Episode 88: Keeping Your Name Off the Layoff List

The 90th Percentile: An Unconventional Leadership Podcast

Published: September 21, 2022


The tides are shifting, and the economic downturn is causing some big corporate layoffs. After doing some research with one firm that had a major layoff, Zenger Folkman found some common traits among those who were let go. In this leadership podcast episode, we’re sharing some helpful tips for keeping your name off that layoff list.

Zenger Folkman gathered a substantial amount of data from one U.S.-based Fortune 100 company after it had gone through an organizational downsizing to see if we could identify factors that might predict which people were most likely to be let go.

Key Points

  • Good performance reviews were not very predictive. Only 23% of those who were laid off had been given a negative review the previous year. The implication is that the other 77% who were asked to leave had no clue this was coming.
  • Those who were downsized rated, on average, only in the 32nd percentile on their strategic ability – that is, worse than two-thirds of their colleagues. While they perceived themselves to be working very hard, they looked to everyone else in their 360 evaluations like they were running out of energy and losing effectiveness over time.
  • As a group, those laid off averaged in only the 37th percentile in the 360 evaluations of their relationship-building and people skills.
  • Over half the managers who were downsized indicated that they had recently lost the support of their sponsor.

Connect with Joe Folkman


Zenger Folkman hosts an exclusive live webinar every month, where you can meet Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman and join in a conversation about their latest research in leadership development. Find out more information and register here.


Keeping Your Name Off the Layoff List– Harvard Business Review Article by Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman