Sometimes even the greatest jobs can run amuck, no matter how much effort and passion we put into them. No one ever wants to be laid off or fired, but the reality is it can happen to the best of us. What's important is to be aware of the warning signs that your employer may be considering letting you go.
Some clues are more subtle than others, so use -- and trust -- your intuition. If you get the feeling that things are going awry at work, you're probably right. Fine-tune your antennae to pick up the following potential signals:
Changes in communication.
Your boss avoids eye contact, maintains distance, and chooses to communicate via email rather than your usual face-to-face conversations. Smiles become infrequent, and communication becomes impersonal and matter-of-fact.
Responsibilities are diminished or taken away.
No matter how it might be sugar-coated, if projects or responsibilities are reassigned to someone else, this should be a red flag alerting you that you're not indispensable.
You sense your replacement has just been hired.
Be cognizant of new hires and their areas of responsibility. A new employee who is unexpectedly sharing your duties, supervising you or working closely with your boss might be in training to assume your position.
You're excluded, kept in the dark.
If you're suddenly excluded from meetings, projects and communications in which you've actively been involved, you need to ask yourself -- and your boss -- what the reason is. Often, when employees are about to be terminated, they're ostracized so that they're no longer privy to company information.
Praise turns into criticism.
Of course, we can't please everyone all the time, and positive criticism is necessary to improve our game. But if it seems that, no matter what you do or how hard you try, your efforts are met with disapproval, your job may be at risk. Continual criticism can have a negative impact on performance, productivity, and wellness. Before your job becomes unhealthy, take a step back and honestly assess your situation. It may be time to move on and find a new job.
You're passed over for a promotion or raise.
While not always a sign that you're about to be let go, being passed over is a signal to evaluate your competencies and skills, and identify areas where you might benefit from some professional development.
You're placed on probation.
Probation is not necessarily the end of the world. In fact, it requires that your employer point out his/her specific concerns about your performance as well as detailed suggestions for improvement. In addition, probationary periods provide a timeline and typically some quantifiable measure to determine if you're meeting expectations. Knowing the details of your employer's expectations and where you might be falling short can empower you to make prompt, positive changes.
The best way to avoid the above scenarios is to be proactive. If you sense your position is on shaky ground, take immediate action. Communicate with your supervisors. Ask questions. Get to the bottom of any possible dissatisfaction, address the issue, and document the steps you take to resolve it.
Have a backup plan, just in case. Polish your resume and reconnect with people who have provided references in the past. And, if you do lose your job, don't hang your head. Getting fired may actually be a positive sign that you've outgrown your current position, and that's certainly nothing to be ashamed about.
Debra Davenport, PhD, is a career expert, Executive Professional Mentor and the president of DavenportFolio, a licensed firm with offices in Phoenix and Los Angeles that mentors entrepreneurs and professionals. She is the author of "The Ten Commitments of Highly Successful People" and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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