Silent Layoffs

Silent Layoffs

You don’t hear much about them these days.  With the economy improving, layoffs have slipped from the frontal lobes of most cable news anchors and newspaper reporters.  They haven’t disappeared, however, and that’s what makes them even more dangerous to Career Activists.  Like hypertension, silent layoffs are the career killers that sneak up on you.

What causes silent layoffs?  Over the past couple of years, it’s been corporate Darwinism.  The strong are consuming the weak.  Yesterday, it was Safeway being gobbled up by a private equity firm.  Last week, it was Mattel buying its rival Mega Bloks.  And last month, it was LinkedIn snapping up the technology company Bright.

Once the hunter has acquired the hunted, the green eye shade gang takes over, and their first act is to cut costs.  Since the biggest line item in any company’s budget is labor, that’s where the axe falls first.  Given our viral culture, however, every executive is now hyper-sensitive about bad PR, so what happens next is a silent layoff – hundreds, sometimes thousands of hard working professionals are given their walking papers and nobody hears about it.

What should Career Activists do?  Recognize the dangers that lurk in today’s “improving” economy and ready yourself to deal with them.  Listen to the news reports about mergers and acquisitions that may involve your employer.  And, if you see something about to happen or if you figure there’s even the possibility that something might happen, take steps to prepare.

First, get realistic.  Even if you maxed your last performance appraisal, don’t assume you’ll be safe.  In fact, assume exactly the opposite – that you will be negatively affected by what happens.  Second, get ready.  Start laying plans to have a parachute available to you.  Develop an exit strategy that will protect you and then implement it if the danger becomes real.

Silent layoffs are just as harmful to a career as public ones.  In fact, they may even be worse.  The lack of publicity can lull you into a false sense of security, and that makes you even more vulnerable to the consequences of corporate Darwinism.

Thanks for reading,
Peter