Nobody wants to get fired. You may have learned to enjoy Alan Sugar’s no-nonsense method of dispatching of useless employees on “the Apprentice,” but the reality is far more ugly, depressing and underhanded. Determining that you’re actually going to lose your job isn’t easy, since the signs generally aren’t obvious and won’t fall into place until you’re called in for that fateful meeting. However, there are clues you can use to give yourself a little time to prepare and start looking for new positions before you’re kicked to the kerb.
The most noticeable sign of impending termination is often that people who usually stop and chat with you walk straight by or even avoid eye contact with you. If other people know you’re on the chopping block, they won’t be as keen to spark a conversation with you. It might seem rude, but your colleagues are probably torn between the desire to tell you the truth and the knowledge that it isn’t their place. You might even notice hushed voices and new topics of conversation starting as you enter the room, which are signs that people are talking about you.
You’re out of the loop
If you’re usually well-aware of major projects, changes around the office or anything that goes on at work and you’re starting to realise you’re falling out of the loop, this could be a very good sign. The reason for this is similar to why some people may ignore you, but also because there is no point keeping you up to date if you won’t be around for long.
People hate you
Forget about your opinion of yourself for a moment and think objectively about how people react to you. Do you eat alone at lunchtime? Do you kill conversations with your comments? Do people laugh when you make a joke? If you’re frequently alone and don’t interact well, that alone could lead to you being fired, regardless of how well you do your job.
Receiving impossible tasks
A job that nobody would be able to complete successfully is a good way for management to underline your poor performance. If you’re being given a job that seems pretty much impossible, ask yourself if your boss really thinks you’re going to succeed. If it’s an insurmountable task, your inevitable failure may be used as a final excuse to get rid of you.
Mandatory time off
The truth is that bosses don’t like to give you time off. Holidays are designed to help workers stay sane; for a boss they just temporarily reduce the work-force. The only times you’ll usually be encouraged or instructed to take a holiday are when you’ve just completed a huge project, when you haven’t used up your yearly allotment near to the renewal date or when your boss wants you away from the office. If the former two don’t apply, your job may be at risk.
Most issues can be solved with an informal chat, but if serious action is being considered, written evidence is golden. If your usual cautions start to come in the form of written notices, it might be that HR is building evidence to support the decision to fire you.
Being moved to a new position
If your position is changed from something concrete and clearly useful to something vague or superfluous, it’s time to ask yourself some questions. Is the job you’re being asked to do relevant to the company overall? Is it a brand new position? Even if the move is phrased as a promotion, it could be a prelude to a sacking. It’s sometimes easier to erase a position than to fire an employee.
The previous signs are more clearly suggestive if several occur in a short space of time, but there are some obvious clues too. For example, if you’ve recently messed up something important, shown up reeking of alcohol, received a dismal performance review or been given an outright ultimatum, you’re much more likely to be fired. Take action as soon as possible, apologising for your mistakes and working hard to show you can improve. It might not be successful, but it’s worth trying if things aren’t looking good.
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