With today’s struggling economy, it’s hard to tell who is most nervous about the future — employees or employers. Employers fight shrinking budgets, smaller client pools and pressure from their own financial fragility. Employees rarely know what’s going on in closed-door meetings, even at the executive level. Many walk into their boss’s office expecting a pat on the back but leave with a pink slip.
Though it may be anxiety-inducing, knowing doom is impending can be a good thing. Forewarned is forearmed, and if you read some telltale signs, you may be able to get ahead of a termination, either by keeping your job or keeping an eye out for another.
There are indicators that your job may be at risk. Pay attention to these warning signs to know whether your job may be next on the chopping block. Keeping an eye for signs that your career is at risk means you aren’t left surprised and without resources. Here are five signs you’re losing your job.
1. You have less responsibility. Here’s a situation where less is not more. If your boss is asking you to do less or tackle easier jobs, it may be a sign that you are soon to be let go. When you are asked to do less work — or the work is less crucial to the company — it may mean your employers are preparing themselves for a shift. They don’t want to depend on you for work. Responsibilities that were once yours may be going to junior members of the staff, which is an easy way for managers to cut numbers, but it also means your job is less secure.
Pay attention to shifts in responsibility. If in the past you were super busy but now find yourself scrolling Facebook with not much to do, start building your resume.
2. You’ve received disciplinary actions. If you’ve been called into the boss’s office in the last year, it may indicate an issue between you and those above you. Don’t assume that the meeting itself was the discipline — it is often a first step employers will take before cutting an employee loose.
There is often a disconnect between what is being said at a disciplinary meeting and what the person being disciplined hears. During these meeting, avoid planning how you will respond and instead hear what is being said. Don’t treat it like time in the principal’s office where you must nod until it’s over.
If being in your manager’s office for disciplinary action is nothing new, understand that you may be the first to get fired.
When time comes for cuts, the person with the fattest file for workplace issues won’t do well. Listen to what your boss is trying to say if you get called, and ask for clarification. Incorporate what he or she is telling you and use it for this job or the next one.
3. You can’t find your boss. If you and your boss don’t get along, that itself may indicate it’s time to look for other work. When your employer is nowhere to be seen or has stopped responding to your emails, it’s possible that he or she is avoiding you. Understanding your boss’s personality may help you decipher whether their being MIA is a bad sign. Some bosses are direct and will tell you if your job is in trouble. Many more are passive aggressive. They can’t bring themselves to explain that your job is in danger, so they make it a point not to see you.
If you can do so without being pushy, try to engage your boss. If your emails aren’t getting responses, stop by his or her office, but be armed with something positive to say. Swinging by a manager or employer’s office with complainants — even if they are valid — won’t do much to put you in his or her good graces. Instead, explain other ways you may be helpful to the company or express gratitude at having your position. Personal contact can offer an opportunity to turn around a bad situation.
4. Your company changed hands. Organizations of all sizes go through transformations, including ownership changes. You may be doing great work, but there isn’t much you can do to save a job if new managers are looking to trim the budget — often a first priority after a takeover. Ambitious new owners may trim the numbers through automating jobs once done by humans.
If your new owners have taken over your company, they may be looking to make a name for themselves — even at your expense. Consider takeovers a chance to get yourself ready for your own transformation. There tends to be lots of time between an announcement of new ownership and when the new owners take over. Use that lag time to see what other opportunities may be available in your field.
5. You’re left out. You may be left out of important meetings or simply an executive lunch, but if you aren’t being asked or encouraged to attend things you once were in the past, it could indicate your job is on the line.
In busy corporations, you shouldn’t expect invitations to everything, so avoid the temptation to get too paranoid. Social situations are often exclusionary by nature — managers may be reluctant to include anyone under them to BBQs or dinner engagements.
Take snubs seriously when your work is affected. If you notice that you are being excluded from situations that directly involve what you do for the business, it’s a different story. Instead of being hurt, start hunting for other opportunities.
What do you do next? If some of these warning signs sound familiar, don’t panic. Now that you know losing your job is a possibility, there are ways to prepare for such an eventuality. One possibility is to let go of the job before it lets go of you. If you have another position, offer your notice, but don’t give in to a lazy mindset during your last days. Be productive — make those in charge sorry to see you go. Leaving on a positive note is better for you and your employer. Walk out the door with more contacts by keeping a positive attitude.