How to know if you’re likely to be laid off

“Will I still have a job tomorrow?”

With the economy in a far-reaching recession and companies announcing layoffs seemingly every day, that question looms large in every working person’s mind.

And with good reason.

Axes are falling on workers’ desks right and left as red ink drips from many a corporate balance sheet.

And no one is safe, no matter where you stand on the corporate ladder. Though senior executives are less vulnerable to losing their jobs than the employees below them, they can be casualties of restructurings.

Indeed, Bear Stearns deposed CEO James Cayne in early January. And more than one company fired its CIO and replaced him with a lesser-paid director of IT during the last economic downturn. (Of course, the top executives generally leave with generous severance packages while employees on the front lines are lucky if they get four months’ severance.)

Whether you’re a CIO or a help-desk technician, career coaches say you can take measures to prevent the hatchet from falling on your neck. has drawn up a list of actions to take and behaviors you should avoid to safeguard your job.

Some of the recommendations may sound trite or obvious, but don’t kiss them off. They might just save your skin.


“If you’re flying under the radar, you’re going to be the first to be eliminated,” says Kirsten Dixson, author of Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand.

Dixson recommends compiling a weekly status report that outlines the project or projects you’re working on, your progress on those projects and your key performance indicators, and sending that report to your boss each week. You can also present this same data to your boss in weekly meetings.

Obviously, some employees are at greater risk of losing their jobs than others.

What’s not so clear is how to calculate that risk.

So for the past several months, I’ve wanted to come up with some kind of risk assessment that would help IT professionals (really, any professional) get an objective handle on their odds of getting laid off.  

You may be wondering why anyone would want to determine their likelihood of losing their job.

I think a ‘layoff risk assessment calculator’ would be ideal.

A lot of people worry unnecessarily about getting laid off. And a lot of people who do get laid off are completely blindsided by it.

A risk assessment for layoffs could help IT professionals determine whether they’re at high- or low risk of losing their jobs.

With this information, low-risk professionals can rest easy and carry on with their work, and high-risk employees can be proactive and prepare themselves emotionally, professionally and financially for when and if their jobs get cut.

For now, instead of a calculator, I developed a list of variables that I think could indicate someone is likely to get laid off.

I made another list of variables that could indicate someone is unlikely to get laid off.

These lists are based on my own knowledge and experience, and on conversations I had with two CIOs who shared with me their approaches to deciding which jobs will be eliminated during layoffs.

The ultimate goal is to develop an accurate and plausible assessment—one that will really help people get a grip on their futures.

And again, keep in mind that the goal of this assessment is to help, not to scare people.

Factors that increase your chances of being laid off

1. Your employer is not meeting its financial plan.
2. Your salary is at the high-end of the pay scale for your profession or function.
3. A position or function you help support has been eliminated or restructured.
4. You work on a project that has been cut or that you sense is going to be cut.
5. You gossip or complain a lot.
6. The work you do is mundane or repetitive in nature (e.g. re-setting passwords or setting up routers) and could be outsourced to a third party.
7. Your work is not customer-focused.
8. The function you work in is well-staffed (or has “fat” that could be trimmed).
9. You don’t “fit in” with the rest of your department.
10. Your company could find someone to replace you at a lower cost with relative ease (e.g. without having to hire a head hunter.)

Factors that make it unlikely you’ll get laid off

1. You’ve demonstrated your ability to adapt to new strategies.
2. You have good relationships with different people throughout your company.
3. Your position is cross-matrixed to different leaders.
4. You have a good rapport with your boss, and your boss is regarded highly by senior management.
5. You work on multiple projects that are critical to dealing with existing business conditions.
6. Your skills are up to date, in demand and align with the IT organization’s current and future needs.
7. Your company would have difficulty finding someone to fill your position.


Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Featured Download

Featured Story

How the CTO can Maintain Cloud Momentum Across the Enterprise

Embracing cloud is easy for some individuals. But embedding widespread cloud adoption at the enterprise level is...

Related Tech News

Get ITBusiness Delivered

Our experienced team of journalists brings you engaging content targeted to IT professionals and line-of-business executives delivered directly to your inbox.

Featured Tech Jobs