15 Warning Signs Your Company May Be Heading Toward Layoffs

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Stay one step ahead by recognizing these company warning signs.
Updated May 10, 2024
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Layoffs have battered the American workforce recently. 

Perhaps no industry has been hit as hard as tech, which has seen over 220,000 people lose their jobs this year alone. But the problem isn't limited to the tech industry. 

 Layoffs could find their way to your sector and your company, so it's important you watch out for things that could impact your ability to get ahead financially. Here are 15 signs that could mean layoffs are headed toward your company.

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Expenses start to get cut

Prostock-studio/Adobe african american man on serious call

When a company starts slashing expenses, which could include cutting travel budgets and trimming down on bonuses, it often suggests the company is worried about its finances or what might happen to its finances soon.

In short, the more perks or fun stuff the company starts to cut, the more concerned you should be and the more you should prepare yourself financially.

Hiring freezes begin

yurolaitsalbert/Adobe businessman having burnout at work

Depending on the size of your company, you might be accustomed to seeing an influx of new hires. That’s not uncommon for businesses during economic upswings.

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Companies facing economic uncertainty tend to curtail their recruitment efforts as they aim to trim expenses.

Products and programs get eliminated

Andrey Popov/Adobe employees frustrated while attending business conference

Companies may terminate specific programs or initiatives when the economy seems unsteady or uncertain. 

That might mean discontinuing some products in development or putting an end to marketing products or services that don’t rake in the big bucks.

These decisions can have a profound effect on the teams who were working on them, including being laid off.

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You feel left out and your workload is smaller

deagreez/Adobe stylish business woman stressed at work

Being consistently excluded from meetings and communications might indicate your diminishing importance within the company. You should always ask, but it could be a sign.

Similarly, if you suddenly find yourself with a shrinking workload, and there are no attempts to address it, that could be a sign that you’re considered redundant.

Your boss is acting different

Blanscape/Adobe senior boss yelling at young employee

Sudden changes in your boss's behavior can hint at layoffs. If your typically hands-off manager starts micromanaging or asking about your projects and contacts, it could indicate they're preparing to assume your responsibilities.

Managers may struggle to communicate during tough economic times due to conflicting loyalties. See if they can clarify the reasons behind these changes, as it could signal what’s to come.

Executives head for the door

mojo_cp/Adobe employee moving out with his essentials

When senior managers, who typically have access to information beyond the reach of lower-level employees, begin to bail, it can be a foreboding sign of impending company-wide layoffs.

At the upper echelons of management, the financial trajectory of a company becomes more discernible, and executives may choose to exit before a potential collapse.

A merger makes your job redundant

twinsterphoto/Adobe business woman stressed after getting fired

Mergers between companies can enhance those companies’ overall strength and profitability, but they often result in the elimination of redundant positions.

So, while such mergers may benefit the companies involved, they can raise concerns for employees with overlapping skill sets. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, roughly a third of workers “are deemed redundant after a merger or acquisition in the same industry.”

Consultants get called in

motortion/Adobe african american man frustrated at work

Consultants are often brought in to assess company performance and identify areas for restructuring, including potential redundancies. The addition of time tracking is another common early sign of cost-saving efforts.

You should be particularly cautious if third parties are brought in to review the company’s finances.

Restructuring plans are announced

Sathaporn/Adobe boss angry at employees in conference

The phrase “restructuring” typically means people will lose their jobs.

Sure, sometimes businesses reorganize for efficiency, but it's also a method by which companies assess and eliminate redundant positions.

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Layoffs are happening in your industry

Andrey Popov/Adobe colleagues packing belongings after resigning

If you see or hear that one company in your industry is going through layoffs, it might not mean they're coming to you, so there’s no reason to panic immediately.

However, it is worth paying attention to and keeping your ear to the ground so you can be prepared.

Your company hired too fast

ty/Adobe multi ethnic candidates waiting for interview

Hiring too many people too fast is one of the key causes of the recent tech industry layoffs. In particular, major tech companies over-hired during the pandemic because everyone had to work online and from home.

So, while tech profits soared when most of America was housebound, the reckoning arrived as the country reopened. Be wary of seeing too many new faces too quickly. There is usually a downside somewhere along the line.

There’s an emergency meeting

fizkes/Adobe senior female boss firing employee

If you’re suddenly expected to be there for a major company-wide meeting, and none of your coworkers seem to know what it could be about, expect the higher-ups to deliver details on some massive changes.

There have been earlier rounds of layoffs

Paolese/Adobe man holding notice of termination letter

Frequent layoffs can suggest financial instability but don't panic if there's been one round. Multiple rounds, however, could signal ongoing issues. Surviving one round doesn't guarantee safety, either, so stay vigilant.

You can’t get into your email

fizkes/Adobe stressed man with laptop at work

It might seem obvious, but if you suddenly find yourself locked out of emails, files, or even certain folders on the company’s network, it could be a sign and not simply a computer malfunction. It’s especially worrisome if you can’t get an answer from the IT department.

A WARN notice gets posted

Friends Stock/Adobe woman using laptop having headache

The WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) Act is in place to ensure that employees get a heads up from their employer if there are going to be “qualified plant closings and mass layoffs,” per the Department of Labor.

“Mass layoffs,” in this case, mean at least 33% of the workforce.

Bottom line

Art_Photo/Adobe senior couple reviewing utility bills

Navigating the waters of the corporate world can feel like trying to predict the weather when you’re not a meteorologist — unpredictable and full of surprises.

Hopefully, after reading the subtle, or maybe not-so-subtle, indicators can help you know when there are challenging times ahead for your organization. 

Understanding the signs allows you to make informed decisions and take proactive steps to secure your professional future, like making extra money.

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Author Details

Will Vitka Will Vitka is a D.C. area reporter and writer. He previously worked for WTOP, The New York Post, Stuff Magazine, and CBS News.

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