What To Do When You May Get “RIF”ed

What To Do When You May Get “RIF”ed

RIF Blog

It is inevitable in today’s labor markets that while some companies are growing, others are shrinking their workforce.  Layoff reasons may be anything from a buyout that has made multiple positions redundant to an industry change causing required “belt-tightening”.  Even in a booming economy, reductions in force and lay-offs are going to happen as companies streamline, integrate technology and search for more efficiencies.  So, what do you do when the layoff rumors start to fly in your workplace?  There are two paths of actions as well as two styles of execution.  Let me explain further.

When there is a possibility of mass workforce cutbacks, you can take one of two paths of action: 1.) Ride it out and hope for the best or 2.) Prepare to jump ship.  Either choice is highly personal, but should be rooted in the facts.  I have spoken to many candidates who had incredible tenure, believed they were invaluable to the company or thought they were performing a job that no one else within the company could yet these people were blindsided with their termination.  Here are some of the reasons to “stay and pray” that I have heard from real people over the years:

“I work so close to my house”   Is saving a few extra minutes on your drive worth risking being unemployed for weeks or months?  What other companies are located close to you home and what is going on within those companies?

“I don’t want to leave my coworkers behind.  We’re like family.”  The one thing that is always certain is change.  Even if you are one of the ones that keep their job, your coworkers are not assured to stay.  And if you are laid off at the same time, how will it feel competing for the same jobs?

 “I’ll never be able to find another job that pays as well.” If there are no other jobs in the market paying as well as yours, there is a good chance your excess compensation has you marked for an early release.   Do you feel being overpaid will be considered an asset to your current company? Are you really overpaid or are you underpaid (or paid at market)?  Without investigating other options, you won’t ever know for sure.

“My company just remodeled the lunch room, there’s no way they are laying off.”  Many times capital improvements have been planned months or years in advance.  Layoffs are usually the result of something that is happening now that was unexpected, so betting your livelihood on an unrelated budget item is unwise.

For those that take the path of action to look for other opportunities, you have a lot to evaluate.   This is an opportunity to chart your career course in the direction you want.  I recommend taking out your resume and thinking of the 3-5 things you liked best and also liked least about your current and past jobs.  After a while, a pattern should emerge.  This pattern will help you see what you need in your next role to be happiest and most fulfilled.


Once you know what you want, tap your network confidentially.  Let family and friends know you are open to new opportunities.  Call one or two recruiters that you trust.  Attend networking events in your industry and reach out to those you know are hiring to see if you can solve some of their most pressing problems.  By taking a proactive approach and laying your job search foundation now, you have time on your side and can still hope for the best with your present company.

There are also two styles of executions to handling the “RIF situation”.  One way is to freak out, panic or slump into despair.  This is usually when people get online and apply to every job they are qualified for and some that they are not.  Imagine, you work in HR and pull up the dashboard of applicants from the night before to see one name applying for a huge variety of jobs.  Do you make the assumption that this person is a highly skilled specialist or that they are just looking for any job?  Also, the attitude of panic and desperation carries with you into meetings with current and potential employers, leaving you at a disadvantage.

The second style is to take a deep breath, assess the situation and look calmly at the facts.  Write down all the great things you bring to the table, the accomplishments you are most proud of and recruit others to give you a 360 view of how you show up at work every day.  In this clear frame of mind, you can take this information and use it to help you answer the classic question: “Should I stay or should I go?”