Should you be looking for a new job?

Pay attention to the warning signs.

7 signs your company may be a sinking ship.

Are the managers at the company you work for holding lots of unusually secretive meetings? Are there mysterious consultants wandering about the place? Have you noticed that recently no one’s been telling you anything?

Maybe it’s nothing. But maybe your employer is about to undergo a major upheaval that could affect your job prospects – insolvency, a round of redundancies, or being taken over or merged.

Sometimes your job can be at risk through no fault of your own, so it pays to keep an eye out for the warning signs that things are about to change.

1. No one’s telling you anything

A sudden change in a company’s internal communications can be a sign that things aren’t going well, says Jason Henham, managing director of Melbourne-based business services firm Slate Consulting.

“If you work for an organisation that’s always open in its communication and sharing information with their teams and their staff and that suddenly changes, that might be an indicator,” he says.

2. Stress has gone up

Is management a lot more stressed than usual? It could be a sign that something’s going on.

“You have a lot more heated discussions – a general intensity and tension in the office, people are a lot more snappy when you ask a question, doors are closed, that sort of thing,” says Michael Edelstein CPA of Lucky You Found Me, a recruitment firm specialising in accountancy jobs.

3. Managers are leaving

Managers and other top staff leaving “is always a really good sign” of trouble, says Edelstein. This can indicate there’s some dissent in terms of strategy or the company performance, or that the managers departing might not want to be associated with what’s going to happen to the company in the future.

4. The company’s late in paying

An obvious sign of financial trouble for a company is if suppliers are chasing it for payment. Companies will usually slow payments to suppliers first, but if things get really tight you’ll also see a slowdown in paying staff.
“Are they changing the date on when the salary is being put into your bank account? That’s an issue,” says Andrew Morris, Director of Queensland & Western Australia at financial services recruiter Robert Half.

5. Benefits and training cuts

Where’s the fruit bowl gone? An easy place for a company in financial stress to make cuts is in fringe benefits, particularly if they’re not enshrined in employment contracts. Likewise, says Morris, troubled companies often abolish or cut back their training programs.

6. Staff freeze

Are staff leaving and not being replaced? Are the remaining staff being given more and more responsibilities? Taken alone, this could just be a sign that a company is being more careful with its budget, but it could be a sign of trouble when taken with other factors.

7. For lease?

If removalists show up and start taking away the office chairs and plants, then it’s definitely time to start looking for a new job.

What to do?

Taken together, all these signs could be an indication that the company you work for is in trouble or that something’s about to change.

Or they might not. Robert Half’s Morris cautions against jumping to conclusions.

“What people tend to do is [think] one plus one equals five,” he says. “Just because there are a lot of boardroom meetings or management meetings, it doesn’t mean doom and gloom.”

The best thing to do is to seek answers. “You’d hope that if a company is going through difficulties that they’d be transparent with their staff, but we know that doesn’t always happen,” says Morris.

“I would go and speak to the senior management of the company and if they don’t give me the answers that make me feel at peace with the prosperity of my job, then go and seek work outside.”

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October 2021
October 2021

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