There's been a strange feeling in the office lately. A conversation with a coworker ended awkwardly last week, and when your CEO announced a new project this morning, you're almost certain your boss was avoiding eye contact with you. Your friends are spending an unusual amount of time surfing the internet instead of working, and at this year's annual sales party — usually an expensive soiree — drinks were served in plastic cups. Are these events related, or are you just paranoid?
The following sections highlight classic signs that you're about to lose your job. If you encounter more than one of these within a period of a few weeks, it might be time to start planning your next move.
Signs You Might Be Fired
Most "at-will" hiring contracts give employers the right to terminate an employee at any time, for any reason, with or without warning, as long as the firing doesn't reflect an act of discrimination. At the same time, this is a high-stress, high-risk option, and it's generally understood that good managers don't fire. They hire carefully and coach intelligently, and they give struggling employees every possible chance to turn things around.
But some employers don't see things this way. And some employees think they're getting away with acts of corner cutting or disengagement that are more obvious than they realize. As traumatic as it is, firing happens. When it does, it's usually preceded by warnings like these:
- Manager disinterest. When your manager stops assigning new projects to you, stops scolding you, stops coaching you or stops chatting you up in the elevator, watch out.
- Quiet hostility. If you think you're getting snubbed, you might be reading into things too much. Or you might be getting snubbed. If the person in question is your manager, tune in and take the warning seriously.
- Treated with contempt. You've received multiple, often subtle, hints that your work or attitude isn't appreciated.
- You have an enemy. – Maybe a teammate disagrees with your work style, or your boss is holding a grudge against you. In either case, be weary.
- Underachieving. You've received a below average performance appraisal or you've been told that you need to make some changes. Even if you weren't directly threatened with termination, you may very likely be terminated soon if you don't take action.
Signs You Might Be Laid Off
Lay-off signs are often far subtler than the termination warnings above. They also tend to involve the larger company picture, not just you, your own work and your close relationships.
- Your mangers are gloomy, distracted or worried, and they aren't sharing specific details as to why.
- Work is slowing to a trickle and free time in the office has become commonplace.
- Salary increases and bonuses have slowed or frozen in recent years.
- Travel amenities and work-related celebrations are becoming frugal and threadbare, or disappearing altogether. Watch out if the holiday party or annual conference trips are cancelled.
- Your companions are scanning job boards and checking in with LiveCareer on a daily basis. They may be picking up on subtle signs that you're not noticing.
Once you've picked up on a warning, what should you do? Start by keeping a cool head and reviewing the big picture. If you'd like to hold onto your current job, it's time to put your ego aside, gain some flexibility and show your employers that you're willing to make changes and do whatever it takes to stay in the office.
But if this isn't possible or practical, get a jump on the next chapter of your life by starting your job search now. Visit LiveCareer for resume help, career guidance, planning tips and job market news within your industry.