Former Microsoft VP Knows If You’re About to Get Laid Off

Contract workers are at the highest risk, but they're not the only ones who should keep an eye out for the next job.
Adam Rowe

Tech companies have been tightening their belts all year. And, since forecasters are increasingly predicting an upcoming recession, companies everywhere will continue looking for ways to cut costs.

Will you be a part of your company's next round of layoffs? That's what consultant Chris Williams wants to answer.

He's the former VP of HR for Microsoft, a company which has plenty of experience with layoffs of its own. Back in July, the tech giant laid off around 1,800 staffers, before going on to lay off its entire Modern Life Experiences team in August.

So, what types of people are at the greatest risk when their bosses are trying to downsize?

Contract Workers Are Most Likely to Be Laid Off

Anyone who's working on a contract rather than a salaried position is at the greatest risk of all, Williams wrote in a recent Business Insider article.

That's because the contract system is designed in order to allow contracted workers to be dropped when needed: There's no paperwork tying a business up, giving it more flexibility overall. If that's you, start coming up with a plan B now.

Also at Risk: Employees Working on Newer Projects

Last in, first out. If you're on a team that's specifically tackling a new initiative or expanding the company in a new direction, you'll be at risk during layoffs.

This is because the company will be returning to its core competencies, and the newer an idea is, the less likely it is to be considered “core” to the business.

“If, when times were flush, the company recently decided to explore new lines of business, or expand into new territories, those are tenuous places to work. Unless the company is making a concerted effort to pivot entirely to these new areas, these kinds of new initiatives are often the first ones cut when times are leaner.” -Chris Williams

Finally, Event Planners or Benefits Employees Are Also at Risk

A business that's cutting costs will likely consider dropping any employee luxuries, since they take a chunk out of the overall budget without offering a clear-cut return on the investment beyond boosting morale. And when those perks are dropped, the company will drop the employees who provided them.

Event planners, community organizers, or food bar staffers might all be at risk.

Williams also mentions a few types of employees who are at the least risk — in his estimation, “staff services like finance, facilities, or human resources” are relatively safe because they deliver essential value to the company for relatively little cost. He also includes profit-earning employees, which we have to admit does make sense.

In the end, the best move to make is likely twofold: Brush up on your resume and try not to worry so much.

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Adam is a writer at Tech.co and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He's also a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and he has an art history book on 1970s sci-fi coming out from Abrams Books in 2022. In the meantime, he's hunting own the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.

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