BLUF: When layoffs are on the horizon, do you actively search for new employment?  And if you get a job offer, is it wise to take the new job?

About a month ago, our CEO announced that we would be restructuring across the board to "bring us all closer to the client" and flatten the organization.  We were told (repeatedly) that this would impact managers.  This announcement was made the day after we laid off a number of line-workers, the closest layer to the clients.  We were told that we would have resolution on this organizational effectiveness initiative by mid-July or early-August.

Setting aside the fact that I think it's completely boneheaded to announce something like this and ignoring the method in which they intend to conduct their review (reviewing the CEO's DR's and then moving down the chain), the question then becomes: Is it imperative to immediately search for new employment?

I've always kept my notifier going and usually the positions listed are for line-worker positions.  Coincidentally enough, the same day the CEO announced layoffs, I had not one but two listings from Monster at the manager level.  (Talk about lightning striking twice!) 

I dismissed the first opportunity after speaking with the headhunter (pay range) and I made it through the phone screening for the second opportunity.  I meet with the local folks on Thursday for a panel interview for this second position. 

Recognizing that I don't have anything to decide until there's something to be decided, assuming I ultimately end up with a job offer that I'd be interested in (pay wise, corporate culture, etc.), my husband insists that "if you have a legitimate job offer in one hand paying the same amount or more and you have a non-zero chance of being laid off in one to three months in the other hand, you HAVE to take the job offer."

I don't necessarily want to leave where I currently work.  I actually enjoy it here now that I'm a manager, with 6 yrs tenure and nearing the end of the line on my degree through the company's tuition assistance program.  My team is great and I actually don't mind coming to work anymore. 

I also don't want to be so vain as to believe that I would be immune from being laid off.  I'm pretty good at my job and my boss seems to like me but it'll be a matter of how I stack up against others in my level.  I have fairly low seniority which will likely count against me (assuming they go through the same process we went through when we did the line-layoffs.)  

If I get a job offer in writing, I don't believe my current employer would provide me with a matching salary (considering they preceeded the first round of layoffs with "no merit increases this year!") nor do I think they'd give me an employment contract for a year or two guaranteeing I wouldn't be laid off. 

I know that there are a lot of steps between here and there.  I don't have a job offer yet so this is essentially a hypothetical situation at this point.  When I interview on Thursday, I don't intend to tell the other company that we're facing layoffs - only that I'm looking for a new challenge in a field closer to my background (which their position would provide.) 

Assuming that a job offer presents itself, is it advisable to:

  • take the job offer unilaterally?
  • present it to the current employer in the hopes of a counteroffer?
  • turn down the job offer in the hopes that a layoff won't come?

This is the one and only time / situation in which I wouldn't feel like a traitor for searching for another job but it outright stinks that the CEO put us in this situation by announcing these layoffs so far out.  (Seriously, do they think that the announcement will get the POOR performers to leave of their own accord?!)

hoffmkc's picture

 My advice may not be representative, since I have an interesting skill set in an industry that has been less affected by the downturn.  I was laid off in mid-March, and had offers at the beginning of April. This is what I learned:

  • My company's layoffs were news locally in the industry, so it was pretty easy to get in for interviews, since our company was well-regarded. Others who had specialized skill sets had the same experience. The more general the background, the longer it was to interviews.
  • In previous searches, the "why are you looking to leave your job" would come up at least three times in an interview (reincarnated in different questions). It didn't happen at all this time - laid off is pretty simple.
  • Because I was 100% on job search, I was able to get a lot of interest from a lot of different companies (and I managed to avoid taking an offer from at least one place I would have regretted going to work for). It's a lot easier to look for a job when you don't have one, if you are in the right place at the right time.
  • Investigate your company's severance policy, if it is in the employee handbook. You may have more runway than you think. Also, what type of package did the previous round of layoffs get - this could help frame your discussions with your spouse.
  • The company is probably pre-announcing due to the federal WARN act - I'm sure there are people much more educated than I on this here in the forums. Basically, if a company knows they are going to lay off a certain number of workers, by law they have to give notice.
  • The world is a very small place, and you never know if your interviewing will get back to your current manager, or someone in a position of power at your company. Depending on your company culture, this could be fine or viewed very poorly by those who will be making decisions.

Having been on both sides (laid off versus left behind), there's something to be said for each. However, the company you are at now will be quite different after the layoffs. 

jhack's picture

You need to go where the opportunity lies.  The possible layoffs are a red herring. 

Interview.  If they offer you a good opportunity, you should probably take it.  This would be true whether your current firm was planning layoffs or not. 

The decision has to be based on whether the new opportunity is a better career path than your current one. 

DO NOT try for a counter offer.  There are too many ways that could go wrong, and very few ways it could go right.  Even if they counter-offer you something awesome, they will never trust you again and your name will be at the top of the list in the next round of layoffs.   That's your best outcome.  

John Hack