Protect Yourself From Lay-Offs in 2024

Protect Yourself From Lay-Offs in 2024

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It’s hard to escape the news of layoffs. Lately there has been an ominous sense of uncertainty for many, as New Zealand’s economic woes are fuelling the corporate axe. Doubling down on this, the same is now being felt in the public service. 

The Ministry for Primary Industries recently announced it was looking to cut 231 staff, while the Ministry of Health was consulting on cutting 180 roles.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment called on its staff again to accept voluntary redundancy. Massey University is laying off more staff, while in the private sector Hospitality NZ is reportedly ‘bracing’ for impact of more mass redundancies.

And of course, employees of the mainstream media are being hit hard by “massive layoffs at [TV] Three and NewsHub” coupled with TVNZ, the government-owned operator of TV1 and TV2, making about nine percent of its staff redundant.

Many businesses are doing it hard. Reports of liquidations are on the rise, including the closure of well-known brands such as Silvermoon Jewellers.

Layoffs are often well beyond our control. Yet there is a lot that can be done on an individual level to prove your worth to the business or organisation and ensure that when management is considering who to cut, you aren’t on the firing line. 

Why Layoffs?

But first, you might ask, why the layoffs?

New Zealand is experiencing a period of economic decline, commonly called a recession. New Zealand’s current recession is worse than the headline numbers would have you believe, as the main economic data point used to determine a recession (gross domestic product) doesn’t include a per-capita adjustment to reflect population changes. That is to say, it doesn’t adjust the headline number to account for the nearly 250,000 people who migrated into New Zealand last year. Those migrants have more than offset the number of people leaving our shores, and those migrants also need food, shelter, clothing and so on, which all boosts economic activity. Without the substantial population increase, the recession would be far worse.

Cutbacks and hiring freezes are a normal part of any economic downturn. As companies and government departments look to cut costs, reducing headcount is a logical place to start.

Choose Growth

Personal Career Growth

In today's dynamic professional environment, prioritising personal growth is essential for ensuring long-term career resilience. Whether advancing within your current organisation or exploring opportunities elsewhere, you can significantly enhance your professional prospects by exceeding expectations in areas such as skill development, training, and career progression.

By actively seeking out opportunities for learning and skill enhancement, you will not only bolster your value in your current role but also position yourself as an adaptable and forward-thinking contributor in any setting. Whether through formal education, specialised training programs, or hands-on experience, the commitment to personal growth is a foundational element in navigating the complexities of today's job market and achieving sustained career success.

A Growing Sector of the Economy

In today's evolving global economy, the importance of choosing a career path in a thriving industry cannot be overstated. Whether we are self-employed, or employed by someone else, we are all constantly navigating through the intricacies of different market trends, all the while seeking growth, stability, and longevity.

To achieve this, opt for a sector with promising growth potential, such as technology, healthcare, financial services, or most professional services. This can significantly mitigate the risk of being laid off and provide a solid foundation for career advancement. These industries are not only resilient but also adaptive to the changing demands of the global marketplace.

Conversely, certain industries are often referred to as "sunset industries". These are industries which are gradually receding into obscurity just like a setting sun, as new and emerging technologies or changing consumer preferences render once-prominent sectors obsolete. Take, for instance, the horse cart and buggy manufacturing industry, which faded into oblivion with the rise of automobiles. Many industries, big and small, have faced similar fates, consider:

  • Film photography, for example, Kodak
  • Fax machines
  • Video rental stores. Blockbuster, for instance
  • Payphones
  • Telegraph services
  • Typewriters

Similarly, mainstream media, once a powerhouse, now faces dwindling relevance in the digital age. Changing consumer preferences and accusations of the medias politicisation or political bias haven’t helped. This decline is nothing new and is a global phenomenon. Here are a few headlines to drive this point home:

  1. Is the media ready for an extinction level event? The New Yorker
  2. The media is melting down, and neither billionaires nor journalists can seem to stop it. The Hollywood Reporter
  3. Trust in the news slips further. Auckland University of Technology
  4. Bias, bullshit and lies: audience perspectives on low trust in the media. Oxford University
  5. The news about the news is getting grimmer. New York Times
  6. The brutal reality is that Australia’s media is broken and policy tinkering will not help. The Guardian

Against this backdrop, it’s fair to conclude recent well-published layoffs in traditional New Zealand media companies have less to do with the state of the economy and more to do with wider trends which suggest this industry is headed the same way as typewriters, video rental stores, and horse cart manufacturers.

What does this have to do with you? By aligning your professional pursuits with burgeoning sectors, and avoiding sunset sectors such as traditional media, you not only safeguard your livelihoods but also position yourself at the forefront of innovation and progress. The key to long-term career resilience lies in embracing the opportunities presented by expanding industries while remaining vigilant about emerging technologies and consumer preferences.

So, take a step back and ensure you’re in a vibrant, growing industry, preferably with minimal chance of disruption due to technology. If your industry is likely to be impacted by technological change over coming years, then ensure you’re at the cutting edge of that change – not reacting to it! Or, if your industry risks becoming a sunset sector of the economy, then it might be time to start retraining and reskilling in a whole new field.

Learn more:

Survivor Mentality – Think Positive

Acting like a survivor will have more impact on your performance than you realise. As Janet Banks and Diane Coutu of Harvard Business Review write “studying the thinking of survivors reveals a surprising paradox. Though creating a plan to weather layoffs requires an almost pessimistic realism, the best thing you can do in a recession is lighten up.” 

This may seem like an unrealistic oxymoron, but thinking like a survivor means thinking positively. It is believing that you will get through this and planning for the future. As The Association for Talent Development, research suggests positive people are more successful and have higher levels of job performance, review and perceived customer service. There is an array of social, psychological, mental and general health benefits that being positive can have. Positivity opens our minds to be more innovative and perceptive, it allows us to be more resilient in the face of adversity and leads to greater connection with people. All these traits are crucial to success at work. notes “those who are not socially connected are typically the first to get laid off when staff cuts happen. Work on your attitude, your energy, and your enthusiasm.” Positivity is infectious, people want to be around others who make them feel good, remember that. 

Take Responsibility

Take full responsibility for your outcomes and your results, and you’ll feel a lot better.

Taking responsibility for your actions involves owning up to the positive and negative consequences of your choices and behaviour, rather than attributing them to external factors or others’ actions. Acknowledging the effects of certain behaviours is often more difficult than blaming circumstances or other people for negative situations. It’s easy to blame a bad economy or cutbacks, it’s hard to accept that you weren’t performing so you were one of the first to be laid off.

In the long run, taking responsibility for your own actions demonstrates a strength of character and a willingness to grow.

A part of this approach in the workplace can mean taking full responsibility for how others perceive you. It’s not other people’s job to find out what’s interesting, valuable, or great about you. It’s your job to show them!

You should also:

  • Honour your word
  • Focus on accountability
  • Take action towards your goals, or area(s) of focus

Keep Focused

Staying focused on your own goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is crucial at a time when business productivity and efficiency are of paramount importance. There is no doubt that management will be scrutinising employee performance when deciding who stays and who goes. You want to be not only hitting your KPIs but smashing them. A recession calls for a hustler mentality, it’s time to work, hard. If you have the capacity, we recommend taking work off your manager's plate, making their lives easier and making yourself indispensable to them. That's smart business. 

Stay focused on your deliverables or customers. As Harvard Business Review have said, when layoffs are looming “anticipating the needs of your customers, both external and internal, should be your top priority.” Keeping your eyes on not only your own goals but anticipating the needs of your customers will truly set you apart. Businesses rely on selling a service or product to their customers, and during a recession, people need to be convinced to spend their hard-earned cash. If you have a client-facing role or can influence customer decision-making and morale in any way, don’t hesitate to get involved. 

Play the Game

Play the game doesn’t mean engaging in office-politics, watercooler gossip, or sucking up to the boss.

This relates to a whole other raft of areas. Let’s take a closer look.

Be Valuable

If a sports team was looking to get rid of a few players, do you think they’d start by cutting their best stars? Highly unlikely. In fact, the only reason for this would be if that star came with egotistical baggage or didn’t want to play the same game as the rest of the team – in which case they’d hardly be deserving of the title of “best star” in the first place!

In the same way, a business, or even government department, is unlikely to cull the very best.

  • Would a department of health look to save on staff costs by cutting the headcount of doctors or nurses? Are the police likely to cut the number of frontline officers? What about firefighters? Those situations are all possible, but unlikely. The people most likely to go are those perceived to add the least value, perhaps mid-level managers or career bureaucrats, not those adding value at the front line.
  • Would a business trimming expenses do so by laying off staff in their best-performing store? Or make their best salespersons or professional staff redundant? Or cut staff from their most high-performing team? Again, these situations are all unlikely unless there was some other reason. Good businesses need good people, recession or not.

So, be of value, and your value will shine through regardless of the economic backdrop.


Playing the game includes your positivity and engagement on the job. You must look at your business relationships as life rafts that keep you buoyant and boats that can help you travel upstream. In a recession, these relationships are even more valuable than ever, consciously invest time and energy into your connection with your colleagues and superiors. This could also be the perfect time to re-kindle relationships with old peers who may have advice or opportunities that can help you. 

Teach Others

People are often protective about particular skills that they have, believing they have job security in their ability to perform a certain task. The opposite is true if you can demonstrate to your employer that you can teach, coach, and help others reach their potential. As Workable notes “you will be perceived as someone who can help rebuild the team when the economy gets better. Sharing your skills increases your value.”

Demonstrating leadership skills and a hunger to work will set you aside from others who aren’t willing to dig deep. Look for opportunities to wear other hats, to harness external skills you may have outside of work. According to Harvard Business Review, “a recession can offer you plenty of opportunities to display your capabilities.” Layoffs can create vacuums within companies, which employees who have shown the ability to lead can fill.

Be Empathetic 

“There’s science to support the idea that showing empathy for people more powerful than you can be worthwhile,” notes Harvard Business Review. In this case, being empathetic with your manager is our talking point. The better your relationship is with your manager, the less likely it is that they will turn the axe on you. Psychology proves that emotional bonding and mother-infant style behaviours result in a superior wanting to protect someone they care for. Bearing this in mind, if you show empathy and care towards your boss, they most likely, in turn, will show it to you.

Boost Morale 

The light shines the brightest in the deepest darkness, as does joy amongst despair. When a company is expecting or undergoing layoffs, not to mention dealing with extreme financial stress, morale can get very low. Those who maintain positivity stand out. If you can find a way to boost the morale of those around you, your value to the company is priceless. There are countless ways to do so, from organizing simple team lunches or a crowd-pleasing quiz night. Create a #lol or #funnymemes slack channel and get those workplace giggles going. Give praise to others and convince management to allow a pet day in the office. 

The Bottom Line: How to Avoid Redundancy

There’s no magic solution to avoiding lay-offs, but there are many individual steps you can take to make yourself as valuable as possible to your employer. It pays to remember that although companies can get wrapped up in fighting fires when they inevitably come out of dire economic straits, they will always want a great team who are ready and able to lead them to lofty heights. If you can prove your value and your willingness to go above and beyond in the company’s best interests, it’s likely management will see you as someone they want to work with on the other side of the storm.

Remember, good things happen to good people. Add great value to whatever organisation you’re a part of, and never mind being made redundant, you’ll probably be promoted or get a raise!

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