Most people are at least somewhat surprised when they hear the words “you’re fired.” Some are even shocked.
But upon looking back on the situation, almost everyone realises there were signs — they just chose to ignore them, says Robert Dilenschneider, author of “50 Plus!: Critical Career Decisions for the Rest of Your Life.”
Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job,” says the savviest professionals always keep an eye out for the classic signs that their job is in danger. This way, if and when they notice red flags popping up, they can attempt to turn the tides before it’s too late.
Here are 22 signs you may be getting the boot:
If you feel like you're about to be fired, it could just be in your head. But it can also be true.
If you've got that gut feeling something is off, be aware and start looking for other signs.
A negative evaluation is not always synonymous with being fired, but, in conjunction with other bad feedback, it can mean trouble, says Taylor. 'Your employer needs to create a paper trail, so along with warnings, your employer will use a performance review to document the problem areas.'
More than one poor performance review in a row is an especially bad sign, adds Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of 'The Humour Advantage.' 'Depending on how bad your first performance review was, you may be given a chance to make corrections and improve, but a series of critical performance reviews could be a major sign that your job is in jeopardy.'
If it's because of a lack of experience or lack of training in a certain area, then there's always a chance to fix it. But critical phrases to be mindful of during performance reviews include, 'You're not a good fit for our culture,' 'You're not a team player,' 'Your personality or style doesn't seem to mesh with the team,' or 'You have a major attitude problem.'
'If you hear any of these types of criticisms then it's time to break out your résumé, since it's often assumed that attitudinal issues are deeply engrained and unfixable,' he says.
If it's suddenly hard to access important data that would help you perform well in your job, or you're not invited to important meetings or included on key emails, a pink slip may be coming your way, says Taylor.
'There could be other reasons for this happening, but certainly one may be that your leadership has lost the trust or confidence in your abilities, making you vulnerable when and if layoffs happen,' Kerr says.
'When you first assumed the role, you had your marching orders and could accomplish them. Now it seems that you're tasked with projects akin to climbing Mount Everest blindfolded,' says Taylor.
'You're being set up to fail,' Kerr explains. 'Sometimes this is due to lousy leadership, but occasionally it can be because a company wants to get rid of you, but they need solid evidence to do so, and setting you up for disaster is one way of getting the 'proof' you longer belong there.'
Formal warnings are never a good thing. 'You may have received a verbal warning, a written warning, and maybe even a second written warning,' says Taylor. If you have, know that more bad news may be coming your way.
You used to be friends (or friendly, at least) -- but now there's tension whenever you're in the same room. 'Once your relationship has deteriorated to the point of being toxic, then how your boss treats you -- from ignoring you to publicly berating you -- can be obvious signs that your job might be in peril,' says Kerr.
'Increased scrutiny is a phenomenon that is rarely initiated by the accounting department,' says Dilenschneider. 'The boss believes that you have wasted time or inflated expenses. Even if you are 100% innocent, it doesn't matter. Find out if you are the only person being scrutinised.'
Here's a bad sign: You suddenly have a lot of time on your hands because not a lot of work is being assigned to you. 'As you try to secure normal work, it seems it's hard to get cooperation from your boss and other managers,' Taylor says. 'They're suddenly making your work life difficult.'
When you lose staff, budgets, and access to certain outside services and/or office space -- or any number of tools that would enhance your performance -- it could be because your employer is trying to push you out.
Are you constantly being asked for progress reports? Do you find that your boss constantly monitors your work?
If so, you may want to start looking for a new job, says Dilenschneider.
It seems that you're working in extremes. Either your boss is watching your every step, or they're nowhere to be found. 'Either way, it makes for a highly uncomfortable environment,' Taylor explains. 'If they're watching over you, you feel a lack of trust. If they're ignoring you, then you are in a seemingly endless state of inertia on your project status.'
Do you feel less important? Have your subordinates been transferred to other managers? Have projects been reassigned to your colleagues? If so, you could be getting the boot sometime soon.
'Your colleagues are all sent to a conference in Marrakesh, but you aren't invited. You are told to fly coach after years of flying business class. Suddenly, you lose your corner office and are relocated to the bullpen,' says Dilenschneider. 'Perks are an important part of the job, and if you sense yours are being eroded, you have every right to worry.'
Even if you performed a miracle never before witnessed by a mortal being, it seems your boss wouldn't acknowledge it now. 'To do so would run contrary to the campaign underway to remove you from the company,' explains Taylor.
If you've been asked to take a leave of absence, you probably have something to worry about. 'This is a major sign that things aren't well, even if it's under the guise of being what's 'best for you,'' says Kerr. 'It's the equivalent of a dating couple 'taking a break for a while' -- and we all know how that usually ends.'
When people seem to shy away from you, and you notice it most from people with whom you shared a friendship, it probably means something's up. 'Oftentimes when coworkers hear rumours about someone being fired or even reprimanded, they stay away to avoid 'guilt by association,'' Taylor says.
Suddenly you're reporting to more junior people, or more managers in a matrix environment. 'There's more red tape and bureaucracy whereas before you could get your work done in a streamlined way,' Taylor says. This isn't a great sign.
'Depending on the context and how your leadership team treats failures and setbacks, especially in the realm of experimenting with innovative ideas, then you might be allowed to file a major mistake under the heading 'learning experience,'' Kerr says. 'But for some, this will mean an early exit out the door.'
This sign is similar to 'being left out of the loop' -- but even worse. 'Most organisations have a chain of command, and when it is disrupted, it is a clear indication that you are no longer needed,' says Dilenschneider.
When a company is preparing to let someone go, they sometimes limit or revoke the employee's access to certain accounts a bit prematurely.
Beware if your email password no longer works or you've been locked out of your company's intranet, says Taylor.
Not being asked for input means your boss no longer values or cares about what you have to stay, Kerr warns. 'Freezing you out of the loop is often the first sign of a slow slide out the door.'
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