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How To Avoid A Layoff- Job Protection Strategies

Updated on October 25, 2011

Is Anyone Layoff Proof?

Is anyone layoff proof? Can you take action to avoid getting laid off? Every day we hear about thousands of job layoffs across multiple industries, regions and company sizes. You or your spouse may have already been laid off. If you are employed, you are likely worrying about what could happen next.

I don’t think that anyone can become fully immune from getting laid off. However, I strongly believe, pulling from close to 20 years of management experience, you CAN help to influence your company decisions. You can take action to help prevent getting laid off and/or ensure your name is lower on the official company layoff list.

Here are some specific tips I recommend to influence decision makers and make yourself more lay-off proof.

Secrets of High Performers

Exceed Job Expectations

I have often observed during times of business turmoil and sales declines that employees become less, not more productive. They get distracted, spend time worrying or gossiping with coworkers and take long lunches. They develop negative attitudes and complain about steps the company is taking to control costs. Their overall job performance drops.

When companies are considering layoffs, one of the first things they look at is employee job performance. I’ve been involved in this process at four different companies. As a Manager, I was asked to create a master list of all my employees, ranked from high performer to low performer. And then to literally highlight who should be laid off at 5% levels, 10% levels etc.

Factors I considered included: last year’s job performance, current job performance (qualitative and quantitative), feedback from colleagues and feedback from upper management. It was not a fun job, but it had to be done.

As an employee, you have 100% control over your job performance and you can help to control your image, perceptions etc. In this economy, you must not only meet- but exceed job expectations.

First, you need to do your “regular job” extremely well- exceed job performance goals, beat deadlines, produce very high quality work, make your boss and their boss look good. Once you’ve achieved that- ask for more work. Offer to help your peers with their projects. Ask to be part of cross-functional teams. Volunteer to help with corporate philanthropy efforts. Stay late. Work weekends.

Key message.. Great performance CAN help to prevent you from appearing on a layoff list. Bad performance and a negative attitude, will help you rise to the top of a layoff list.

How To Avoid Getting Laid Off

Know Your Company’s Bright Spots

If you work for a medium to large company, they likely have multiple product lines, services or divisions. Even though sales are down across the board for most companies, there are likely pockets of “bright spots”.

These may be new products that are very competitive or growing. Perhaps certain verticals are buying more than others. There may be strategic projects underway that are expected to position your company for strength when the economy rebounds.

No longer can employees simply come to work with blinders on, focus on the job tasks immediately in front of them and leave. You need to use some detective work to uncover your company’s bright spots. Then.. try to get involved with them.

If you are already part of a bright spot, now is not the time to switch roles. If you are working in an area of decline, do what you can to get involved with the growth areas. Build relationships with the leaders and influencers in those areas. Volunteer for projects that touch those areas. Provide ideas to help leaders in those areas. And, if jobs open up in the growth areas, consider making an internal move.

Don’t Piss Anyone Off

How often have you been in a large group meeting, perhaps an auditorium, with your boss or a senior leader presenting something important AND THEN the usual suspects cause trouble. There are two types.

The first type is an employee who is extremely intelligent, insightful, has great ideas and a lot to offer but has very bad timing and/or poor delivery. They wait until a very public setting to disagree with a senior leader and share why their ideas are better. Although their ideas may be incredible or “right”, presenting in this forum can make both the employee and presenter look bad in the eyes of other employees. It can also distract attendees from hearing the senior leader’s important messages.

The second type of agitator, does not take the time to understand what or why the senior leader is saying and has their own agenda. They spout negative, not “fully baked” comments that often bring the conversations into rat holes. They often use inflammatory language that can get other employees riled up.

For example, a senior leader might be presenting on a corporate strategy and someone raises their hand and says “This is great, but is this gonna mean another increase to our sales quotas? Only 20% of the sales team is making any money. We can’t even pay our mortgages”. Rat hole officially opened!

My advice to you is.. do not be either one of these employees!! You do not want to be on anyone’s radar for making senior leaders look bad or disrupting critical company meetings. If you do disagree with what is being presented, provide your feedback through the appropriate forums, starting with a behind closed doors discussion with your direct manager. He/she can help deliver the messages up the food chain.

Disrupting meetings, making leaders look bad and getting your self “on the radar” will help to get your name ON a layoff list, not excluded from a layoff list. If you have great ideas, use the appropriate channels to share them.

Help Others Ride The Waves of Change
Help Others Ride The Waves of Change

Help Others Through Change

Even if you are handling the company shifts and changes effectively, your peers may not be.

You can stand out in a positive way, by helping your peers and coworkers better handle the changes. This includes taking the time to listen to their concerns or fears, offering helpful advice, being supportive and being positive.

For more information on how to deal with change, you may want to read Calvin Sun’s, “10 Tips For Dealing With Change in The Workplace”,or the article, "Dealing with Employees Who Are Resistant To Change".

Network Within Your Company

When layoffs or job eliminations occur they do not always impact every department or job function. I have often seen situations where an employee is notified that their job has been eliminated and is then given a specific time frame, ex. 30 days, to look within the same company for a transfer. If the transfer occurs, there is no loss in benefits, seniority etc.

By networking within your company and building relationships across functions and locations you position yourself for a future transfer. Considering the economic conditions, there will be a lot of job seeker competition. You want to be one of the first people a hiring manager may think of, when filling their opening.

When you are attending cross-functional meetings or are sitting at a table in your cafeteria lunch room, consider that the person across the table is your colleague today, but could be a hiring manager or your boss tomorrow. What might you do differently knowing that?!

Enhance Your Skills & Knowledge

We all come to the table with a specific set of skills, knowledge and abilities. You may be known for your outstanding presentation skills or your consultative sales abilities. In this economy, the skills and knowledge that were valuable in 2007 or 2008, may not be the same mix that is AS valuable in 2009. Do you have what it takes?

You can learn more about what your company needs, by fully understanding your firm’s hot spots or growth areas and through effective networking. Perhaps taking classes in website programming, information security or business finance could help set your apart from your colleagues. If your company’s growth area centers around the healthcare vertical, make it your business to know everything you can about the healthcare industry and how they consume your products and services.

One thing is certain; there is no downside to expanding your knowledge and skills. This action could only help you both personally and professionally.

If You Get Laid Off Anyway- Was All This Work Worth It?

If you invest the time and energy to exceed performance expectations, know your company’s growth areas, help others through the change, build relationships and expand your knowledge AND still get laid off, was it worth your time and energy? Yes, definitely.

All of these steps will help in your quest to obtain your next job. For example, exceeding job expectations will help to ensure that your boss of company’s HR department provide a positive work reference to a prospective employer. Perhaps some of the peers you helped get through the change, will send job referrals your way. More training, skills or knowledge will look great on your resume and help differentiate you from the competition.I hope you found this advice helpful and that it helps to prevent your name from getting added to the growing list of “pink slips” in 2009”. If you do get laid off, I am confident that these steps can only help in your job search.Copyright 2009-2011, M. Reynolds, All Rights Reserved



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    • profile image


      11 years ago

      what can you do when you are off with surgury after injury and the short term disibality co. calls and says your file has been closed and then two minutes later your boss calls threatening that if you are off any longer no matter what the docter says you could be replaced? Is this disability company and the boss working together to threaten you back to work before your released? Thanks for your time,tim

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Check out "Dodge the Bullet - How to take your name off the next layoff list" at

    • Reynolds_Writing profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      If I were notified and had two months to look, it could be ideal.. I would focus all my energy on finding a new job- whlle still getting a paycheck.. and building better relationships with the folks I still worked with...In some ways the folks still there whose work is doubling- are at a disadvantage. You could end up in a better position than them in the end- at another company.. God luck!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Do you have any suggestions for staying focused and positive once you've been notified? I've done most of what you mention and know the company is not doing well, but it's still very difficult to be here for two more months and listen to people who still have jobs complain about ...gasp "their work".

    • Arava7 profile image


      12 years ago from Sunny Southern Cal

      good hub fir hard times.

    • Reynolds_Writing profile imageAUTHOR


      12 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks for the kudos Elena. I'm glad you like the conclusion.

    • Elena. profile image


      12 years ago from Madrid

      Hi Reynolds! I read this yesterday, wanted to leave some feedback but got waylaid --Here goes now: I think this is good advice, but what I like best is the conclusion --even if one ends up being laid off, all the effort is still a personal gain and an improvement and a competitive advantage to get a new job. Kudos.

    • Reynolds_Writing profile imageAUTHOR


      12 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks Blackjack...I hope I can help someone avoid getting laid off in this difficult climate!

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      These tips are especially timely considering that we all know families where someone has lost a job or is thinking about the possibility.Everyone must prepare !

    • profile image

      True teacher 

      12 years ago

      Outstanding thoughts!!!!!


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