Anjul Sahu

A Layoff Primer: Prepare for the Unexpected

Posted at — Nov 25, 2022

An Unusual Morning

Today, I woke up in the morning as usual and started my normal routine. Then I see an email from the engineering lead explicitly tagging it as an IMPORTANT meeting during my standup time. I was surprised and got a feeling that something is wrong. This is one of the red flags and a symptom of a layoff but not so important as it is already too late for you. I will cover other important red flags later in this post.

Nervously, I attended the meeting to figure out that I am being laid off due to poor macroeconomic conditions. Then followed by another meeting about the formalities and immediately you notice that your access is revoked. Sorry to say but it is a poor way of implementing it and a non-empathetic way of saying goodbye. You expect to be treated better.

I am in the technology market since 2008 and I have seen expected things happening in the name of market trends. The reason you get could be anything, sometimes it is genuine and sometimes not. Sometimes, in the name of trend, I have seen org increasing their working hours, to reduce benefits, and then obviously letting people go. As you can see in the news, a lot of companies from small ventures to large mega-companies are doing layoffs.

Test of Leadership

Inefficient and recurring layoffs are actually a bummer and most of the time, it is a failure of the leadership of the organization who have not planned or foreseen the risk. It is the time you test your leaders who are not able to navigate the ship and sink. Another observation is that most companies are playing short-term games out there and hiring people to drive their product agenda rather than building an awesome organization with the best people that will come out of storms every time.

The true test of leadership is how you function in a crisis. ~ Brian Tracey

Anyway, discussing reasons and assessing leadership is not the agenda of this story. I want to focus more on understanding what are the early indicators of a layoff and what you should do to prepare for the unexpected. You can’t stop companies from doing layoffs as it is not in your hand. So preparation is the key.

Red Flags to Notice that Layoffs are coming

So, what are some typical red flags to notice or early indicators that layoffs are coming in your organization? Shreyas’s tweet was really helpful and I have compiled what most of the people think.

  • Not hiring new staff and not backfilling.
  • The talent acquisition team and recruiters are idle or might be leaving the organization.
  • A loss of cadence in the company all-hands schedule. You would see random meetings or abnormal leadership connects explaining they are doing well or it can be completely skipping connects or all hands meeting
  • Q&A becomes a joke in the all hands i.e. selective questions are answered and others hard ones are completely ignored.
  • A lack of transparency from the founders.
  • Too many (private) meetings in the calendar of leaders and HR.
  • You are asked to show profitability or results with some immediate deadline.
  • You have been asked frequently to submit what you have done and achieved in some sort of a tracker.
  • You are asked to explain your role.
  • Reduction and cuts in the budget, travel spending and benefits.
  • Micromanagement on various spending by your immediate manager or skip level leader.
  • Doing audits of how things are managed, i.e. if you leave what will happen to the stuff you are managing?
  • Very senior leaders are leaving the org, they are in the best position to sense what is going to happen soon.
  • If you see people in finance (such as CF&A, CFO) leaving or updating their LinkedIn profile to show that they are open for new jobs, is typically the first sign. They know it first, even before HR.
  • New contractors or consultants are hired at the top ladder who is doing random audits and you are not clearly told what they are up to.
  • A frequent change in companies strategy showing that leadership is unable to focus and in a mess.

These are the top ones but if you want to take deep dive, feel free to look into this tweet.


This is super important thing that everyone should be doing as nothing is permanent be it your job.

  • Always keep the data backup of important things that you should have from your office machines. A sync to your personal account or drive. Get things from a work laptop or phone immediately after hearing the news as that is something you will lose immediately after hearing the news.
  • Keep your finances well with a good liquid fund of six months or more. Many investment gurus have talked about this and I am not repeating it here.
  • Consume the benefits given to you if you have time or some idea of what is going to happen. This can be with various membership, insurance etc. Also, change the contact information where you are registered with your organization email id.
  • Always keep learning and sharing with your social network. Your brand will stay even if you are laid off and this is a long-term brand-building exercise that everyone should do.
  • Keep your work-related social profiles updated.
  • Make yourself more valuable in the current company.
  • Keep trying your side hustles as they can be useful if you are laid off. It is like don’t depend on one job.
  • Keep your connections active and have a cadence to connect with your personal network. If you only reach out during the crisis, they might feel bad. Use a personal CRM like Clay and set up cadence or regular meetings or conversations on their updates.
  • Be mentally prepared and don’t love your job or company too much. All things are temporary in life.

What you should do if you are one of them?

First, take some rest for some time and don’t take any decision in a hurry. It is a minor blip in your career. Don’t take it personally as it is not your fault.

  • Save the paperwork, tax stuff, payslips, equity information etc, and know your rights.
  • Activate your network and share it with the people who care about you.
  • Don’t burn the existing bridge at the current company.
  • Reach out for help.
  • Look at your finances and re-balance and plan for the grey period ahead.
  • Start giving more time to your side hustles and things that you always wanted to do but didn’t get time for.
  • Up skill yourself if required.
  • Consult mentors who can guide you well. I can recommend mentoring club.
  • It can also be an important turning point in your career, many people who lost jobs became founders and inventors. It is the point you can take a path of exponential growth or decline. So be careful and take the calculated risk. See the positive side of layoff.
  • A lot of companies are hiring too, so don’t get disappointed.

Please comment if you want to add to the above points, would be really useful for the readers.

Now I am free, what I am going to do next? I have to still think about it but some of the things I have already sorted out some of the above points. I also will be taking some time to lose some fat and dust off my cycle lying since monsoon.

I do technical writing and curates a newsletter which covers the cloud-native industry. Please subscribe to the newsletter - Cloud Native Weekly and follow me on twitter to get the update. I also provide career coaching and mentoring, so feel free to connect with me over a call sometime. You can also use this meeting if you looking for a new role or need some consulting, happy to help you.

If you are hiring for leadership roles in tech, do ping me.