Layoff Rumors? How To Prepare For The Worst

holiday planned layoffs

By Chelsea Emery

Never mind coal. There may be pink slips in some holiday stockings this year.

The end of the year can be a dangerous season for employees. As companies make last-minute attempts to adjust payrolls or to meet earnings goals, layoffs tend to pick up.

Indeed, as many as 150,000 jobs could disappear in the fourth quarter, up 46 percent from the previous quarter, according to consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Citigroup Inc. employees know this all too well. The third-largest U.S. bank announced 11,000 job cuts worldwide on Wednesday, affecting 4 percent of its workforce.

It's easy to panic as rumors of layoffs fly at the office. Anger, fear and confusion can cloud final days that would be better spent preserving your professional reputation and contacting possible future employers.

So, cancel the bridge-burning email and don't waste time stocking up on pens and paper clips from the supply cabinet.

Instead, take these two steps immediately: Network like crazy, and start working on the most favorable exit package possible.

That's what David Berman wishes he had done when he lost his senior financial adviser post at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in mid-2011.

"I still believed that I had people fighting for me on the inside," says Berman, who is based in St. Petersburg, Fla. "I was wrong. In hindsight, I was not aggressive enough."

Among other things, Berman regrets not having used, the online networking site, to find connections and advice.

And he's still looking for a full-time job.

Here's how you can gird yourself for the best possible outcome if the axe falls.

More: Planned Layoffs Surge To 3-Month High, And Bloodbath May Not Be Over

Be Prepared

Knowing weeks ahead of a pending job loss can have its benefits.

Use this time to prepare for your severance meeting with your boss or human resources specialist. It can bring months more of paid health insurance or a longer severance pay period.

Go in with a list of questions, says Brooklyn, N.Y., executive coach Elaine Weinstein, who runs her own firm.

Weinstein recommends these:
  • Is there a severance and how long does it last?
  • When does it begin?
  • Is it a lump sum and who pays taxes?
  • What are your health benefits?
  • Do they last as long as severance pay?
  • When they end, who will notify you about beginning COBRA?
  • What happens to your 401(k) retirement plan?

Make the firm explain in its own words why you're being let go. You can use this terminology when you apply for a new job, if it is favorable.

And, depending on your relationship with your employer and your company's rules, you may be able to walk out with a letter of recommendation, too.

You will probably receive papers to sign. Don't sign them immediately, but ask how long you have to review them.

Threatening to call a lawyer may not be prudent, but it doesn't hurt to suggest -- obliquely -- that you might consult one, says Weinstein.

You can say something like, "I'm very disappointed in this package. I have to think about this and think about my next actions," suggests Weinstein.

Always ask for more: A longer severance, longer paid health insurance, or a paid career counseling service.

"Fight for it," says Weinstein. "All they can do is say 'no.' "

More: November Jobs Report: Hiring Up, Unemployment Rate Falls -- Despite Sandy

Contacts, And Contact Details

If you don't have a personal cell phone or computer, get one, and transfer your contacts to your new equipment, says Weinstein. Once you leave the company, it won't be possible to access those systems or documents again.

Consider adding your personal email address to your email signature, as appropriate.

Most companies will allow employees a health care coverage grace period, so you may not need to schedule all your doctors appointments immediately. Still, if it takes time to see a medical specialist, make those appointments now.

Immediately activate your business network, Weinstein says. Reach out to professional and personal contacts, even if you have not spoken to them in years. Admit that you may have been "sloppy" about staying in touch, but say you would like to reestablish communication.

Break the ice by offering to help them. Weinstein suggests a humorous approach, such as: "Other than babysitting, let me know if I can help you in any way."

Seek Employment (While Employed)

In September, New Jersey insurance consultant, Lori Sternthal, learned how valuable a network can be.

When the senior business analyst learned that her contract would end within weeks, she reached out to recruiters, friends and business contacts, using, phone calls and emails -- using her personal phone and computer and not those of her client's. A recruiter located a full-time staff position and Sternthal was at a new desk within nine weeks.

Recruiters prefer to find someone who is currently employed, says Cobb.

"Otherwise they can't justify their fee," he says.

That makes these precious few weeks remaining at your job vital for reaching recruiters.

No matter how angry, upset or worried you might be, remain positive, says Sternthal. She suggests job seekers say something like, "I had a great experience at the company, but I'm in transition and open to new opportunities." You could say you're open to both staff or contract work.

You'll be surprised how many people will offer help when they learn you're about to lose your job, says Weinstein. "It's survivor guilt."

How to Prepare for a Layoff

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This zhit has nothing at all to do with Obama sitting in the white house, or anyone else for that matter.
READ that wonderful document signed into law back in 1871 Articles of Incorporation giving human rights to a piece of paper. America is a corporation, Not the land of the free and home of the brave. We've been sold up zhit creek by these crooked corporations like dog zhit stuck to the bottom of their shoe.

December 20 2012 at 5:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

And your one of those people that believes Mitt Romney would take off his Mormon underwear and share it with you? Give me a break! Mitt didn't get to be Mitt by caring about your azz or mine, in fact he did it by screwing over a lot of hard working people, and didn't pump out one single tear in the process.

December 20 2012 at 4:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A $50,000 a year full-time job at a Fortune 500 company replaced by a part-time job at McDonald's= a break even in the world of Obamanomics.

December 13 2012 at 8:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I just loooove how America re-elected the idiot in the White House so we have 4 more years like these past 4. Unbelievable...cardboard box and a holiday meal of Fancy Feast...but Obama "understands people like me."


December 13 2012 at 8:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Like the President said lets stay the course, I guess the voters didn't realize he meant a horrible job market.
I see nothing but layoff announcements in the business news. It's only four more years, can you hang in there?

December 13 2012 at 8:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you know your next to be axed....Slip and fall while entering your bosses office for the last time... That's how you get paid."

December 13 2012 at 6:47 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mitchell's comment

This is not a joke..Because it has happened. and you really can't blame them given some of the nasty stuff they put up with.

December 20 2012 at 4:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Call your union rep. Oh, I forgot, you got rid of them.

December 13 2012 at 6:29 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Offer to QUIT to let the hard workers stay and confess your just there to fill a quota this would be a very nice jesture

December 13 2012 at 6:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Businesses have to make hard decisions sometimes. I've always looked at layoffs as a way to preserve the rest of the company and their jobs. Make yourself valuable and you have a better chance. Be a complaning lazy slob then you deserve to go.

December 13 2012 at 3:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to donnellyddo's comment

Just hope you weren't checking the parking lot for employees cars with Obama stickers on their bumpers. :)

December 20 2012 at 5:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Start a rumor that the bosses wives are is sleeping with all of the janitors and also hook on the side. They wouldn't have to, if their husbands weren't a bunch of greedy butt holes. Other than with it.....rightwing economics at it's best. All mind over matter....the corporations don't mind....and you don't matter.

December 13 2012 at 1:06 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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