The situation looks scary
At the moment the job market doesn’t feel like it did a month ago. Inflation is spiraling out of control, the cost of everything is exorbitant, there is talk of recession, stagflation and fears of being drawn into a war with Russia. These factors and others have terrified investors, and the stock and cryptocurrency markets have plummeted, wiping out trillions of dollars.
With so much uncertainty, it makes sense for executives and HR professionals to take hiring breaks and consider layoffs. We’ve already seen a number of tech companies – whose share prices have fallen – downsizing. If the mood, economy and financial markets do not reverse, there will probably be further rounds of layoffs and hiring freezes.
Here are the big waving red flags to look out for to determine if you need to update your resume and start looking for a new job:
Nervous executives scurry through the office
In the days leading up to the pandemic, when everyone was in the office, you can get a vibe check on what’s going on by observing how management and leadership are acting. If they walk quickly down the hallways with thoughtful looks on their ashen faces, avoiding eye contact and pleasantries with the staff, you’d know something was about to happen. This suspicion is reinforced when senior executives rush in and out of closed sessions, visibly shaken.
If your company is public, everyone would look at how the stock price is trading and compare it to other companies in your space. If your company’s stock is falling along with your peers, that’s not a good sign. Start checking online to see if there are any stories that shed light on what’s causing the bad news and humiliating circumstances.
Memos for tightening the strap
The next flag is when you get the memo or email about the perks and benefits being cut. This is followed by a video call with everyone involved, a face-to-face meeting or individual managers having discussions with their teams. The talk would go something like this: “I want to thank everyone for their hard work and dedication. I appreciate everything you’ve done. But I’m not happy to say that we’re in a tight financial position. Due to the current economic situation, turnover, turnover and profit are declining. At the moment everyone is safe and there is no need to worry. I’m sure that will be over soon.”
Everyone leaves the meeting shattered, thinking about the worst-case scenario. Some immediately updated their resumes and LinkedIn profiles and put out feelers to recruiters.
Shortly after the first discussions about managing expectations, it becomes real. You find that one or two people from your area have been promoted to Human Resources. The next day their office and cubicles were empty and they were gone.
You hope that’s it and you’re saved. You might tell yourself that the people who got laid off weren’t the best workers and that you’re doing much better.
The cold shoulder
The boss has always been on friendly terms with you. They shared a passion for sports and music and often spoke about the latest sporting event or concert that either of you attended recently. Throughout the day she would come into your office or have a quick chat in the hallway.
It’s different now. There is no friendly chatter. It feels like your boss is avoiding you on purpose. She averts her gaze when you walk by. Your greetings from “Hey, how about this game?” remain unanswered.
One of the reasons for the cold shoulder is that you may be targeted for a layoff. Human nature is such that a person doesn’t want to hook up with you one day only to fire you later that week. It’s easy to cleanly separate connections and avoid interactions. The manager was probably told not to mention possible layoffs to his employees to avoid awkward conversations and a mass flight of the best and brightest talent.
The manager asks for a meeting
You get a call, text, Zoom invite, or email from HR or the manager asking, “Hi, can we talk?” Just as it happens in a relationship, it’s the same in the business world — off Nothing good usually comes from “talk”.
The first conversation might be her saying that you are great and wonderful but lately your production has been lacking and she has noticed some flaws. That could be true, but it’s more likely that the stage will be set for a layoff. Businesses like a paper trail to document that there is a reason someone was fired and it wasn’t because of their race, age, gender or ethnicity.
You notice that the workload is getting lighter every day. You have also been tasked with showing and training Bob on the projects you have been working on for the past few months. Meeting invitations, emails from the boss, company-wide events, departmental catch-up video calls, and group activities were abruptly halted.
living in fear
You’re somewhat relieved that you weren’t escorted out of the building by two burly security guards who were forced to quickly pack up your office and carry your plants and belongings in a box. The fear of being the next to get a pink slip is ominous.
Once upon a time you were the golden one. Your colleagues teased you that you were the teacher’s pet. Now that she’s not avoiding you, all your work will be criticized. This is all done via email and the settings are copied.
It’s not just about you. In hushed tones, employees across the company compare similar interactions and stories about what they hear about the company’s situation and potential layoffs and furloughs.
It’s time to face the facts
Intellectually you knew this was coming, but you hoped it wasn’t going to happen. Meetings you were once invited to are not on the calendar. You will not be prompted to join Zoom calls. Requests for help setting up your home network went unanswered. In that one rare online meeting you were invited to, the managers treated you like a ghost and completely ignored you. They didn’t ask for your opinion or thoughts. It’s only a matter of time before you get the call from HR asking for a quick chat. Then it’s over.
Always be prepared
You never know when something can go wrong. The US economy is constantly reeling from boom to bust. There are times when it’s hot to hire new employees and times when there aren’t that many jobs available.
It’s a smart strategy to be proactive. Stay connected and nurturing your network, even during the best of times. It’s a numbers game. The more people you associate with, the more help you get with job offers and interviews with people in the companies you want to work with. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and clearly states your responsibilities so HR, hiring staff and recruiters can find you.
Build relationships with a select group of recruiters who are always on the lookout for opportunities that are right for you. Keep educating yourself so you don’t get left behind in the new age of digital technology.
While you can be happy at work, always be open to accepting an interview request. If you feel comfortable and confident in your role, you will do better in the interview than if you are lost and stressed out from your job.