Storm Clouds: Avoiding a Layoff


storm clouds


Because we are in the middle of a US Presidential election, I feel compelled to start by saying that what I am about to write about at the beginning of this article is not political.

It is data offered by the government.


If I were to tell you that:

Personal income tax receipts are down by 11%

Corporate income taxes are down 16%

Excise taxes are down

State income tax revenues increased by the smallest amount in several years

U.S. state personal income taxes fell sharply in the key revenue month of April due to lower investment returns from weaker equities and energy prices in 2015

Federal income tax revenue fell 17% in June

Job openings fell by 345000 in May 2016

There is inflation adjusted negative wage growth

New hiring fell by 474,000 over the past three months, the most since March 2009, three months before the recession ended. Those leaving jobs voluntarily, a number is seen as a sign of economic strength, fell by only 60,000.

Over the past three months, job gains have averaged just 147,000. Nondefense capital goods orders are tracking for a decline of 6.3 percent annualized

Would you think of the economy as being “good?”

Probably, not.

But that is some of the data that is available if you do a little digging.


And, if you point to the US stock market as being evidence of there being a robust economy, I will politely point out that part of the reason why it has been going up is the impact of negative interest rates in quite a few nations causing their wealthy classes to look for higher returns and investing in our stock market. The impact will only last so long.


So the question isn’t whether we will have a recession but when we will have one and what to do to have your best chance to make it through to the other side.

To be clear, I am not saying that this recession will be as bad as the last one; even if it is a more typical one, many of you will lose your jobs and be out of work for longer than you can afford.

What can you do?

  1. Watch the weather

When I was a young boy, my father would take me to Orchard Beach in The Bronx where I would play on the beach and in the water.

Like most fathers, he was concerned about my well-being and would look in the sky for storm clouds and then turn on our portable radio to get a weather report (yes, it was a long time ago and we had a portable radio with us).

If the weather report said that it would be a quick passing rain shower, we would plan on riding things through under a tree. The report indicated thunderstorms, even though the storm might pass quicker than the rain shower, we would leave the beach and start our long trip back. To my father, there was no place to seek shelter that was safe during a thunderstorm.

If you can’t answer the question, “What are the trends in my industry,” or “What are the trends in my field,” you are in danger. You are in danger because your ignorance and obliviousness will eventually be punished.

If you have no idea how sales are at your company, what is going on in your field, or how the economy is doing, you might find yourself in trouble because you won’t have any idea that the boat is taking on water and might be ready to sink.

There are economic changes that few people can anticipate but there are plenty, like the ones I mentioned earlier, that can be spotted.

  1. Pay attention to your reviews

Most organizations give employees performance reviews in an effort to clear the air about where they are satisfied and where you can improve. These are a message from management about how you are seen by them.

A review can be the first signal you receive about where you stand. In addition, they can provide enormous support if your manager leaves or is laid off.

A manager I helped many times found himself in a pickle. His direct manager, a director with the firm, left for another opportunity just in time for the budget cuts to be evaluated and the staff to be cut.

Trying to buy himself some time, he met with his new boss and offered her his previous three performance appraisals as something to consider as she made her recommendations for staff cuts.

  1. Pay Attention to Your Relationship with Your Boss or Manager

Do you respect your boss? Do you “like” him or her?

If you don’t, often the feeling is mutual. Since they are often an advisor to who winds up getting fired, who do you think they will recommend? You or the one they like?

Here’s a variation on that.

Have you noticed a recent chill in your relationship with your boss?

Often a “chill” is the signal of a problem. Sometimes, it is a signal of their own worry about their job. Whichever it is, it is important to pay attention to such changes. After all, if your boss is laid off, who will be there to attest to the quality of your work?

It is critical to nurture relationships with your manager.

Take part in the office rituals—the birthday parties, the lunches—and be a part of the fabric of the office. Don’t be the one that everyone talks about. When they talk about you, it is rarely positive.

If you meet a senior manager on the elevator, use it as an opportunity to “talk up your role.

  1. Do You Generate Revenue or Are You an Expense?


Which one are you– a moneymaker or a cost. Even if you are ostensibly a cost, do you do things that save the firm money? Does management know that?

A client of mine had a receptionist working for her who was an absolute delight. She was cheerful at any time of the day, polite, professional and genuinely helpful.

Even though the firm was firing people, Molly kept answering calls and everyone loved her. Even a person who is ostensibly an expense can cause people to notice their contribution to their success.

Even if you are a moneymaker, a bad attitude can make you a target of termination. After all, who wants to be around someone who is a pain?

Firms will transfer your clients to someone else and get rid of you,

  1. Become Indispensable

If you are hidden away in your cubicle, you will miss out on some of the plum assignments. Come up for air and volunteer for or invite consideration for the work that management is particularly interested in.

If you aren’t part of a critical project or critical work, see if there are ways where you can become involved.

  1. Ask Yourself The Question, “Why Should They Keep You?”

Ultimately, this is the question that management will ask itself. How do you rank using different metrics by comparison to others? Is yours a department that can be eliminated with no one missing it or is it critical?

When I was a beginning recruiter, working in my first recession, I grew to see that most businesses had three types of employees:

  1. People who did things
  2. People who managed those who did things
  3. People who thought of how things could be done better

   7. Make sure there is a market for what you do and, if not, adjust NOW.

Time and again, I have seen smart decent people relinquish responsibility and control of their careers to their employers.

You are the CEO of your career and economics, not your employer.

You are responsible for what happens to you, not your employer.

Don’t let your conditioning to trust your boss (who usually knows as little as you do about corporate plans) come back to bite. Be proactive and make the effort NOW.


During recessions, almost every person who is a #3 is eliminated. Businesses don’t care about how things should be done better (even if they should). They are focused on making more money, reducing their costs and surviving the storm. Some #2’s will be used to both manage and think of ways to do things better. Although #1’s and #2’s may be cut, #3’s are often completely eliminated.


There is still time to prepare for the inevitable recession. These are a few suggestions for you to deploy if you want to keep your current job. There are no guarantees, but these will give you a fighting chance.

As I’ve said in other articles and videos, look now at creating a secondary source of income for yourself.


Winners find the way to win and losers have lots of explanations for why they lost. Which would you rather be?


© The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC  2016


Do you think employers are trying to help you? You already know you can’t trust recruiters—they tell as they think you need to know to take the job they after representing so they collect their payday.

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter has been a career coach and recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. is there to change that with great advice for job hunters—videos, my books and guides to job hunting, podcasts, articles, PLUS a community for you to ask questions of PLUS the ability to ask me questions where I function as your ally with no conflict of interest answering your questions.

Connect with me on LinkedIn