How to Tell If You Are In Danger of Being Fired

By Joe Stein

In these weekly columns, I primarily focus on those who are unemployed or those seeking a better job than the one they currently possess.  There is, however, an entirely different group of potential or current Job Seekers consisting of those who are currently employed but fearful that they will be fired.

If you find yourself concerned about being terminated, then you should absolutely be in a job search.  It is much easier to find new employment when you are currently employed, then when you are faced with the stigma of having been involuntarily separated from your job.

So, you may be wondering how you can really tell if you are in danger.  Let’s take a look at some of the most common telltale signs that a termination may be forthcoming.  You will notice that some of the items on the list are pretty obvious, while others are fairly subtle.

 -  Performance Management – Let’s start with the most obvious scenario and this being a situation where you are being actively performance managed.  If you current employer has placed you on any type of warning then you should immediately being your job search.

 -  Annual Review – If your review indicates you are not meeting expectations, then you are probably on track to be performance managed.  Similarly, if your performance review is not nearly as positive as it was in past years, an alarm should go off with you that something has changed.

 -  Leadership Has Changed – New leaders, in an organization, can sometimes mean that they desire to have their own people in certain roles.  These are most likely individuals who have worked for them in the past and have been successful.  If you find yourself being excluded from the preferred group, it is time to start your search.

 -  Lines of Communication Have Been Cut – If you are having problems getting time with your supervisor, you may have a reason to be worried.  If a Manager knows someone is going to be terminated, they can sometimes avoid that person, whether it is due to guilt or some other reason.  Similarly, if you are usually “in the know” but now things are happening and you are finding out “after the fact”, then you may be in danger.

 -  Key Assignments Go to Others – A Manager is not going to assign you a project or other assignment if your employment is in peril.  If you used to get desired assignments but now they go to others, then start your job search.  It may also be a sign of things to come if you are given very short-term work but the assignments that will take longer are given to others.  The concern being that you will not be there to finish them so, therefore, they will not be assigned to you.

 -  Not Having Enough to Do – Typically, if you know you are going to remove a person, then you start cutting back on the workload as you prepare for his or her departure.  If you find yourself at your work area with less work than you usually do, then you may be in danger.  Being bored is not a good thing!

 -  Tough Relationship With the Boss – If you find yourself with an adversarial relationship with your Manager, it is time to get the job search moving.  The warning signs could be that you are disagreeing, he/she is critical of your work. or you are being over managed. Your Manager is a key player in your job security and if the relationship is poor, then this is not a good situation.

 -  Your Replacement Is On-Board – If you see a viable successor to you, then the company may be preparing for your departure.  This may be communicated as cross-training (if an internal employee) or additional headcount (if an external person is brought in), but the real reason is the company cannot afford to release you without a back-up plan.

 -  The Company Has Been Sold or Merged – If your employer has been sold or merged, that may mean that there are now two (or more) of everybody.  Typically, the company who buys usually wins the tug of war when deciding what employees will be released.  If you are on the wrong end of a sale or merger, it may be time to start looking for new employment.

 -  Rumors are Flying – Office politics can be surprisingly accurate on this particular topic.  If the word scuttling around involves you and organizational changes, then it is time to start listening! Where there is “smoke”, there usually is “fire”.

The idea around the list above is not to have you paranoid about your current employer and the status of your position.  Please don’t have this impact your performance at all. You do, however, want to control your own destiny and start your job search if you have a concern about your status.

No one should want to be in a position of being fired (even if you do think you may be able to obtain unemployment).  The situation can not only be embarrassing, but it may also make your job search much more difficult.  An employee should always have his/her antennae up, looking for possible warning signs regarding a change in employment status.   You want to stay one step ahead of your current employer and depart prior to giving them an opportunity to fire you.

As always, best of luck in your job search.