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Employees Confident Layoffs Won’t Happen to Them

Jan. 8, 2009 — It’s the it-won’t-happen-to-me attitude: despite an increase in layoffs and unemployment claims, employees are confident that they won’t be laid off in the next six to 12 months.

A survey of more than 1,300 employed adults by Harris Interactive on behalf of found that 52% of employees admit they are working harder to avoid layoffs, 79% say they are not concerned about being laid off, 42% of employees say they are concerned that their company will lay off other employees in the next six months, and 21% are concerned they will be laid off in the next six months.

Despite the dire news about pay raises and bonuses, the survey found:

  • 40% of employees say they expect a pay raise or cost of living increase in the next 12 months; 40% do not expect a raise; 20% say they are unsure.
  • Of those eligible for an annual bonus, 57% expect a bonus and 40% do not expect a bonus. Of those who expect a bonus:
    • 41% expect it to be about the same as last bonus
    • 28% expect it to be less than last bonus
    • 15% expect it to be more than last bonus
    • 16% are unsure of the amount.

 The survey also found that, no surprise, employees favor taking on additional responsibilities and working longer hours over taking a pay cut or losing vacation time to avoid getting laid off. The survey found that 61% of employees said they would not be willing to take a pay cut if they discovered their job was in jeopardy. To keep their jobs, the survey found that employees are willing to:

  • 74% said they would take on more projects or responsibility
  • 60% said they would increase amount of hours worked
  • 46% would give up perks like commuter subsidies, on-site cafeteria, child care, dry cleaner, gym access
  • 32% would accept a reduction in health and dental benefits coverage
  • 30% would accept a cut in salary or wages
  • 24% would forfeit paid time off or vacation
  • 24% would take an unpaid leave or sabbatical

For employees who work in companies that have already laid off workers there are more concerns and lower expectations:

  • 49% said their company has made changes to the number of employees or benefits and/or perks in the past six months
  • 26% said their company has laid off employees or communicated plans to lay off employees
  • 25% said their company has changed compensation or reduced pay

The survey found that employees who work in companies that have reported lay offs have more concerns about future job cuts and have lower expectations than those who work in companies that have not reported layoffs.

Employees who work for companies that have reported layoffs versus those that haven’t are more likely to:


Employees from
companies that have
communicated layoffswithin thepast 6 months

Employees fromcompanies who havenot communicated layoffs within the pastsix months

Have concerns about being laid off in next six months 21% 45% 12%
Have concerns coworkers will be laid off in next six months 42% 87% 26%
Be working harder to avoid a lay off given the current state of the economy 52% 69% 46%
Not expect a pay raise in next 12 months 40% 49% 36%
Not expect a bonus 25% 32% 22%
To take on more projects and responsibilities to avoid a lay off 74% 84% 70%

“This data reinforces the need for employers to be more open and transparent with their plans for the company and people. It is human nature to always think that something bad will happen to someone else but never to me. Employees often think them personally — or their company — will be insulated from layoffs and that someone else will lose their job, not them, often causing shock and denial when notified their job has been eliminated,” said Rusty Rueff, co-author of Talent Force: A New Manifesto for the Human Side of Business and former HR executive at Electronic Arts and Pepsico, who is also a member of Glassdoor’s board of directors. “Fourth-quarter layoffs may just be a prelude of what’s to come and both employers and talent should take time now to communicate and plan short-term options and contingencies. In today’s environment there’s no reason to continue to have people surprised and not prepared for the worst.”

Survey methodology
The survey was conducted online within the United States between Dec.16-18, 2008, among 2,281 U.S. adults of whom 1,331 are currently employed (full-time or part-time). This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

Contents © 2008 WorldatWork. No part of this article may be reproduced, excerpted or redistributed in any form without express written permission from WorldatWork.

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