In the past you only had to worry about the very infrequent layoff or restructuring. Times have changed. In the nonstop downsizing, company bankruptcies, and worrisome economy, even the illusion of security is a thing of the past. The high stress and added tension makes even the best of situations sometimes seem tenuous. So how can you know if you're going to get canned?
First, it bears repeating (and repeating and repeating...) you always need to be taking control of your career. You need to keep your network fresh and active and be willing to look for new opportunities proactively. This doesn't mean to job hop just to job hop. Simply bring your A-game to work every day, keep your skills ever-evolving, and stay abreast of job opportunities in your field ongoing. In this way you are ready to throw the turbo switch on a job hunt if and when you need to. Don't get caught like deer in the headlights.
I don't say this as a dispassionate observer and entrepreneur. When I worked for my last Fortune 100 company, I was exceeding expectations in all my work. While I was laying the foundation for my business in the evenings and weekends, I was doing my job 110% while I was there. I was a go-to person on the team. Yet, one hot July day, each member of my team got swept into the director's office with HR to discuss a "reorganization with no reduction in headcount". That's a lovely phrase and all, but at the end of the day my position was eliminated (yes you'll have to work that math out yourself). While I was certainly surprised (understatement) and it ultimately became a catalyst for me, I never felt like I was left high and dry without options.
Signs that you're being set-up to be fired can be glaringly obvious or subtle. It really depends on the situation. Either way you need to keep your eyes, ears, and intuition tuned into what is really going on so you can be as empowered as possible to navigate the situation.
Co-workers Avoid You Like the Plague
You used to have a congenial relationship with your co-workers. You were friendly, shared a chat at the water cooler, and collaborated on projects. Now all of a sudden they avoid you, won't look you in the eye, and steer clear of you like you have an infectious disease. You are suddenly no longer "in the know" and you have a weird feeling that others know something about you that they are just not saying. This is a sign that something is up and people are afraid of a real or perceived threat. I can remember once my position was eliminated, I had 60 days to continue to report for work. People avoided me like the plague. I think they thought if they talked to me, they'd "catch it" and get laid off too. Irrational? Yes. Happens? All the time.
Your Company is Undergoing a Merger or Downsizing
This may seem obvious but when a company undergoes such sweeping changes, positions will be eliminated. Even in the most synergistic of mergers, duplicate positions get wiped out. Downsizing is the new fast way to cut costs in spite of long-term outcomes during the last few years, so you never know when this might occur. If you hear grumblings or read the tea leaves, get yourself prepared and know that none of this is personal (no matter how personal it feels).
You See Your Own Job Posted on the Job Boards
Sounds almost implausible, but I've seen it happen. You literally see your own job get posted internally and externally and think, wait a minute! That's me! Even if you inquire about this you are likely going to be told a story about adding resources, expanding the department, or some other bait and switch. If it was really a proactive productivity move, a good manager would have given everyone a heads-up about the strategic plan. Use the job placement process time as an opportunity to accelerate your search.
All Your Responsibilites Have Been Given to Someone Else
You're humming right along in your job and bit by bit start to notice that your responsibilities keep getting offloaded to another person/department. It might be sudden or it could be gradual. Unless you're concurrently being given new, expanded responsibilities, you can almost bet your position is being eliminated.
You Received a Very Bad Review
Reviews are a way for employers to document performance. Sometimes accurately, sometimes not so accurately (the performance appraisal is a subjective process). A very bad review whether warranted or not, could be a definitive sign that your days are numbered.
You Only Receive Cost of Living Increases (COLA)
While the economy has resulted in many companies where COLA's were the only increase (if there was any at all), if others are getting more than COLA but you aren't, it could be a sign that they are earmarking you. Not getting any added monies based on performance means you are in the bottom 10% of performers (regardless of what your performance review says). The bottom 10% is always the first to go. That said, even if you're in the top 10% you're not guaranteed immunity. You can still get voted off the island for a number of reasons. Just be aware of the writing on the walls.
You Made a Huge Mistake
If you made a glaring, obvious and far-reaching mistake, even if you're not solely responsible for it, your job could be in jeopardy. Everyone makes mistakes, so we're not talking about the day to day kind. There are certain kinds of mistakes an employer simply can't ignore - like sharing confidential information or stealing. Take responsibility for your misjudgment and error as quickly as possible. You'll likely have to walk on eggshells at best, or you'll still be terminated at worst. Do your best, get back into integrity, and move on if need be.
Someone Else Made a Huge Mistake
It's a lousy phrase but true - water (or sh*t) flows downhill. If someone up the chain from you made a mistake, don't be shocked if they start looking for a scapegoat. Unfortunately tough times bring out the worst in people and some will never take responsibility for their share. They are under stress and feel they have a lot to lose. This means, ethical or not, you could be the fall girl. Plan accordingly.
Your Manager Suddenly Changes Their Attitude Towards You
Everyone has moody days (or weeks). You never know what might be going on in someone's personal life. Managers are human too. So one bad day or so, is nothing to fret about. I know I had managers that were often Jekyll and Hyde and I simply had to learn how to dodge the personality landmines. On the other hand, if your manager who used to be friendly with you suddenly turns icy cold, you want to be aware this could be the sign of a change afoot. Conversely, if you had a manager that was often unkind to you and they suddenly get all nice-nice, same thing. There's an unwarranted behavior shift which could be coming from their task (often unpleasant and dreaded) of having to tell you that you no longer have a job.
Have you ever been fired? Lost a job to layoffs? Were any of these signs in place? What are your thoughts?
Credit Image: keyboard with note You're Fired via Shutterstock
Paula Gregorowicz is a life and business strategist who helps women that want to live their true calling by building a successful service based business without the all the self-doubt, struggle, and overwhelm.
Download the Free Report: Your Own Uniqueness: The Path to Purpose, Prosperity, and Playfulness at http://www.thepaulagcompany.com.
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