Red Flags That You Might Be Getting Fired

An employee at a nonprofit organization in Alexandria once shared that her agency had recently moved into new quarters. However, there didn’t seem to be enough desks for everyone, and the boss was sitting in the reception area. It wasn’t until she was told that she was fired that she realized that the company had never intended for her to make the move with them. The boss just couldn’t face up to firing her before moving day.

Here are some common signs that you’re about to get fired:

  • You’re not meeting goals.
    Try not to be paranoid about this point. Employers often discover they simply don’t have the “right person in the right seat” yet, and reassign responsibilities to better tap into your talents. But if you’ve been continually missing deadlines, goals, or other performance measurements, something is bound to happen. This is a good time to be proactive and approach your boss for an honest discussion. Explain that you are aware of the issue, value your role with the organization, and talk about options for improvement, reassignment, etc. This is far better than waiting it out to see what happens.
  • You are asked to train someone to do your job.
    We’ve never met an employee who appreciated being put in this position, and most managers don’t want to ask. However, the reality is that the person who may be following you needs to get up to speed as quickly as possible for the benefit of the organization and those it serves. If you sense that you aren’t training someone to work alongside you, have an honest conversation with your boss. If you are on the way out, this will give you a better opportunity to negotiate an exit strategy and timeline.
  • Your boss starts putting everything in writing. Employers know that they need to have documentation to show that they’ve sincerely “coached, advised & warned”. Unfortunately, by the time your boss is putting everything in writing (with a cc: HR), you are probably already on the way out the door. If you are put on a “Performance Improvement Plan” (and this is not part of an existing personal development process), go ahead—update your resume and call the recruiter.
  • Whispers, insane requests and the sound of silence.  
    If you feel like you are consistently left out of the loop, fewer projects are coming your way, goals are increasingly impossible to meet, or that your boss is constantly micromanaging you (or worse, avoiding you), you should probably get a jump-start on looking for another job.

Over 60,000 people per day lose or quit their job in the U.S. Although this doesn’t make the experience any less painful, at least you are not alone. How you handle the situation has significant implications for your career.

What to do if you lose your job

  • Make sure you understand your severance pay and benefits going forward, and eligibility for unemployment. Take notes—most likely, your emotions will be strained, and having reference notes will help you plan your next steps after you calm down. Better yet, ask for a letter of documentation from the company.
  • Talk with your boss about how references will be handled. Most employers will not bad-mouth an ex-employee, if for no other reason than the legal ramifications of doing so.
  • Take the time to determine what you really want to do next. Although you won’t realize it at the moment, this can be an opportunity to move onto something else that is equally, or more, fulfilling.
  • When interviewing for a new job, be prepared to answer the question, “Why did you leave your last job?”  A recruiter can help you with this and other questions that you may be asked about your previous employer.
  • Update your LinkedIn profile, arrange for references, and show-up at professional events to network.
  • Consider using a talent firm that specializes in your sector. An agency can help you update your resume, open doors, and give insider tips on interviews. Their clients expect to be hiring—so step up to be the right candidate.

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