Dear J.T. & Dale: I was told there's going to be a second round of layoffs at my company, and I will likely lose my job. Apparently, my company is losing money and they'll have to cut staff in order to stabilize the business. What I don't understand is why they cut so many lower-level employees, but the executives get to keep their jobs. — Taylor


J.T.: It's a valid question. Some executives make so much money that eliminating one of them would save multiple lower-level jobs. However, when it comes to layoffs, many of the jobs that will be eliminated are duplicate roles where multiple people at the workplace conduct them. When revenues go down, the need for that many workers goes down as well. Further, a lot of these companies are restructuring themselves entirely and just don't need some of these employees anymore. The good news is once the second round of layoffs is complete, the company can start to build a strategy to grow again. If you stay in touch, you may be able to go back. In the meantime, start looking for work immediately. It's going to be competitive — yours is not the only company going through layoffs.


DALE: There's another reason layoffs affect fewer executives than other types of employees: Human nature. Most of us overrate our importance to an organization, and executives are no exception. Further, it's a law of bureaucracy that you protect your position by adding layers of management under you. Executives who cut the jobs of the junior executives who report to them become more vulnerable, plus they have to do more work. The upshot is that sparing executives from layoffs is unfair but not unnatural. All you can do is find a thriving company, preferably with a path for you to an executive job.


Dear J.T. & Dale: I have a vacation planned for next month. I told my boss about it before we started working from home due to COVID-19 in March. I'm afraid to bring it up, because I know my boss is stressed about money. But I really want to go on this vacation. Also, I'm afraid that he might fire me if I go because he's been mentioning that he may have to conduct layoffs. What should I do? — Claire


DALE: I think you are wise to hesitate. You do not want to test a boss under extreme stress.


J.T.: You can, nevertheless, test the waters without testing your boss. I would set up a call with him. I would ask about the possibility of you still being able to take your vacation in August. Explain how much you love your job and that you don't want to lose it. Also explain that you know he has been concerned about money. Finally, let him know that you are willing to do whatever it takes to be able to cover your work so that you can in fact take the vacation. Then, see what he says. These are trying times right now, and at least by reaching out to him and seeking his opinion, it would be much harder for him to want to fire you. I'm sure once he hears the sincerity in your voice and that you are willing to do whatever it takes to cover for yourself, he will hopefully see the value in letting you take your vacation.


DALE: I'm going the other way on this — the vacation, or even bringing it up, is just not worth the risk. If the boss says it's OK to go, then he gets to practice running the team without you. How's that feel heading into probable layoffs? If he won't let you go, that might be better because it may suggest that you're indispensable, but then again, you've made the boss say no, added to his stress and got him thinking about how to work without you. On top of all that, it's a terrible time for a vacation, with so many destinations closed or limited. I say give it a few months, and it may all work out.


Jeanine "J.T." Tanner O'Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators' Lab and author of a novel about H.R., "The Weary Optimist." Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.