If HR Sends an Email With These 12 Phrases, Layoffs Are on the Way

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June 15, 2024 at 1:40PM UTC
Much like the ballooning COVID-19 pandemic, layoff announcements are far from over. Concern is growing that the  the Bureau of Labor Statistics' July jobs report will show losses after positive payroll growth in May and June helped re-employ some of the 20.5 million Americans who lost their jobs in April. 
This week's news perfectly illustrates those concerns: Several large corporations announced layoffs and nearly half of furloughed employees now believe their temporary layoffs will become permanent, according to CNBC
Being laid off can be sudden and startling, but there are signs professionals can look out for to help predict their employment trajectory. While the most obvious sign is an executive announcing planned layoffs, there are more subtle ways that business leaders, human resources representatives and even clued-in managers communicate that you'll be laid off before you get that final Zoom call. These 12 phrases are often indicative of  impending layoffs, especially if they're sent in company-wide emails. 

1. "We're going to be downsizing."

While downsizing can mean cutting back on costs that aren't human capital, this language often indicates layoffs are on the horizon. 

2. "We're in the process of restructuring." 

"Restructuring" almost always calls for layoffs and shifting responsibilities. 

3. "We're implementing incremental synergies." 

As the business-jargon whiz on your team would tell you, to synergize means to get more out of less by consolidating efforts — and often, consolidating responsibilities amongst fewer employees. 

4. "We're in the process of streamlining."

Similar to "implementing synergies," "streamlining" often means cutting off extra business fat. And, unfortunately, human capital.  

5. "We're in the process of workforce rebalancing.”

"Workforce rebalancing" is another way to say "streamlining" or "synergizing" and has been used before to announce corporate layoffs, according to Business Insider

6. "We're going to be pivoting."

Rather than "synergizing," if your company is planning to "pivot," that often means stopping their investments in several products — and the people who produce them. 

7. "We're going to be shifting focus."

This is "pivoting," but with more words. 

8. “We’re working to improve efficiencies."

"We're improving efficiencies" is another way to say "we're going to be spending less money," often by cutting down on "non-essential" tasks and human costs.  

9. “We're short on our revenue targets."

If your business is letting you know that it's struggling to meet important financial benchmarks, it's important to know that cost-cutting is often the next step in making ends meet. 

10. "Costs are increasing."

Similarly, if you're business is letting you know that costs elsewhere are increasing, it's good to know that human capital cuts are often required to balance the books. 

11. “We’ve scheduled a mandatory all-hands meeting.”

If you have a sudden, emergency meeting on the books with your entire team, it's fair to assume that important information about your employment (or the employment of your colleagues) is being discussed. 

12. "We've scheduled a check-in with your manager and HR."

Similarly, if you have a sudden "check-in" with or "announcement" from your manager or a human resources manager, it's fair to assume your employment or compensation package may be on the rocks.

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