Getting fired is never fun – whether it is simply a downsizing, or a termination for poor performance. Few descriptions (no matter how kind) take the sting out of the actual event. Being terminated is even worse when you don’t know it’s coming!
Being a recruiter, I have witnessed the event from numerous perspectives. It is painful to see, whether it is a friend, a loved one, or an individual you know you are confidentially replacing.
Regardless of the circumstances, there are some telltale signs to look for if you are concerned that your job might be in jeopardy. Keep in mind – no one item is a positive indicator, so please take that into perspective before you assume the worst.
1. Communication Has Changed
One of two things are likely happening: either your boss is suddenly becoming hypercritical of your activities, or there is a complete lapse in communication.
For example, if you have a very hands-off manager, and he or she is suddenly questioning your work, your decisions, or your expenditures, it may be cause to take notice. If your boss has historically communicated well and often, but is suddenly aloof and unavailable (and not for a logical reason), take notice. There is also a possibility that your boss may be under scrutiny, so be sure to pay attention to the signs before you assume that the issue is with you.
2. You are Put on a Performance Improvement Plan
Your work may not be at its best, so your boss (or HR) put you on a Performance Improvement Plan, or a PIP. Depending on the circumstances revolving around this, it may be a genuine attempt to redirect your focus, and set you on a positive path in your career. If there are specific, attainable goals, and time frames to achieve those goals, you may have nothing to worry about – other than improving the quality of your work. In this case, you will have support and transparency from your boss and other team members, which you need to embrace if you want to save your position.
If the goals seem unattainable, and the PIP seems to be more of a formality, then take notice and start planning your exit strategy.
3. Everything is Suddenly Being Documented
It is very common for most managers or executives to communicate via email. That is a given. It is sometimes even common for your manager to copy other team members on correspondence throughout the day. If this correspondence is out of the ordinary, or HR or senior leadership is suddenly copied on the correspondence, then your boss may be building a case against you. Again – pay attention to whom the email is directed to (and requiring the attention of). Is it you personally, or is it your team (or another person in your department)?
4. You are Not Being Included in Projects or Meetings
If there are meetings that you are regularly part of, or projects you are consistently involved in that you are suddenly excluded from, this could be a red flag. An exception to this would be your boss letting you sit out of a meeting that wasn’t critical due to everything else you have on your plate. If your workload is decreasing, and you are still excluded from meetings and projects, take note.
5. Your Colleagues are Treating You Differently
If your coworkers seem quiet, or more distant than normal, or there are closed conversations and rumors floating around the company, be observant. It may have nothing to do with you, but if some of the other signs are evident, confidential information could have been leaked, and you need to take notice and strategize your next move. This can be cause of a toxic culture, so you may be better off looking at other options.
People often can sense when something is wrong, so if you are feeling this way, trust your gut and be proactive! The period of time leading up to a termination is often worse than the termination itself if you are feeling the pressure and seeing the signs.
Some employers will create uncomfortable circumstances in order to get an employee to quit on their own. Resigning from a position is not advisable, but will look better than a performance-based termination. If the termination is not performance-based, you are better off waiting for the pink slip and hopefully receiving a severance package. This is a common occurrence with executives, especially in the case of an acquisition, or new CEO.
Each circumstance warrants a different course of action, so be sure to consider all of your options before making a move.
For additional reference on this topic, I’ve included the following books:
How to Fire an Employee, by The Editors of New Word City — it’s really a book – I can’t make this stuff up!
How to Fire, Retain, and Give Honest References, by Jone Pearce (Part of Organizational Behavior – Real Research for Real Managers)
101 Sample Write Ups for Documenting Employee Performance Problems, by Paul Falcone
by Natalie Lemons
Natalie Lemons is the Founder and President of Resilience Group, LLC, and The Resilient Recruiter and C0-Founder of Need a New Gig. She specializes in the area of Executive Search and services a diverse group of national and international companies, focusing on mid to upper-level management searches in a variety of industries. For more articles like this, follow her blog. Resilient Recruiter is an Amazon Associate.
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