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Telltale signs your job may be on the chopping block

While the massive purging of banking jobs may now be in the past, there are still plenty of firms that are cutting headcount, particularly at the senior level, and often for very little reason other than money. While there may not be much you can do to prevent being laid off, it’s always important to read the tealeaves so you don’t get blindsided and find yourself with no immediate prospects. Below are a few signs your job may be in peril.

You’re suddenly non-compliant

“I’ve heard of this increasingly in recent months,” said Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. Seemingly out of the blue, compliance begins to check your work. They may start monitoring your emails or calls more than others, Cohen said. “You start getting criticized for things that nearly everyone does, like sharing information with colleagues,” he said.

Seemingly, compliance departments are quietly being used as a tool to weed out someone who may not be wanted, or who may be too expensive.

Junior hires

An all-too-common way banks are cutting costs is by hiring junior bankers to take the place of senior staffers with bloated salaries. Typically, banks hire and train juniors before letting go the person whom they’ll replace, said a Wall Street headhunter who asked to remain anonymous. “If they’re hiring juniors in your group without your workload increasingly substantially, watch out,” he said.

What’s even worse is when they actually say they are laying off but are still hiring less experienced people, said Jane Cranston, president of New York’s Executive Career Coach. That shows they’re willing to not only cut the fat, but also some of the muscle.

Lower bonus

Reduced pay may be the most obvious sign something is up. “A lower or zero bonus doesn’t mean you are going to get fired immediately, but they are telling you they don’t want you there anymore,” said Cohen. “It’s called the ‘shove.’”

If your performance remains level but your bonus is cut substantially, management is perfectly comfortable with you leaving. Either you’ll go voluntarily or eventually they’ll get to you.

Technological innovations

Think what happened to traders years ago and relate it to other industries. Any technology shift that has made what you do much more accessible to your customer base is dangerous, said Jed Strom, executive branch manager at financial recruiter Addison Group. Keep your eye on how technology is changing your role in the business.

A reduction in fees associated with what you do – something that may or may not occur due to technological innovations – is another obvious sign cuts may be coming, said Strom.

Your colleagues start avoiding you

It’s amazing what others know about your future that you may not, said Cohen. If you’re on the chopping block, they likely won’t want to be tied to you – tied to your reputation. “When you’re making seven figures, there is no such thing as fairness,” he said.

Other potential precursors to being let go that don’t need further explanation include:

  • You’re invited to fewer meetings.
  • Suddenly you are no longer being CC’d on important emails.
  • Your boss is hypercritical of you for no apparently reason (particularly in public).
  • The shifting of resources to other departments.


What you can do about it

Generally speaking, there are two things you can do when facing the potential of a layoff: try to work your way back into management’s good graces or get to the bottom of it and prepare yourself for something new.

"If you don't know where you sit in respect to your teammates - find out, quickly,” said Peter Laughter, CEO of New York headhunter Wall Street Services, who suggests you don’t occupy yourself with trying to read all the subtle signs.

“Management teams spend the majority of time with top performers so if you don't know how you are impacting group goals and are not getting a lot of face time with direct reports, get to work,” he said. "Valued professionals know the goals and targets of their teams and have a clear understanding of what they need to do to contribute. At the very least, get your resume ready.”


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AUTHORBeecher Tuttle US Editor

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