I have spent quite a lot of time as a Temporary worker. The last two experiences have been with companies that have died, or are dying. Previous experiences has shown me clues to companies you want to avoid even trying to work for. There are some things I have noticed that are universal in the experience of watching this as a outsider.
HOW LONG DO PEOPLE STAY THERE?
If you are being interviewed for a permanent job, and they ask are there any questions. Ask how long the average employment with the company is. (Even ask the HR person how long they have been there). This is a good indication of how well a company is being managed. If it is an older company, but the workers only stay there about 2-3 years, it may hint that their respect for their workers, or working conditions are pretty intolerable. People don't want to look for work, I have seen people willing to put up with amazing abuse not to have to step out and look for something better.
DOES THE COMPANY ALWAYS HAVE HELP WANTED ADS?
Even if you are not job hunting, it is advisable to continue to check out the help wanted sites. You will notice a trend of companies locally that seem to be hiring all the time, or even hiring the same positions all the time, it may not be that they are growing, but rather they have a high turnover because their work environment is bad, and people jump ship.
WHAT TYPE OF POSITIONS ARE OPEN IN THE COMPANY?
Another clue to watch for is the job positions that are open in a company. If you see a lot of engineering, marketing and High Level Production people, they are a company that is losing it's brains. You may not be a "brain", but I can guarantee even as a worker drone, life will be pretty miserable if the brains are moving out. The old adage, sh*t rolls downhill applies to the workforce. You can expect unreasonable demands, and deadlines as people come in green to "reform" or "make their mark".
WHEN TO PLAN AN EXIT
Here are some clues that you may need to start polishing your resume.
SHIFTING RESPONSIBILITIES OF OTHER LOCATIONS
If the corporations start shifting responsibilities of other locations around. This is the first sign that they are losing control. It is usually fronted with we are expanding, or there are problems there, etc, but what they will do is to pile as much work as possible to certain locations, and will press people into long work hours, but you will notice there is no time line for ending the overburdening. I have seen people put 80 hour weeks into companies that will end up shutting them down in 3 months.
80 hour weeks are not good for you, nor your company. It means that eventually it will cause your personal life, or your health to fail. It also means that the company has not planned their business model (could it be a brain drain?) and/or they do not care about burdening you. You are only a production machine to them.
PEOPLE WHO YOU RESPECT ARE LEAVING OR BEING FIRED
If you see people who you admire at the workplace become disheartened, or get fired. Chances are things are going to change dramatically soon. If their view on life in general matched yours, chances are you are in trouble also. Make sure you already have started a job search.
KEY VACANCIES DO NOT GET FILLED
My last job, had a chief Finance person retire, and an HR position that still had not been filled. These types of positions are high paying positions that require education and experience skills. The company then burdened the lesser trained/experience person in line with their responsibilities. Usually with the front of "Helping out in a pinch"...but then end up leaving those responsibilities with people and not rewarding them with either a position nor pay increases. If you are that worker that gets caught in that situation, be careful! Your health and happiness is in grave danger! If you can not get a time-line or promise of promotion from management, get the resume out while you still have sanity and health to offer!
THERE ARE MANY MORE NEW CORPORATE FACES SHOWING UP
When companies start shifting people from other locations to your location there is only one good reason. They are being sent there to see what you do, and how you do it so they can take on that location's responsibilities and find better ways of performing it.
THE WORKERS ARE NOT WORKING TOGETHER
There is a very strong fear in America's workers that tomorrow they may not have a job. That is because tomorrow you may not have a job. There, it is out there. I have read numerous articles on how to be the one left standing, but really, no one is left standing when they lock the doors. So the months and months of sabotage and bitterness , overwork, and stress that leads up to the end are useless. When you see it starting, you have two choices: Enter the race and in the end you may have a job, but hate the person you have become to get there and so does everyone else you work with, or polish your resume and be ready to bolt. If you have to compete, at least get an exit strategy activated!
THEY START HIRING TEMPS LIKE ME
Yeah, I am the one they call when they are just trying to get things done when they don't want to invest any more resources into a location. I show up, not for the special project, but rather "to help out". They shift parts of your overburdened responsibilities to a temp, but guess what, even though I am diligent, and dependable...my work is reflected as your work! You also get the burden of training the Temp while still trying to complete your responsibilities.
If I screw up, I lose a temp/ no benefit/ position. There are more around. You on the other hand lose pension, health care, seniority, and your lifestyle. Even though it is a relief to have someone helping, if it a temp, it means the company isn't willing to invest into a long term solution. Get the resume template out!
I know the economy is bad, remember I am a temp! But I also have seen some wonderful people who truly care about their jobs, work themselves sick trying to "help" the company that they have been employed with. They "help" that company right to the day they lock the door. They continue to deny that they would ever be the one to be let go. They make no plans, nor do they set any lines in what they won't do to continue to be employed. If you see these signs, don't throw away what you have, but remember to start an exit plan for yourself (It will make the long days seem better), try to hang on to your personal life as these are the people who will help you when the end comes, and learn to start practicing diplomatic ways to say no to additional work. I am amazed how few people ever exercise the right to refuse new responsibilities, because it will look like you are a slacker. The company is dying, your refusal will not change the corporate decision.