When we say "reduction of positions", in the context of a company's efficiency plan, are we talking about laying off current employees, or eliminating available positions at a company (e.g. in the future, the company will only be able to hire 4 accountants, as opposed to the 6 currently employed)?

If this is ambiguous - are there better ways of distinguishing between the two?

Thank you

  • You usually use lay-off/redundancy to mean firing existing employees.
    – user140086
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 10:24
  • 2
    The company downsizing is achieved through internal and/or external staff reduction.But, It is difficult to find single words that would convey the differentiation between contractors and in-house workforce.
    – Graffito
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 10:32
  • 1
    I think the question would be better asked the other way around, as you are tagging it as 'single-word-request' but have questions about the ambiguity of 'reduction of positions'. What actions is the company taking that you would like a word for? For example, 'downstaffing' is a commonly used word to describe both the letting go of employees as well as the reduction in available positions (at least in the context of contact centers, for example). Similarly, upstaffing would indicate an expansion of available positions would include the subsequent hiring of new personel.
    – Terah
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 10:59
  • Keep in mind that both upstaffing and downstaffing work off the premise that each job opening will be filled. If this is what you mean, I will post this is an answer for peer review.
    – Terah
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 11:00
  • 2
    Bear in mind that these kinds of announcements often use weasel-words and are deliberately ambiguous in order to hide what is going to happen. So there are probably "better" ways in the sense of being clearer, but that might not be what the writer actually wanted. Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 18:25

5 Answers 5


Using jargon from the recruitment world, one could refer to open job reqs or FTEs being reduced.

Req – pronounced “wreck”, but a Req is a good thing for a job seeker. It’s short for Requisition, which means there is an opening at that company.

-- http://www.examiner.com/article/the-abc-s-of-recruiter-lingo

FTE = Full-time equivalent


When a company says they're instituting a reduction in force, this is usually interpreted as meaning that existing employees will be laid off to decrease their employee workforce. But that is not always the actual action that's planned.

If they need to clarify, in my experience this is done using additional description of the process, rather than different terminology. For instance, they may follow it by saying something like

This will be accomplished through attrition and early retirement incentives.

This means that they aren't immediately firing employees, just not replacing employees who leave voluntarily.


If one employee/position is no longer profitable or helpful because the same work is being done by another employee/position then you could say that they are being made redundant.

  • How does this answer the question about firing people versus hiring fewer new employees?
    – Barmar
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 17:14
  • I was under the impression the question was about having fewer open positions for workers Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 17:25
  • Redundant is the common term in the UK, I understand, but is not commonly used in the US (where "laid off" would be the most explicit term likely to be used, with several others possible, depending on the degree of ambiguity desired).
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 18:57

job cuts noun [plural] uk us ECONOMICS (Cambridge Online)

a ​reduction in the ​number of ​jobs in an ​organization, ​area of a country, etc.:
The ​car ​giant announced 5,000 ​job ​cuts at its UK ​plant.
(Definition of job cuts from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

News cnbc 2016 02 27

Bank of America prepares to make investment banking job cuts
Alistair Gray
Traders at Bank of America are in for an unsettling few weeks as their employer eyes a higher-than-usual number of job cuts at its capital markets and investment banking operations. Saturday, 27 Feb 2016 | 3:49 AM ET Financial Times

(emphasis mine)

  • How does this answer the question about the distinction between firing current employees and hiring fewer new employees?
    – Barmar
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 17:13

The word I like for this is retrenchment, which, according to Collins Dictionary, means:

the act of reducing expenditure in order to improve financial stability

So, job retrenchment, workforce retrenchment, or just plain old retrenchment.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.