Poor performance reviews, warnings from your boss and being assigned fewer tasks are obvious signs your employer might show you the door in the near future. But what are less apparent signs to look for if you feel you could be fired soon?
From behavioral changes in supervisors and coworkers to increased documentation regarding your work, there are several common hints which may suggest your employer is contemplating ending your professional relationship. And while the firing may be inevitable, seeing the writing on the wall can help ease the shock and motivate you to begin searching for a new job before the ax falls.
1. What should I look for if I think I might be fired?
The performance review is one of the main tools used in the workplace to help employees identify their strengths and weaknesses, understand the quality of their work, find areas that need improvement and review employer expectations. One poor appraisal might not be the kiss of death, but a succession of such assessments?
"A series of critical performance reviews could be a major sign that your job is in jeopardy," says Michael Kerr, speaker and executive coach and author of "The Humor Advantage."
Fixable issues, such as those relating to job duties, might not lead to firing, but you should note criticisms of your behavior and attitude during these reviews. If, for example, your manager states that you do not work well with others, this may be a problem that your employer feels cannot be overcome.
Repeated warnings about poor job results or behavioral issues, both verbal and in writing, are a strong indication you may soon be cleaning out your desk. And increased documentation outlining your actions could be a sign that your company is creating a paper trail that will ultimately lead to you exiting the building.
Perhaps, too, there was a time when you were assigned many tasks and the company seemed confident in your abilities, but now you're no longer assigned so many duties. Maybe you're shouldering fewer and fewer responsibilities with each new project. This could be a sign of bosses deliberately lightening your load before letting you go.
2. Other signs of an impending firing
Do you feel like you're being set up to fail at work? For instance, you might be given tasks you've never been asked to complete before, or given deadlines that are impossible to meet.
Former HR executive Cynthia Shapiro, author of "Corporate Confidential," says, "If there was someone we no longer wanted at the company, we'd give him all the worst assignments on impossible deadlines, set him up to fail and document that. After a few months, we could safely terminate him."
Are you being asked for more information than usual? You might be requested to submit more detailed expense reports, or suddenly have to provide documentation about your time. If you feel like you're being scrutinized, it's possible; your bosses could be watching and gathering documentation to support their decision to fire you in the near future.
Or, perhaps instead of too much attention, it's suddenly as if you do not exist. Your boss and coworkers may begin to distance themselves or no longer ask you to assist with projects like before. You may, for instance, no longer be part of groups sent to important conferences or training events, or simply not be asked out to lunch with the gang like before. If it seems as if you're being shunned, it might be time to update your resume.
3. Can anything be done once these signs are noticed?
Yes, according to some, and no, according to others.
David Parnell, author of "In-House: A Lawyer's Guide to Getting a Corporate Legal Position," explains that once the signs are visible, it is often too late to change your boss's mind.
"Half-hearted attempts at remediation often fail, as relationships and reputations have been sufficiently damaged," he says. Now would be the time to get your resume up-to-date and start networking.
Others suggest that diversifying your valuable skills, better communicating with your boss, and further highlighting your accomplishments could repair the damage and possibly help make your employers see your worth. Being proactive is the smart move. For example, if you want to stay with your current company, you might ask to be moved to a new department or to work with a new team. In some cases, a fresh start might be just what you need to prove you're a valuable employee.
If all else fails, make sure your resume is polished, and keep your eyes and ears open for new opportunities elsewhere.
4. Being fired: know your rights
As a terminated employee, it's important to know your rights were not violated when you were fired. Unemployment laws vary from state to state. Check the laws in your state to find out if you're entitled to unemployment benefits.
Remember to ask your employer about payment for unused sick or personal days, vacation time or severance pay you may have accrued. If necessary, you can request information about how you might continue to receive any employer-provided health benefits. Most companies offer COBRA (which, unfortunately, you would have to pay for), which allows you to continue the coverage you had while employed.