How to tell if job cuts are coming

These clues may indicate a pink slip with your name on it is headed your way—and what you can do about it.

How to tell if job cuts are coming

These are the signs that job cuts are likely on the way.

Getting handed a pink slip and being told to pack up your desk and exit your office is a terrible experience, no doubt—but it happens. Companies have job cuts for a number of reasons, and oftentimes these layoffs aren’t a reflection of a worker’s performance, which means there’s little you can do to prevent the inevitable. The people who land on their feet, though, are the ones who can spot a layoff before it happens.

So, how can you tell if your job might be in jeopardy? Check out some clues that a pink slip may have your name on it in the near future—and what you can do to keep your career moving forward.

Subtle signs of impending job cuts

1. Exciting projects are going to the “other guy.”

“If you volunteer to take on new and critical projects and find that instead of going to you, they get assigned to someone else, be on guard,” says Susan Peppercorn, career transition coach and principal of Positive Workplace Partners. “If this happens more than once, it’s time to dig deeper into why you’re being passed over.” Ask your manager what future projects you can look forward to taking on. If the answer is vague, that’s a tip off.

2. Nonessential budgets are being reduced or cut.

Executives are flying in coach—not business class anymore. Perks like free lunches start disappearing. Company-wide happy hours have suddenly vanished. The annual summer picnic has been canceled. When the fun things are no longer being sponsored, that means the money is tight, and that’s a red flag.

3. New products or expansions are being postponed.

In prosperous times, businesses are awash in initiatives for growth. In leaner times, they hunker down and return to basics by focusing on what is guaranteed to bring in revenue now, rather than looking to the future.

Serious signs that layoffs are looming

1. There’s a heightened sense of belt-tightening.

It’s never a good sign when the company starts putting all financial exchanges under a microscope and requiring approvals from the higher ups. For example: expense accounts are being scrutinized, new procedures are being implemented for securing purchase orders, and implementing approvals to tap petty cash for what were previously unquestioned expenditures.

2. There’s a merger or acquisition.

This event might be a smart move for a company as a whole, but it’s not always a great sign for its employees. “When someone is an executive in an organization that gets acquired, there’s a higher risk that their position will be eliminated if their position is duplicated at the acquiring company,” Peppercorn explains.

3. You’re being kept out of the loop.

Beginning to feel ostracized? Peppercorn offers this cautionary tale: “Before he was laid off, one of my clients found that he was no longer being invited to management team meetings and was removed from the distribution list. Within three months of being shut out, he was told that his job was being eliminated.” Speak up. Ask why you’re not getting invited and express your interest in participating.

4. Executives appear more stressed than normal.

Jennifer McClure, president of Unbridled Talent LLC, a leadership-advisory firm, says employees should also have their guard up if executives are being evasive or less than forthcoming with answers about future projects. For example, department heads or senior leaders are huddling behind closed doors, “and when they are around, there are furtive glances and perceptible frowns,” says career coach and resume strategist Jan Melnik.

Alarm bells

1. Your company is bleeding money.

“Interestingly, this one is frequently overlooked by people who are so dedicated to their company that they don’t pay attention to their company’s financials,” Peppercorn says. Don’t get spooked by a short-term dip in revenue—it happens even to thriving businesses. However, if your company is not making its profitability targets several quarters in a row, “it may be time to dust off your resume,” Peppercorn advises.

2. Essential budgets are being cut to the bone.

All business travel plans have been canceled. The marketing budget has been slashed. Your office has been downsized and moved to smaller, less-expensive digs. Such drastic budget cuts are valid reasons to watch your back.

3. There’s a hiring freeze.

When job postings have disappeared, that means the growth of the company is being put on hold. If a company isn’t growing, it’s struggling.

4. Executives are leaving in droves.

Senior managers are often privy to information that lower employees aren’t entitled to. When a significant number of top brass are jumping ship, company-wide layoffs could very well be around the corner.

5. There’s talk of restructuring.

Put simply, this is a euphemism for job cuts.

6. There’s already been a round of layoffs.

One round of job cuts isn’t the end of the world. More than one round indicates there will be even more rounds. Just because you survived one wave of layoffs doesn’t mean you’re safe. “A lot of people fear change, so they put their head in the sand,” laments Nancy Segal, owner of HR consulting firm Solutions for the Workplace.

7. Your boss or HR is asking you a ton of questions about what you do.

Or, worse yet, you’re being asked to write a job description for your position; that could be a sign that you’re about to be replaced, Melnik says.

8. You’re getting locked out of files or emails.

If you haven’t heard from HR or IT about why this happened, watch out, says career and executive coach Laura Berman Fortgang. “Of course, if you think there’s been a glitch or mistake, check that out before getting too nervous,” she recommends.

Don’t wait around

Instead of freaking out about impending layoffs, focus on what you can control—your own career. Jump-start your job search so you have options to consider before the fallout. Could you use some help with that? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on time spent looking through ads. Layoffs are a part of life, unfortunately, but a little foresight can go a long way. Let Monster lend you a hand.