How to Survive an Executive Layoff Unscathed

executive layoff

However, small or large, no company is immune to the layoff phenomenon.

And no job is immune from the downsizing phenomenon.

Your career is in play. Always.

Obviously, the impact of any corporate change is bigger than simply your job.

Yet, at the end of the day, your job is all that matters to you… right? Your career? Yes…

So many scenarios are possible, but here are the main two scenarios:

  • Your job could be a job eliminated.
  • You could remain employed, despite the layoff announcement. The company needs people to wind things down. However, if you stay, your job is changed significantly. You have to then make the decision to adjust or begin a search for a position outside the company. If the company gives you financial incentive to stay, that can make the decision more challenging to stay or go.

Many think they are immune to these scenarios.

Or that it won’t happen to them.

That is an unwise position to take…to say the very least.

And career suicide…at its peak.

Interesting is a good way to describe it.

Do you still think it may not happen to you?

Looking like you were taken off guard is not a good position for a leader to be in on their next job interview.

Here are 8 moves on how to protect your overall career (and reduce your headaches):

1) Assume you’re fired today.

Adopting this mindset forces you to be proactive. Make a to-do list of everything that’s necessary to begin a search for a position outside that company. One that ranges from updating your resume to networking. What’s most important is learning how much the search process might have changed since you last looked. You may not have to “pull the trigger” on a hunt today. But, being prepared puts you in a position of strength, no matter what goes down. Having a plan to follow also helps you keep calm in crisis, and that means you will better decisions and be able to better negotiate on your behalf.

2) Do your homework while the M&A is still on the drawing board. 

Completing the deal takes time. It’s obvious which company’s values, strategies, methodologies and terminology will dominate. If that’s not your company then you have to understand how it gets things done. You can access that information and insight from media coverage, reading security analysts’ reports (if the company is public) and asking your contacts. If it’s the company you’re with then you have to identify what will be adopted from the partner. For example, the latter is valued for its cloud technology. Then you have to do a deep dive on that. Having this knowledge base equips you to present yourself effectively in the shifting environment.

3) Accept that the past is over.

The reality is this: The goodwill you established with superiors, the reputation you built and the promise of future rewards no longer exist. Don’t even mention those. Don’t complain. Doing that creates the perception that you are part of the “old order.” The easiest way to mirror the new order is to use its style of communications, including its buzzwords.

4) Reconfigure what you do with what is now needed.

The new order is focused on accomplishing its goals, as quickly and cost-efficiently as possible. You have a shot at keeping employed if you can explain succinctly how your function aligns exactly with those priorities. For example, instead of describing your general duties in web marketing, show the sales numbers. Sketch out how you will increase sales. Without warning, you could be called in to justify your existence.

5) Don’t hide.

It’s only by being out there that you can make known your value to the new company. Reach out, beyond your own department or “silo.” Have an elevator speech ready. Suggest how you can be helpful. If rebuffed, don’t run for cover. Instead, identify entry points into the power structure. That could be joining them in the company gym at 6 A.M. or sharing your special expertise on the market in India. Maintain a self-confident persona. A display of fear invites torment.

6) Monitor signs of being encouraged to quit.

It reduces severance costs if the company can encourage you to resign on your own. Tactics to achieve that include lessening your workload, establishing impossible quotas, excluding you from the communications loop and public humiliation. Your decision depends on many factors. Those range from your financial condition to whether resigning versus being fired is in your long-term interest. There is no absolute right answer. Also remember a firing is perceived differently from a wide scale reduction in force (RIF). You might consult with a lawyer and career expert.

7) Review all legal contracts and agreements. 

Your options may be pre-determined by what you signed during the hiring process. For example, from the get-go, you know you are not going to fit into the emerging organizational culture. But, you entered into an agreement to stay on for 18 months after any merger. Or, your contract reads that you can’t work for a competitor for two years. That means it’s in your self-interest to try to make this work if you intend to stay in the same field. Or, in the event of a merger, you are guaranteed a certain amount of severance pay. It’s your choice to stay or take the money and start over again somewhere else.

8) Don’t Settle In.

You might like to look forward to the day when the dust settles and your work life returns to normal. Post-M&A, that’s not bound to happen. That’s because the tough nut to crack is integration of the cultures, systems and people. That could take years. During that process, every aspect of your job could continue to change. No, don’t anticipate settling in.

Make sure you are ready.

Daily Career Tips


Landing your next job doesn't have to be an overwhelming, frustrating or time-sucking task. Get daily tips on how to find the position you deserve,  delivered right to your inbox:

  • The #1 addition every resume needs in 2023 and beyond.
  • How to get prepared for a job change even if you like the job you have.
  • How to handle a chaotic job market and where to focus your job-seeking efforts (hint, it’s not the job boards).
  • Where to find great jobs without submitting 500 meaningless job applications.
  • How to slice through the Applicant Tracking System B.S. and land a 6- figure role you love.
  • How to track down the “unpublished job market” and have your pick of the best jobs out there.
  • How to write a resume that will hit hiring managers right between the eyes and have them scrambling to book your interview.
  • How to get up to speed with your online branding and write a LinkedIn profile that positions you as the #1 expert in your field.
  • How to approach job seeking with the “human touch” so you can keep the bots at bay.
  • And finally, access to our 4-stage META Job Landing system we’ve used with thousands of job seekers just like you.

About Lisa

Lisa Rangel and The Chameleon Team are the only executive resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and job landing consultancy who has been hired by LinkedIn and recognized by Forbes. Our 4-Stage META Job Landing System stems from decades of corporate and executive recruiting experience to position you to land your next 6 or 7-figure role faster.


Looking for an article on a particular topic? Use the search below...