Sometimes it is managers -- not the rank and file -- who need to be saved from the budget ax. Combustion Engineering Inc., a diversified manufacturer in the oil, gas, and power industries, headquartered in Stamford, Conn., decided in 1983 to cut labor costs at one of its plants when there was a temporary drop in work load. The blue-collar work force was unionized, and contracts stipulated that layoffs be made on the basis of seniority. Therefore, the company divided the supervisors into four groups of roughly 10 people each, and rotated them in week-long layoffs for four months. The rotating layoffs helped the plant, located in East Monongahela, Pa., survive the slow-down without having to resort to permanent layoffs.

"The layoffs spread the burden and saved people's jobs," says company spokesperson Kevin Pilon. "If we had to, we'd do it again."