current layoff round of the original company the next Monday.

Lesson being that hopping to another lily pad may not merely be a matter of being out the door first. Would, for example, the employer with the new job be financially affected if the current employer lays off a bunch of people? If so, would the new job disappear as fast as the one you have?

The only real 'security' is to be working in an area with more demand than supply, and to have skills in the disciplines with the highest demand. If you can't find that in 'the next city' keep broadening your search until you find more work than you can stand.

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I like what thursdaysgeek said about this depending on your relationship with your manager. That relationship really does influence how I'd approach your concerns.

I had an experience like this once and what happened was that we knew some layoffs were coming. About the same time I knew of an opportunity elsewhere. I had a good relationship with my boss at the time, we respected each other and he knew I was a good employee.

I felt I could be honest with him so I told him one day, "Look, I know you're going to have to release someone and I may have an opportunity somewhere else. If you want, we can make for an amicable split. I can quit and move on, and you get to look like a good guy that didn't have to fire anyone."

He took it well and wanted me to stay so I did. But you have to be careful because some bosses would perceive that as a slight on them or the company and if they're the type to succumb to petty human things like anger or revenge then they may go ahead and release you ahead of schedule.

TL;DR version: if you have an opportunity to leave voluntarily when the company is looking to layoff, communication with management could lead to a win-win scenario. But if the environment is not one where honesty is valued, then I'd look into the other opportunity while still delivering at the current job, and not say anything. That puts you in the best position to be prepared for either eventuality.

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    Good point about looking for a win-win scenario, in the case where you have a good relationship with the boss. – thursdaysgeek Sep 3 '13 at 16:34

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