Important Information

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Signs you may be on the next RIF List ...

Are you wondering if your name is on your companies next Reduction In Force (RIF) list?

I have talked to hundreds of people who have been notified that their jobs were going away and discovered many common tell-tale signs that should have warned them of the upcoming notification.
How many of these signs do you relate to? If the answer is 5 or more, you may be on the next RIF list!

Your company is being acquired: Being acquired might be good for the health of your employer, but there will be a lot of overlap in job descriptions and a lot of layoffs that have nothing to do with how well you do your job.

You are finding it almost impossible to get approval or ‘buy in’ on projects: The boss is suddenly silent when it comes to approval. You’re being passed around from middle-manager to middle-manager. You get voicemail 98% of the time you call someone for their opinion, and the other 2% it’s their secretary…who then puts you through to voicemail. No-one is going to green-light a project from someone whose time is up at that company. They don’t want to associate themselves with the kiss of death that is your idea. If it happens to be a great idea, no worries, they’ll take credit for it once you’re gone.

Your boss is attending mandatory training or off site meetings that he/she can not discuss with you: Chances are he/she is attending RIF training, the sessions are delivered by Human Resources and Legal Counsel and includes training people managers how to avoid wrongful dismissal or age discrimination lawsuits.

You are given an impossible jobs with no chance of success: - This one is underhanded, which is why it’s so popular. The company may need a big reason to give you the boot, especially if you’ve done everything right and are the life and soul of your department.

You have less responsibilities: - Being stripped of your responsibilities is a sure-fire sign that there’s something unpleasant on the horizon. After all, you don’t RIF someone who’s got a ton of important work to do, with loads of people underneath him/her.

You are no longer "In the Loop": Suddenly you’re finding out about company news from your neighbor. If you were formally in the know about all things business related, but now suffer from “the company’s doing what??” - The writing is probably on the wall.

People are avoiding you: Eye-contact is difficult to make with someone if you know he or she is on the RIF list. Small talk is just as tough. It’s best just to avoid that person altogether.

You have recently been asked or assigned to work on a “special project”: This could have many other names. “New company initiative” or “Confidential research assignment” are other known terms for this. But it basically comes down to one role…the project takes you away from real work and puts you on something that’s either mildly important, not important at all, or is going away.

Your successes and accomplishments are being glossed over: Did your boss used to praise you up to management? Were you a golden boy or girl? If you’re not getting kudos, you may be getting RIF'd.

Your immediate boss or mentor is gone: If someone you trusted and respected, like a boss or mentor, is no longer around for whatever reason (promotion, fired, RIF'd, quit) this could spell trouble.

You see management paralysis: When you start to see memos with elaborate descriptions of the thought process explaining why they're just going to stay the course because they don't know what else to do and don't want to make things worse.

You see analysis paralysis: Watch for analysis paralysis, when there's less activity from sales but senior managers spend more time analyzing the same data. "That's a clear sign there's something wrong."

You recently receive a pay freeze or a pay cut: There are a few reasons this could happen, none of them are good. Either the company is in trouble and they need to cut costs, or you’re in trouble.

You have seen a job posting for your company that matches or consolidates your job description with another: Human resources and management can be crafty. They don’t want to RIF you without having someone waiting in the wings to immediately fill your shoes. That’s why it’s not uncommon to see your job or a consolidated job out on the Internet months before you eventually get RIF'd. Worse still they hire your replacement before you’re RIF'd and you get to teach the newbie how to do your job.

You are currently being ‘retrained’ or are taking coaching sessions? Retraining or coaching is often a way to try and save an employee who has lost his or her way. But its also another one of those ‘cover the company’s butt’ scenarios, in which HR demonstrates they did everything they possibly could to save your job.

Your company is adopting an offshoring policy: "Another sign is offshoring and outsourcing; if you see the kind of work you do being shipped overseas that's a very bad sign."

Of course this is not a scientific study. Many of these things happen as part of a normal work environment and if only few relate to you, then don't worry about it.

But if you do relate to five or more, don't stick your head in the sand, read Joe's next blog with recommendations on what actions you should take now if you think you are on the next RIF list. Click here.

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Sami M. said...

You missed one (especially if you're in IT): You find your system access levels suddenly drastically reduced or removed altogether, and no on has a satisfactory answer to "How can I do my job if I don't have access to system X?"

Anonymous said...

Yikes - I think I am on the list - Whats your advise?

Unemployed over 50 said...

On Thursday May 21 Joe will post a special blog with recommendations on what actions you should take now if you think you are on the next RIF list. So be sure to check back on Thursday - Joe

Alma said...

I think the signs stated on your blog are spot-on. My only concern about your blog is that some people may become self conscious , anxious, or in the worse case scenario, paranoid - which can hinder one's performance. Although I can appreciate your forthcoming recommendations -if we think we're on the next RIF list- it might be helpful if you can also offer some insight on how to avoid getting on the RIF list. Don't get me wrong, I think it's good to recognize the RIF warning signs, but I also think it's good to know how to avoid getting on the list and ensure colleagues' and management work behaviors are not misconstrued.

Anonymous said...

Joe this is excellent info. People are in a need to know and it is unfortunate that games are played with peoples lives. If you detect these things, build your network and prepare yourself for the change. If you get let go, do one better get a job right away and then you can laugh at your previous employer. When they say they are wanting to keep the best of the best, it isnt always so. Some managers like to use personal choice and not performance.
Good signs that you are on the RIF list:(observations seen of others)
1) Colleague is moved to an isolated area on the floor away from the rest of the staff.
2) Colleague is left out of meetings (no email or other notice of pending meeting)
3) Office politics/ Others make the person feel as if they are not part of the team
4) Once were great ideas are met with no interest and disregard
5) Strong sign is where is the business? If numbers are down, it cost the company more to keep you and you are not generating revenue

Anonymous said...

How Alma and others can "know how to avoid getting on the list..." Read "Corporate Confidential," an excellent recent work I recommend to management students and interns.

Anonymous said...

Get a better job lined up AFTER you get the severance check - don't miss out on the benefits from being rif'd. Check out the main (county) library for classes on "careers" for those unemployed on help with job searches, resumes, etc. My library also has free computers and internet without limit, great book section devoted to this, points to local resources and money for retraining. Check out and the one stop career center in your area.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to the next post.

A slightly dated book by Harvey Mackay's has an excellent sentiment "Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty," And the middle east maxim "trust in God, but tie your camel"

You really should try very hard not to get on the list, and if you think you may be on the list .. do damage control and probably leave if you can.

There is a certain group that thinks that you should ride it out to the end. But most of what I have seen recently recommends jumping ship.

Also currently in business, like the military of a few years ago, even though you personally may be doing ok .. your whole department, or division might be sold or closed.

So begin to get active in your community, find those career resources at the community college and SBC .. do your job, but also stretch your wings.

good luck

Anonymous said...

One of the biggest things I learned this year was to get to know myself. The easiest thing in the world is to tell your buddy what he needs to do - the hardest can be to know what you should.

Being in IT for the past 12 years, I waited with baited breath every 4th quarter to see if we got funded. This year, after a phenomenal year with the best profit yet, the company started a series of layoffs.

Unemployed for the first time in 33 years, I was lucky enough to take the severance and the time, leveraged all the tools offered, and evaluated my skills, my short-comings, and my desires.

The second thing I learned is that I relied on resources that I couldn't take with me. For instance, your address book, your files, these may all be in a corporate computer. Suddenly, I found that I should have externalized my networking tools.

I chose LinkedIn to reconstruct my network, and there was a bit of legwork involved there. However, knowing what I want to do, clearly stating that, and broadening my network allowed me to connect with like minded people, and find something I really want to do.

Anonymous said...

I agree with jumping the ship without waiting out. You fare better in the interview when you still hve the current job.