4 signs your company is sinking - and how to save yourself
Losing a job is always hard, but it can be even more difficult when you don't see it coming.
Most businesses have their ups and downs, so it isn't abnormal to find yourself in a firm that's going through a bit of financial trouble. The key is to identify signs of a huge shift on the horizon that doesn’t just reflect a cyclical lull but something more serious - and permanent.
So how can you tell if your employer is going under? Here are five signs to look out for if you're wondering whether your company is on the verge of sinking and whether it’s time to find another ship.
Salaries are delayed
Cash flow is probably the biggest indicator of a company's overall health, though it can be one of the most difficult to spot unless you're in the finance department. One indicator is a firm delaying less essential payments; this means that they might pay bills, such as office rent, later if they have to. Typically, companies will do whatever they can to make sure employees get their salaries, so this will be the last thing they delay. So, if your paycheck is frequently late and your company has had trouble paying bills, then you can assume that the financial difficulties are deep-rooted.
Frequent exits of key employees
If you notice some of your star colleagues exiting without any talk about filling the position, beware. This could be a sign there's no money to replace them or that the rest of the team may soon be phased out. Moreover, when the company is in financial distress, they will stop hiring new people. If jobs are being left unfilled or the company announces a hiring freeze, it means they are trying to save some cash. It could be a sign of future redundancies, or plans to restructure. Either way, it is a warning signal.
Erratic workloads and fewer assignments
Few jobs have a perfectly steady workload attached to them, and most of us enjoy a bit of flexibility. But think about the fluctuations in workload and reduction in projects you've seen across the company in the past few months. Rapid shifts in available work are a sign of inconsistency in the company's performance and could be a sign that things aren't going well overall.
Strange closed door meetings
Are you noticing more executive-level meetings than ever before? Does your boss have a permanently worried or anxious expression on his or her face? Unless your company has a specific reason to keep a lot of secrets — perhaps there's a top secret new idea in development — this usually only means one thing: bad news. These closed-door meetings are not only bad for morale, but also a sure sign that there are conversations happening about the future of the company.
So if you’ve seen all four signs, what should you do? First of all, don’t panic. Before you decide to quit, jot down a list of your contributions and achievements at the company so far so you'll know how to sell yourself to potential new employers. Next, research what has changed in your field since you landed the current role; you might need a new set of skills to compete with other applicants. Make sure your resume and social profiles are up to date, start practising interview questions with friends and family, and reach out to your network for new opportunities.