Are You At Risk?

By Joe Stein

With all the discussion on the economic indicators in the United States dominating the news over the last several months, most workers are evaluating their own situations. The question for many is what they should be examining when determining whether they are at risk. Let’s examine today some of the key indicators of job distress, broken out into two categories: 1) via your performance and second and 2) via company performance.
Your Performance-Based Indicators:
·         Your Performance Review – If you were “Above Target”, then you are safe from a performance job loss, but if you are “Below Target”, then you should be concerned and begin your job search immediately. If you are not producing or the perception of you is negative, then it is time to start searching.
·         Failure to Achieve Goals – If you have not nailed your goals since your last review, then it is time to become concerned. It is important to actually produce and not just to work harder. If you feel you are falling short and cannot straighten the situation around, then it is probably time to start searching.
·         Change in Your Bosses Behavior – Did your supervisor change from being your “buddy” to distant? Has the style of management gone from having autonomy to being micro-managed? Are you suddenly being criticized for everything you do? All of these are signs that something is brewing and that a job search should begin.
·         Co-Workers Change – Sometimes co-workers know something or sense something before you know it. If they have suddenly become distant from you socially, or start to provide you with less respect (or ignore you) regarding meetings and projects, then be concerned.
·         Missing Out – If you begin to be skipped for key projects or assignments, then concern should grow. This is especially true if these roles would have ordinarily gone to you in different times.
Company Performance-Based Indicators:
·         Company Financials – Are budgets and sales targets being missed? Are sales down from previous months? How are sales compared to 2007 and 2006? All of these indicators should be examined regularly by employees. Of course, this is much easier to do in a publically traded company where the financials are much more transparent than with a privately-held organization.
·         The Word on the Floor – It is amazing how much office gossip can tell you if you learn how to filter the garbage out. If you have been with an organization for a length of time, you will probably know who usually has the “good dirt” and who doesn’t.
·         Your Boss – If your supervisor is in a position to potentially have information, then ask him or her. Sometimes, a supervisor will confide in you and provide you with the real news. If your supervisor does share, then the information should stop there and you should not pass it on in order to maintain confidentiality. If your supervisor does not share information, you can sometimes read body language to determine whether there should be some concern.
·         Support Functions Slashed – If areas such as Training, Human Resources, Safety, Security, etc. have had their funding cut, that is a sign of concern. Typically, after support areas have funding cut, then the next step is an examination of labor. Particularly, Training cuts are a concern because often that decision is followed by labor cuts. Why spend the money training people who won’t be with the organization?
·         Hiring Freezes – If an organization has frozen their open positions, that is often a sign that layoffs are next. The company has decided that they must resort to labor reductions in order to make budget. First, they will do it with open positions and then, if that is not enough, usually current positions will follow. Check your organization’s internal posting board to determine if you are in a freeze mode.
·         Senior Leadership Changes – If your most senior leaders are leaving the organization, especially with minimal notice or explanation, then the organization is stressed and you should begin to take action.
·         Layoffs – This is obviously the most overt of the indicators. If your organization is currently laying off, then this is a sign that you should be looking for a new position. This does not mean that you should accept the first thing that comes your way, but the job search process should begin and your options should remain open.
In most situations, an employee should not be completely blind-sided by a job loss. Typically, there are warning signs or red flags to indicate that something is wrong. It is important to not get paranoid, or so obsessed with the warning signs that your performance is impacted. A savvy Job Seeker, however, is aware of their surroundings and begins his or her search while gainfully employed, well before any decision has been made. 
As always, best of luck in your job search.