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By Nikelle Murphy /
September 12, 2016
Fired Caucasian businessman carrying personal belongings
JGI/Jamie Grill—Getty Images/Blend Images

Your company just made headlines for its quarterly losses. You hear concerned whispers as people pass by your cube, and your boss is holed up in his office like he’s defending secrets of national security. At this point, there’s only two questions you care about: Are layoffs happening, and will you be one of the people to get a pink slip?

To avoid any legal issues from cost-cutting layoffs, companies need to follow certain guidelines when it comes to deciding who to lay off. However, those guidelines still leave ample room for discretionary cuts. In unions, the typical rule is “last in, first out” and organized by seniority. However, in other workplace situations, management has the ability to direct who goes and who stays.

When a company needs to reduce its workforce for economic reasons, it’s normally a good course of action to determine which departments or positions are no longer helpful for achieving the company’s goals. “For example, if the company is cutting back on direct sales to focus more attention on research and development, the sales department can be safely targeted for cuts,” according to Nolo, a legal advice site.

Think layoffs might be in your company’s future? Here are five types of employees who are often the first to go.

1. Those Whose Role Could Potentially Be Outsourced

Outsourcing won’t win your firm any “Company of the Year” awards, but upper management might believe the move is still worth it if it can save their bottom line. According to one report from Global Research, roughly 14 million American jobs are at risk for outsourcing to other cheaper workforces around the world.

It used to be that only call center employees and customer service representatives were at the highest risk for layoffs due to outsourcing, but in today’s digitally connected environment, any job that can be completed with an internet connection and telephone can potentially be on the line. Positions in fields like information technology, accounting and even engineering design are now in danger of getting sent overseas for a cheaper price tag as well.

Read: 5 Places Where Wages Are Growing

2. The Employees Who Refuse to Learn New Skills

No matter what industry you’re in, it has likely changed dramatically since five or 10 years ago. Your job description might have changed, and your company might be pushing new technology and training along the way to keep up with demands from the industry or customers.

If you’re looking to secure your job, don’t turn down opportunities to learn new skills. A resistance to change or outright refusal to shift the way you perform your job could make you a target for future layoffs, and your employer will be able to argue that you are no longer aligning yourself to the company’s future goals. “Low-maintenance employees who can adapt quickly and without a fuss are more likely to be retained when there’s a layoff,” according to a report from the Metropolitan New York Library Council.

3. The Consummate Slacker

You might think you’ve made it when your inbox is empty and you can spend half your day organizing your desk. But if you aren’t seeking out extra job duties and your boss realizes how light your workload actually is, you might be at risk for receiving a pink slip in return for all your fruitless days.

Read: 7 Signs You’re Living Beyond Your Means

“This may be the inexperienced employee who wants to be laid back and doesn’t care about the job, the employee who leaves others to pick up the slack, or the employee who is getting close to retirement and is coasting on the job,” writes the team at Keirsey, a site dedicated to determining employee temperaments.

4. The Employee Who Embarrasses Their Boss

Whether you realize it or not, the ability to make your boss and your colleagues look good elevates your own standing in the company. It’s one of the “soft skills” employers look for, and it will likely matter when it comes time for your bosses to decide who has earned the right to stay on in the midst of company turmoil.

On the other hand, if you embarrass your boss by showing up late to important presentations, publicly challenge co-workers on a consistent basis, or are rude and speak negatively about your company, you can’t expect management to fight very hard to keep you around.

Read: How Real Couples Resolve Their Money Differences

5. The Person Who Costs Too Much

It’s only an official layoff when a company is making cuts for financial reasons, so, in this scenario, you can likely expect the people who are drawing the biggest paychecks to get a closer look. When you can lay off one person versus three lower-level employees with smaller paychecks, it can be tempting unless the employee with the larger salary has made themselves indispensable.

At the same time, “costs” aren’t just monetary. If an employee’s personal or office drama cuts into productivity and the boss spends more of their day as a referee or counselor than a manager, a layoff period can be an easy way to cut employees who are costing the company time. “Dealing with this person costs the manager too much time and layoffs provide the perfect excuse to get rid of this type of person,” Keirsey summarizes.