How do you know if you're about to be fired? Look for these signs.
Without a doubt, being fired from your job is probably one of the most unpleasant experiences you can have, ranking up there with working in a toxic environment, being harassed, or having a horrible boss. And while some people have never been fired, being fired is more common than you might think; a Branded study found that an estimated one-third of people have been fired from a position during their career.
There can be many reasons for being fired: your performance, the performance of the team you manage, or personality conflicts with your manager and others. In a best-case scenario, your manager discusses the issues with you, shares clear feedback, and guides you to make improvements.
Unfortunately, for some, being fired comes without warning. One survey found that 68 percent of people who had been previously fired from a job said they were surprised by the news.
If your manager doesn't tell you there's a possibility you could be fired, there are other cues that will tell you something is not quite right and your job could be at risk.
Being fired doesn't have to come as a complete shock; here are five signs to look out for.
Your performance feedback hasn't been great
Great performance feedback often includes a balanced discussion of areas where an employee meets expectations and areas that need improvement. After all, no one is perfect, and even the best performers can benefit from constructive feedback.
However, if you notice that the feedback seems to be more skewed towards areas for improvement than areas of strength, there's a chance your manager may be trying to tell you that things are not looking good.
Your most recent performance review can also show signs that you may be asked to leave. Perhaps you received an average performance rating, or the review feedback didn't focus on your achievements as much as you think it should have. In that case, your manager may have had concerns but struggled to articulate them effectively.
It's not unusual for managers to struggle with giving feedback. One study found that 37 percent of managers are uncomfortable giving feedback they think will be met with a bad employee response.
If your performance review discussion didn't go well, your manager may have been trying to set the stage for a more serious conversation.
You're not being asked to take on new work
If you see new projects and assignments being passed on to others, it could be because your manager doesn't have faith in your ability to execute them well. It could also mean your manager is already planning for a future when you won't be in your position to complete those projects.
While there may be another reason you aren't being asked to take on new work, any reduction in the work you're asked to do is likely a sign that your manager relies more on others (and less on you) to get things done.
If you show a willingness to do more and there is still no change, it's time to share your concerns with your manager and try to understand if your team may be moving on without you.
You have a new manager
New managers often come into a role to make improvements, and it's not uncommon for them to re-evaluate the people on their team. Your new manager may change your team's goals or have new ideas about dividing the work. As a result, the work you've contributed in the past may not meet your new manager's expectations.
Another reason a new manager could lead to your being fired is personality fit. While you might have settled into a great rhythm with your old boss, you may not jive personality-wise with your new one. You may have different work styles and ways of communicating, and those differences may ultimately result in a poor working relationship.
And when you have a bad relationship with your boss, you can experience stress, a dip in performance, and miscommunication — which can ultimately lead to your departure.
You feel left out
If you're no longer feeling like an integral part of the team or it seems like your manager and others are giving you the cold shoulder, it could be more than your imagination. Feeling that you're on the outside looking in can be a red flag that your place on the team is in jeopardy. Some common scenarios that can lead you to feel left out include:
One-on-one meetings with your manager are shorter.
Your manager seems less available to answer your questions or have informal discussions.
No one is asking for your buy-in for key decisions.
You get invited to fewer meetings.
Your suggestions and ideas are ignored or discarded.
The rumor mill is buzzing
Unfortunately, bad news (or some version of it) has a way of traveling around an organization. While a responsible manager won't be spreading ideas about firing an employee, somehow, the message finds its way into the rumor mill anyway.
If you hear rumors that change is coming and it could affect your team, it's not unreasonable to question if the rumors are about you. If your colleagues seem to know something but don't seem to be sharing it with you, or worse, your manager can't give a straight answer when you ask if something is up, the rumor mill may be buzzing with some truth about you.
Being fired is not the end
Even when there are signs you may be fired, there are things you can do to confirm your suspicions and possibly prevent it from happening. You can take a fresh approach to your work and focus on new ways to add value. You can also ask your manager for feedback and support to make improvements. If you need help speaking with your manager, go to HR for help or speak with a trusted mentor.
No one wants to be told to leave their position, but in the end, despite your best efforts, it may happen anyway. If you see the writing on the wall, don't lose hope, as being fired is not the end. Start planning for a job search, as being fired can also lead to a new and exciting opportunity.
If you have a bad gut feeling about your current job, it's time to upgrade your resume. Our professional resume writers can help.
This article was updated in November 2020. It was originally written by Isabel Stanish.
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