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Four Signs You’re About to be Laid Off

By the time UBS announced it was getting out of most of its fixed income business and laying off a third of its investment bankers, it was already too late for the thousands of employees getting the ax. But for those who saw it coming, and took pro-active measures to find employment elsewhere, they are the relative winners in an industry caught in contraction.

What are the signs your job may be in jeopardy?

1. Revenue and Profits are Falling.

“The numbers are usually a pretty good place to start,” says David Sanford, Executive Vice President of WinterWyman, an executive recruiter based in Boston. “If things are moving in a downward direction and not it’s not just one quarter, but rather you’re seeing a trend, then that’s one sign business is off and something bad is going to happen. Either there’s going to be layoffs or somebody is going to come in and take you over.”

At UBS, the signals were coming for some time. UBS posted a pretax loss of 2.87 billion Swiss francs at its investment bank for the third quarter of 2012, following trading losses of $50 billion in the financial crisis and one rogue trader loss of $2.3 billion last year.

2. Culture Shifts

Another sign is a shift in a company’s personality. If in the past, there was an open flow of information and strong internal communications, and suddenly there’s silence and more people are meeting behind closed doors, that’s another signal.

“When bad stuff happens companies will tend to get quiet,” says Sanford. “They don’t want to send out the wrong message so they don’t send out any message, so if the flow of information from the top starts to slow down, that‘s a signal things are not going well.”

3. Market Share is Falling

When a company’s so-called value proposition is no longer all that valuable, it may be time to start looking. For the uninitiated, your value prop is what makes you stand out from the pack, what makes you different or better. When that’s no longer the case, start thinking about moving on. Take UBS. It was one of the top investment banks performing in the global arena until a few missteps with customers and regulators, along with a substantial trading loss, knocked it off the stage and competitors began gnawing away at its business.

“If your product is no longer the hot product, then there’s a signal somebody is going to pass you and in essence eat you for lunch,” says Sanford.

4. Your Boss Acts Differently

“If you have a good relationship with your boss, and the boss has gone silent, that’s a signal,” he adds. “Or if you ask him, or her, a question and suddenly they seem evasive or curt, that too is a signal there’s going to be some bumps in the road.”

When you see two or three of these signals it is time to get out proactively.

“The biggest mistake you can make is waiting too long to make a move,” says Sanford, “Most bankers will wait because they’re hoping against hope that this is going to pass and that they’re going to be okay, that something miraculous is going to change. So they hang on. Others will sit there and simply refuse to see the signs because they don’t want to see them. By the time you do, it’s too late and you’re already whistling past the graveyard.

”You are in a much better place to find your next job if you are employed,” said Sanford. “If you’re gainfully employed, then somebody thinks you’re doing a good job. But when you’re out of work there’s always the stigma, whether it’s legitimate or not, that you weren’t good enough to keep your job. It is a huge advantage to be looking for your next job while you are employed.”

AUTHORFred Yager Insider Comment
  • To
    7 June 2013

    Its time to leave or be laid off from a bank is when:

    You boss raises your revenue goal over and above everyone elses goal.
    Your boss says to you, "You don't want to see me visiting your branch, do you?"
    Your business partner has no interest in helping you succeed.
    All the other managers have received there annual review EXCEPT YOU.
    You are viewed as an outcast.
    You complain too much.
    Analyst says recommended goals and monetary objectives were not used by upper management and instead decides to make you the whipping boy.
    The business division SVP in your office says to the men, "Have a good night ladies."
    The district manager is divisive and blatantly favors certain individuals on the team.
    Lunch provided at managers' meetings no longer provided due to cost cutting.
    You fire a volatile employee loser on your team and management says rehire him!!!
    You fire a disabled person where the bank did nothing to accomodate him and says fire him at any cost.
    Region manager thinks online training is better than one-on-one or group training with a real trainer.
    Sky is dark when you arrive at work and is dark when you leave. Exception: Alaska

  • Gr
    6 December 2012

    First indication you're about to be laid off: you work in a bank.

  • wa
    6 December 2012

    Work in a large bank in senior management. Have seen many many layoffs. Some other key signs I've seen: 1) Your boss who is well thought of in the company gets promoted out of the division. 2) Leadership in your business leaves or is replaced with someone who is ambitious but under-qualified (read: inexpensive and company no longer has a major stake in the outcomes); 3) senior management starts wanting new and different reporting out of your division - and only your division, including more and more reviews. Hope helps someone out there!

  • tr
    1 December 2012

    >>"You are in a much better place to find your next job if you are employed," said Sanford

    This is 1000% true and my own experience.. I get 40% less salary than before.

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