1. Your company gets acquired. More often that not, corporate acquisitions mean that some employees are going to be sent packing due to redundancy. Study the acquiring company’s organizational structure. Do other employees there have similar jobs as you? If so, do your best to become friends with them, learn how to perform all of their duties, gauge their weaknesses and sell them up the river when the layoffs come.
2. Your job duties are marginalized. If you went from handling your company’s biggest Fortune 500 client to fetching lattés and fielding whiny calls from your manager’s spouse in a matter of just a few months, you may want to think about whether your company considers you a vital part of its future.
3. Your company’s stock price plummets. The stock market can be fickle, but it is nonetheless a good indicator of a company’s financial health and future well-being. If investors are giving your business a savage flogging, sell your stock while you still can and stash the cash to give yourself some flexibility when you receive your pink slip.
4. Your company’s profit margins take a nosedive. A great deal of reputable companies disclose earning statements and quarterly results at all-staff meetings. These are the four meetings per year that you should not sleep through. Be alert as to whether your company hemorrhaged money during the last quarter (particularly if this has been an ongoing trend). If so, take it as a not-so-subtle hint to ponder your other options, regardless of the warm, fuzzy, we’re-all-in-this-together-team speech the CEO feeds you.
5. Your direct reports go over your head. It’s always nice to have some extra help on a big project, and it can be fulfilling to help groom the company’s future leaders. But if you find that your youthful “apprentice” is muscling in on your most important duties or going over your head without permission, it may be time to have a little talk with him or her. The person may simply be a clue less overachiever with no understanding of workplace hierarchy, but it’s possible that he or she knows something that you don’t.
6. Your industry friends begin losing their jobs. If you’ve been in the same line of work for a number of years, it’s likely that you have a number of acquaintances and former co-workers in your industry. Use your professional contacts like canaries in a coal mine; if they start losing their jobs, you may not be far behind. Find another gig, prepare for unemployment or consider becoming a consultant.
7. You notice boxes stacked in the hallway. A fresh stack of boxes at the office ordinarily may not raise questions. But if you’re already suspicious that a layoff is about to go down, ask the office manager or other in-the-know employees what the boxes are for. If your question is met with stutters, averted eyes or a nonsensical reply, it may not be just the paranoia talking.
8. Your company plans to move — to a smaller building. If the startup you work for is abandoning its expansive, elegantly designed digs for a tiny former storefront in the part of town where chalk outlines on the sidewalk are a routine occurrence, you shouldn’t need to be told that the salad days are over.
9. Routine expenses are suddenly cut. If you’ve constantly requested a fresh supply of pens or an office chair that doesn’t wobble but haven’t heard a thing in reply, it’s a good bet that the company’s finances aren’t doing so hot — especially if the office manager has already been canned. Note: You may not have a job in a month, but rest assured that the executive team will likely still enjoy its annual, company-funded “off-site strategy meeting” in the south of France.
10. Efficiency experts are brought in. Remember “The Bobs” from the movie “Office Space”? Those type of guys are called “efficiency experts,” which loosely translates to “people who decide your job isn’t so important after all.” If you get wind that these fellows are haunting the office, look busy or take it as a definite cue to head for the hills.