What to Ask Your Boss When Your Company has Layoffs

There is probably nothing scarier to a group of professionals than hearing rumors of impending layoffs. And when those rumors turn into reality, it can be hard to think clearly about your next step. Should you begin dusting off your resume? Should you simply hunker down and hope everything turns out for the best? Read on for some questions you should ask if you suddenly find yourself working for a company in the midst of some very unsettling changes.

What to ask your boss

1. “Is my job at risk?”

While it’s true some bosses will avoid giving a direct answer to a direct question (“Everything’s up in the air right now,” “You never know what tomorrow will bring,” etc.), most will appreciate the candidness and understand why you would be concerned. Chron suggests formally scheduling a meeting with your boss in order to ask this very question, and to carve out no less than 45 minutes for discussion. This generous allotment means neither one of you will feel rushed, while also providing enough time for the conversation to evolve organically in order to cover all your concerns.

2. “What can I do to prevent losing my job?”

If your boss gives you concrete suggestions, great. But the key to this question is to already have ideas on how to prevent losing your job. Pre-meeting draw up strategies and examples of your position’s importance and refer to them as needed during this phase of the conversation. This will take some legwork on your part, but your boss will likely be impressed you took the time to create some sort of plan instead of simply sitting by and passively hoping your job will be spared. View it as a type of annual review in the fact that you want to give your boss a strong sense of the major milestones to which you contributed, projects you spearheaded, numbers you improved—anything to tangibly demonstrate your contributions to the company.

3. “Am I free to entertain other job offers?”

If layoffs are happening at your workplace, asking this question will let you know exactly how dire the situation is. The Nest points out that asking this question provides two upsides, whether you’re eventually laid off or not: In the event you are laid off, it will have provided you extra time to find another job. In the event the bosses are not planning on laying you off, this question might alert them to the fact that you’re legitimately concerned and push them to assure you you’re valuable to the company (or, if you’re really lucky, you could wind up with a raise or promotion to convince you to stay). But remember to verbally tell your boss you want to stay with the company—this question could backfire if she becomes suspicious, you’re looking for a way out.

4. “Can we set up regular follow-up meetings?”

This may not be necessary if your boss says he will provide you with ongoing updates as more information becomes available (and if you trust that he will follow through with those updates). Otherwise, it’s a good idea to follow up on this initial discussion with a planned second one…and a third, fourth, etc. as needed. This will help you get a better idea of the layoff situation while simultaneously preparing for any possible worst-case scenario.

In the event you are laid off, there are strategies out there to help you come back better and stronger. And while it’s certainly important to take some time to acknowledge this temporary setback, the sooner you put yourself back out on the job market, the sooner you’ll find a new position in which to put your skills to use.

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