12 Warning Signs Your Job Is Becoming Obsolete

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: May 28, 2013

In our unstable economic times, there are few employees who feel absolutely sure their job will still be here tomorrow.

But it's not productive to be distracted by needless worry every day. So how do we know when to relax and when to worry (and start polishing up that resume?)

Pay attention to true warning signals, but don't get too caught up in office gossip. It can lead to low morale. Just keep your eyes open for these signs that your job may be on its way to the downsize dump.

1. There are rumors of layoffs

Here's an obvious one. Generally, when there are rumblings about layoffs, it is going to happen. Who, what, when and how are the only questions. Ask trustworthy people around the office. Although if they are trustworthy, they probably won't be spilling secrets!

Google your company. You may find related news articles, editorials or blogs written by business experts or even former employees airing some dirty laundry!

2. Company stock continues to plummet

A quarter or two of weak earnings is to be expected here and there. Listen closely at company meetings to hear the explanations for the earnings drop. Some drops are actually anticipated and written into the overall financial picture.

And companies frequently recover after their stock has taken a nosedive. Look at the stock history and read what the analysts are projecting for a truer picture of what to expect in the future.

3. Your workload has decreased

If your boss is reassigning your projects or giving you less to do, be concerned. It’s even worse if he tells you he is shifting your responsibilities to tasks more suited to you, and these tasks end up being very minor.

If you are being asked to train others (especially lower-paid employees) to do what you do, either someone else will have your job soon or your responsibilities are being parceled out to several people and your position is becoming obsolete.

4. Your last review contained nary a rave

If there was nothing positive in your recent performance review, hopefully at the time you immediately worked on remedying the situation by asking for specific suggestions to improve and taking on more work or training to show the boss you mean business.

If you received no merit increase and no words of praise... and you did nothing about it...well, consider this a warning.

5. Decreased benefits and other cost-cutting measures

If you’ve noticed a general decline in benefits like medical insurance, 401K plans, and even company picnics and holiday parties, chances are there are other, bigger changes afoot.

Similarly, if general cuts are being made across the company, to things like travel budgets, expense accounts, even office supplies, be prepared for much larger cuts.

6. New boss, shuffled management

Although it doesn't necessarily indicate anything bad, a shuffling of management positions or getting a new boss are definitely things that could point to a layoff down the line.

Pay attention to the reasons behind the reorganization and figure out where your position fits in the scheme of things. On the other hand...

7. Are you getting the cold shoulder?

If you are suddenly out of the loop -- either not invited to meetings or ignored when you are present -- you, or at least your job, could be headed for obsolescence.

Similarly, if co-workers suddenly avoid you or stop talking to you about future projects, they may know something is up and feel too uncomfortable to be around you.

8. Rumors of a merger or acquisition are flying

Many times when a company is bought by or merged with another organization, pink slips are bound to fly.

The reason? Most companies, as big as they may get due to the new situation, just don’t need double the amount of IT, HR, Sales, and other recently compounded staff.

9. Moving trucks are lurking around the corner

You would hope that by the time moving trucks show up, employees are already aware of impending layoffs.

If not, now's the time to worry. Piles of moving boxes or an increased presence of security guards are also good signs change is in the air.

10. HR employees are suddenly busy or nervous

The human resources department tends to be more busy than usual during reorganizations and downsizing. And it's not the usual, happy tempo.

Planning to let go the same people you hired is not a welcomed task. And the work that goes into it is time-consuming and delicate. Good rule of thumb, secretive, unhappy HR is a bad omen.

11. Company starts outsourcing and "offshoring"

If you notice your company is starting to "dabble" in hiring overseas workers, especially if the employees do what you do, it could be time to worry.

Companies rarely will commit to hiring an entire department off shore, but once they start the process, if it goes well and saves them money, there's not much to keep the expensive employees stateside.

12. Machines are doing your job

Let's not be naive. If you are an elevator operator, a typesetter or a lamp lighter, you must know you're living on borrowed time.

Other jobs that are still alive but gasping for breath include telephone switchboard operators, bank tellers, store greeters and cashiers.

Basically, if technology has made you a middle man, your days are numbered. However, the smaller your town, the more time you probably have before machines take over.

Heed the warning signals but don’t panic

You don't need to be driven to distraction worrying that you'll be getting the ax any minute. Just be sure you continue to network, even when you are happily employed.

Stay up to date with current trends and training and keep your resume polished and current. If you do that, and pay attention to these warning signals, you won't be caught off guard and without options should your job become obsolete.