Questioning your job stability lately? Maybe you haven’t met your recent goals, feel tension between you and your boss or know that company layoffs are happening soon. Could you be the one to be let go? We spoke with industry leaders across the board and got the inside scoop on what happens before an employee gets fired. Read the warning signs and see if there’s anything you can do to prevent that from happening.
A final evaluation
Has your bossed randomly called you in for an unplanned evaluation (we’re talking in addition to the once-a-year ones)? If so, this could be a final warning sign for you. Matthew Reischer, CEO of Lawyer Reviews, gives employees he’s going to fire an evaluation three to four weeks prior to letting them go. “An evaluation for me is an opportunity to communicate with an employee that there is a problem with his or her performance and the last chance at worker remediation,” he states.
“Keep-your-job” tip: Take this evaluation seriously and work on improving your skills — fast. One week after your evaluation, speak with your boss again to go over improvements you’ve made and what you’re going to continue working on in order to stay with the company.
You’re put on a Performance Management/Improvement Plan
Companies have what are called Performance Management Plans or Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) to help employees meet specified goals and improve their skillsets. Though going on the plan doesn’t always mean you’re about to get fired, it can be a huge warning sign. Tatum Soo Kim, director of advertising at New York University, believes strongly in the use of PIPs. “PIPs keep the focus on correcting specific behaviors that decrease effectiveness. Basic PIPs require that managers notify employees of observations of weak performance, establish written requirements for improvement and set deadlines for improvement,” she states.
“Giving employees fair opportunity to recover and relaying explicit instructions for improvement helps managers protect their companies,” Kim concludes.
“Keep-your-job” tip: Similar to a final evaluation, being put on any sort of performance-based improvement plan needs to be taken seriously. Ask questions, get all the help you can, work overtime and continually seek ways to improve and go above and beyond your job description.
More subtle warning signs
While the two main warning signs are being called in for a random evaluation and being put on a Performance Improvement Plan, there are a few subtle warning signs, too, that you may be about to lose your job. They include:
- Your job responsibilities are decreased. Whether you’re “demoted” to a job without as many responsibilities or you notice your workdays seem a lot less hectic, this could be a clear sign that you’re being weeded out.
- You’re given a strange promotion. Being promoted isn’t always a good thing, especially if your new role is obscure. A fancy new title means nothing if your job responsibilities are unclear, and in a few months, don’t be surprised if your boss says, “Sorry, but this just isn’t working out.”
- Your boss spends less time chatting with you. If you and your boss are friends and talk regularly about personal issues and this all of a sudden comes to a halt — look out. Your boss may be cutting social ties with you before cutting you out altogether.
- The company has been struggling financially. Sometimes being laid off has absolutely nothing to do with you and everything to do with how the company is performing financially. If you’re company’s been going through a rough patch that just doesn’t seem to be ending, it may be time for you to start looking for another job. Always be aware of where your company’s at, financially speaking.
- You start to feel left out. Whether it’s from meetings or social events, you feel as though you no longer fit in with the company.
No warning at all
Perhaps you have a gut feeling that you’re about to be fired, but you don’t see any signs. At all. Unfortunately, some companies do not give any warning signs before terminating an employee. Arlene Vernon, an HR consultant who’s served more than 500 clients since 1992, has found that the majority of employers she sees do very little prior to firing the employee.
“The pattern is the same no matter the industry. The manager/owner typically ignores the situation for a very long time before doing anything, including informing the employee that they’re not performing or even violating company policy. Then they call me (or their HR department) and are ready to terminate — which is when we learn that there’s been no disciplinary action, no documentation and little if any feedback regarding the problem,” she states.
So what can you do if you’re not seeing any signs of being fired? Call a meeting with your boss and communicate what you think may be happening — pronto. Discuss ways in which you plan on improving, reasons why you value your job and the company you work for, and specific steps you need to take in order to keep your job. And even more importantly, follow through with every single one of your goals and prove to your boss that you mean business.