Warning Signs of a Layoff

By: Marie Donlon

While it isn’t often that we can accurately predict when something is about to happen, it never hurts to be prepared. This goes for anything from car trouble to a job loss. Luckily, for both car trouble and potential layoffs, there are warning signs and being prepared for either scenario can make all of the difference in the world.

Just as your dashboard lights up at the first signs of car trouble, consider the following dashboard some warnings of an impending layoff.

Your Gut
The first sign that something might be up on the work front will likely come from your gut. Are you feeling that something is off in the workplace? Do you sense changes on the horizon? Unless you are paranoid, let this be a warning to polish off your resume and to start looking at jobs in your field.

The Rumor Mill

Surely everyone has worked at a company where the rumor mill works overtime. And while a lot of what moves through the rumor mill can be misinformation or the stuff of workplace drama, where there is smoke, there is fire. If the rumor mill seems to be overwhelmed with chatter about layoffs, take this as a warning sign. Though you don’t want to legitimize office gossip, you also don’t want to ignore it, especially if it seems to be coming from well-placed sources.

Closed Doors

If it seems that the doors to the offices of the higher ups are closed more often than not, perhaps some planning is being done about the company’s future. Pay particular attention to your own supervisor’s or manager’s office door. If their door is closed more often than open, perhaps it’s time to do some asking around.


Keep an eye out for announcements that contain words like restructuring, downsizing, reorganizing, offshoring or streamlining. These words often signal that changes are on the horizon. As such, this language sometimes prefaces staff changes like layoffs meant to get rid of redundancy.


Was your holiday party cancelled this year? Are the days of celebrating office birthdays long gone? Any time expenses considered unnecessary to the day-to-day operation of a company are cut, it is a sign that something is afoot.

Likewise, other expenditures, such as travel or training, are the first things to go when a company is in trouble. Another signal is when products that had been previously supplied by the company, such as cups, tissues and writing utensils, are cut from the budget, or at the very least, the ordering of such items is now under greater scrutiny.

Another expense that is usually cut before layoffs is the budget for temps. Particularly alarming is when temp contracts expire without renewal despite the fact that they are still needed to help fill in critical gaps.

Hiring Freeze

Just as important as noting when office supplies begin to dwindle without replenishment, is recognizing if the company is in the midst of a hiring freeze. Hiring freezes (announced or otherwise) are never a good sign, particularly when staff members are leaving without replacement. Keep an eye out for this telling detail.

Check back next week for Warning Signs of a Layoff: Part 2