IT Employment

Signs you're about to be fired

Here are a few behaviors to look for in your boss that may indicate your job is in danger.

Having been through a multitude of corporate reorgs and buyouts, I will admit to being a little gun-shy.

Unfortunately, I am the type to preemptively panic at an email announcing a company-wide meeting or if the folks from our parent office drop in for a visit. It would not be out of the ordinary to hear me, or one of my equally paranoid colleagues, say, "I know the VP said we were doing a great job but did you notice how his voice trailed off?" Yeah, we're that annoying.

Therefore, I'm always a little surprised when people say they didn't see it coming when they were fired. (I'm not talking about layoffs -- those things are almost always done in triple-secret stealth mode and hit you like a silent freight train.) I'm talking about being let go due to performance problems. So I've created a few tips for what to watch for that may be a sign that your job is in jeopardy (if your boss hasn't directly told you).

Subtle changes in your boss's behavior

Be sensitive to these changes, but not obsessed with them. After all, there could be something else weighing on your boss's mind. In other words, don't throw yourself on the boss's desk and cry, "You don't like me anymore!" However, if it seems like he or she isn't being as friendly as usual, something might be up.

  • If he doesn't drop by your cubicle to shoot the breeze but spends a lot of time with your co-workers, it might mean he's pulling away a little.
  • If you find that several of your meetings with him are being canceled, it could be an avoidance tactic on his part.
  • If he is asking for constant feedback as to your progress on particular projects, it could mean that you've shown him you can't be completely trusted with a project, or he might be building a case in regards to your performance. Pay attention if the boss has suddenly become a micromanager, but only when it comes to you.
  • If your boss and you used to have a fairly informal relationship where you could gripe about some parts of your job, but suddenly he has begun to agree with your complaints and suggest that you might find another job more conducive, your present job could in danger.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

42 comments
auroratc
auroratc

If your boss takes away your stapler and moves you to the basement with bug spray and a flashlight, you know your job is in danger.

jsargent
jsargent

Toni, I think this article is completely paranoid. None of those point to any signs that you might get fired.

Aaron Mason
Aaron Mason

Src: http://www.rd.com/money/what-your-hr-person-won%e2%80%99t-tell-you-about-being-fired/ * Giving an outgoing employee crappy assignments on impossible deadlines, thus providing ammunition for a legal departure * Performance-improvement plans are a death sentence - they'll say they'll do what they can to make it work but it's a complete load. * Being put on a "special assignment" that takes you away from your normal responsibilities means it's time to fix your resume. For HR, the worst feeling in the world is seeing a bunch of people in the toilet/hallway you know won't have a job next week and having to act normal.

mtg42
mtg42

If your boss starts pressing you to complete / update all the documentation for your projects, when it was not that big of a deal before.

Red McDonald
Red McDonald

The Friday afternoon "meeting" with your supervisor. THAT is the surest sign you are gone.

Englebert
Englebert

Many years ago, a newsworthy article made the papers on a company's firing practices. (Wish I could name the company, but don't want to expose myself to possible litigation). The Managers got together at a restaurant to decide which of their sub-ordinates were going to be let go. What they did not know was that the VP's were also at a restaurant deciding which Managers were going to be let go. Employees found out that they were let go when they tried to log on to the system and found out they were locked out. The fallout from this exposed de-hiring mess was wide spread and memorable. Nobody wanted to join this firm and whenever it's name cropped up in professional gatherings, this point was thrown in the face of it's executives.

househunterlives
househunterlives

I couldn't work for for an SOB like that. Don't give them the satisfaction of firing you. I would look for other employment. Its not worth worrying over you'll be next every day.

saswati.mahajan
saswati.mahajan

if your boss giving your projects to others. if your boss keeping you free for most of the time . if your boss finding faults in your work if your boss deliberately ingnore your works.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

My ex-boss asks me what I'm working on just before closing time. He then uses a sticky notes and pen and makes a note of what's been done. 5 minutes later I'm called into his boss' office and my ex-boss doesn't say a word throughout the time I'm in the office. Actuaklly I was laid off.

Bill Ward
Bill Ward

Boss, in bad mood, walks up to a close coworker, and snarls "You're fired!" Walking away, he looks at you, stops, and points. "Get back to work, or you're next!"

kwilson
kwilson

Another sure sign is if you suddenly find that your access to company resources has been restricted or revoked. Maybe your company-issued cell phone no longer works. Maybe your company credit card no longer works. Maybe you can't access your email or voicemail. Maybe your employee badge no longer grants you access to certain facilities or parts of the building. Maybe you've been asked to turn in your laptop for a "security screening" when such has never happened before. I've seen it happen.

aeiyor
aeiyor

Good Day all. Toni Bowers Another great article. Thanks for posting it. Some and quite a few of these also tend to apply in lay-offs. Though there's a general atmosphere that you can kind of sense when something's up. Provided of course you pay attention to those things. If you don't the silent freight train hits from out of nowhere. It's quite unfortunate but in a throw-a-way society it tends to not be surprising of the treatments to employees that have taken place or are taking place. I commented on this beforehand is if all people within a given company were provided the basics of - 1. Adequate pay, 2. supportive environment, 3. Adequate resources, 4. Respect, 5. Proper compensation for work performed (this is both pay and benefits), 6. Communication, 7. Transparency. There are others but those things usually helped keep good and great employees -- it also fostered for great morale and a strong support of a cohesive company. Now-a-days there's not much loyalty from the employee or employer. You do your best to stay on the grinding wheel and keep up the work to pay your bills - often staying under the radar. I once was told "no news is good news." This really is a back breaking environment -- you don't get feedback unless its negative. I take it upon myself to make sure and provide the compliments to the people who help me and who were instrumental towards a solution or resolution of any given issue. You can't really do anything about the process once you know your days are numbered. You can try... find out what is necessary to improve. But often times the decisions have already been made. So, my recommendations: learn the most you can from the circumstances and situations. keep all your options open. focus on the opportunities provided and avoid the attitudes that stem from the firing or being laid off. this too shall pass. do self-assessments and profiles to re-evaluate your course in your career path. avoid stewing and brewing, lamenting and self-deprecation... - attitude can make or break you. communicate with your friends, family, social connections -- options and opportunities are in the network. relate on your interests, talents and passions -- tap into what makes your joy and happiness alive. always remember the people who help you. gratitude is one of the greatest attitudes you can make use of. if jobs are sparse... find a need, fill the need.. create your job that works for you. Good journey everyone - times are challenging. But then again challenges can bring out the greatness in people. Sincerely, Satori.

creativenrg11
creativenrg11

micromanagement: check never shoots the breeze (with anyone): check ongoing status updates, with an ongoing list of mistakes (kept in sharepoint, no less): check if anything, i should be concerned about when the boss stops micromanaging.

househunterlives
househunterlives

After reading this article I think I am on the chopping block and have talk myself out of a job. All the signs are there. 1.)I am training someone to take over my job responsibility's so I can supposedly move forward into a new Network Engineer position. 2.) My boss which we used to talk canned about stuff doesn't any more. 3.) Meetings are being held with my trainee that I don't know about. 4.) They are asking me to move to another office. And all I asked for was for some one to help out with projects. I am sooo screwed.

TBone2k
TBone2k

- Your boss and HR are spending a lot of time talking to people in the boardroom. - You are suddenly asked to provide a list of your passwords, and nobody else is. - You are pushing for a review and they keep stalling you, even though everyone else is complete. - Something effecting all employees (bonus, raise, stock options) passes by and you get no notification.

Englebert
Englebert

One of the strangest let-go's I read was when a Sr. Executive was going to let go a Jr. Executive. They lunched together and the Sr. Exec in very flowery terms thought he expressed himself well in telling the Jr. Exec that he was being terminated. Next day, the Jr. Executive came to work, being I suppose the dense type who did not get the message. The surprised Sr. then had to tell him in more direct terms.

MarkHSydney
MarkHSydney

Of course this can just be getting on top of tasks that need to be done, but beware if your not the only one with a pile of documentation outstanding, but you are the only one being asked to finish it all ASAP.

VytautasB
VytautasB

If you find yourself isolated by being kept out of the information loop you can be sure that your boss has lost confidence in you. This is especially true if your boss starts dealing directly with those subordinate to you.

MartyL
MartyL

In a small operation a shake-up might be presaged by the boss yelling at the bookkeeper more than usual - and the bookkeeper is his wife. Or the boss might start showing up slightly intoxicated on your shift - just to see how things are going overnight. In a large organization - like a state agency - a bad sign is the division-wide meeting where the MC starts with, "Nothing is carved in stone and we don't want to alarm anyone, but . . . " Or, if there's a buy-out in the works and the first thing you hear is, "We don't plan on changing anything at your level . . ." It usually means they plan on changing everything at your level, starting with staffing. Been there, had that done to me.

poppaman2
poppaman2

How about a boss who tells you to "shut up, you sound more intelligent that way"? OR A boss whose reply to any comment or suggestion is "Thanks for sharing."

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

you might be asked to train someone on the same shift as yours or worse they try to pass it off on you as a job shadow meanwhile yer training yer replacement

charles.hights
charles.hights

The best example I can recall was when my boss got fired. Someone on our team had to fill out this automated form and everytime he filled in our current bosses name, it marked it as invalid and put in some other strange name. Finally the person filling out the form complained to our boss and the boss said it is just a mistake. He then on a hunch looked up his name in our corporate directory and all his direct reports were now reporting to someone else. The same name the automated form was using. He did not know he was being fired. So he called his boss and his boss said "I'd been meaning to tell you". Amazing how insensitive some companies can be :(

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

a) your network password no longer works b) some other guy's stuff is in your cubicle c) you receive a meeting request for your going-away party Seriously, I agree with Tony. If your manager doesn't have the balls to tell you straight up that you're not performing to expectations, then they're at fault. Better to get out of there as quick as you can.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

If there's a real (or even percieved) issue, your manager should have made you aware of it an a very unsubtle fashion. If no progress is made, in terms of resolving it, they what the heck would you expect, except goodnight and thankyou? If the manager is relying on unconscious disapproval as a communication mechanism, they should be sacked for being crap themselves...

jayron
jayron

Bit of a weird article.... Why be worried or looking for "the signs"? Isn't the one thing to avoid being fired to step up and perform according to - or exceeding - expectations? If you can't meet those than see where you can readjust to find common ground? And if you can't be bothered to perform, don't worry about being fired, right, it's probably the right thing to happen??

jkameleon
jkameleon

> ???If he doesn???t drop by your cubicle to shoot the breeze but spends a lot of time with your co-workers, it might mean he???s pulling away a little. > ???If you find that several of your meetings with him are being canceled, it could be an avoidance tactic on his part. I never shoot the breeze with anyone, and I avoid meetings if at all possible. If you want to endure in IT a bit longer, you must be very economical with your nerves. Saving them is much more important than any particular job. Reducing communication with coworkers (bosses and non-bosses alike) to a bare minimum is probably the most important part of your nerve-saving process. > ???If he is asking for constant feedback as to your progress on particular projects, it could mean that you???ve shown him you can???t be completely trusted with a project, or he might be building a case in regards to your performance. Pay attention if the boss has suddenly become a micromanager, but only when it comes to you. True. Micromanagement means: "You are working too slow, you lazy sloth!". Smiling and patting on the back means: "You are working too fast, you stupid idiot!". Grumpy/ill-tempered or cynical/caustic boss is the best sign, that your performance is optimal. > ???If your boss and you used to have a fairly informal relationship where you could gripe about some parts of your job, but suddenly he has begun to agree with your complaints and suggest that you might find another job more conducive, your present job could in danger. Being informal with one's boss is a bad idea. Griping about your job is even worse. Much, much worse, as a matter of fact. Colosally oafish, to be precise.

claytond34
claytond34

Another sign would be if projects / accounts assigned to you are reassigned without any clear explanation for doing so . , or if you get sidelined form projects you started and developed .

mikwilly16
mikwilly16

Start applying right now - do not wait- do not pass go!!!! Hit all sites!!! It's better to get a job while you still have one.

zbatia
zbatia

I've been in your shoes. Wake up and start looking for a new job. Don't hope it could be just a bad dream. You will be fired soon. Update your resume and get some good references from those who liked what you did for the company.

JamesRL
JamesRL

In my org, when someone is let go, HR is present, and the language has to be very unambiguous. We present a letter, which includes all the details. 25 years ago, I was laid off from my first computer job. The strange part was that the person who helped get me fired in the first place knew about it, and took me to lunch to tell me it was going to happen. I spent the rest of the day (Friday), wrapping things up and asking some of my coworkers discretely to join me in a local bar after work. I expected to be called in the office any time after 3:30. It didn't happen until 4:45. About half the company was waiting in the bar.

OakvilleMyKey
OakvilleMyKey

Stop being so sensitive. It's not all about you. This article is about bosses NOT about shooting down a gender!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

To remove a person from the system (given potential hostility), before you tell them. It's avoids that dangerous gap between them knowing, and it being implemented. A better way might be to do it while they are 'upstairs' being told. But the last thing you want is a distraught employee with access. In these days of connectedness, just shepherding them away from their desktop won't cut it. It's unfortunate that companies rate our integrity so low, but there have been one or two examples that prove the risk exists....

sissy sue
sissy sue

I'm sure that your boss felt humiliated by the experience. However, I am not amazed at the insensitivity of the company. I'd be amazed if the company was sensitive. The work world was never a pretty place to be in.

biancaluna
biancaluna

And I don't like it one bit. Classic gig, out with a client to do a consulting gig on major technology transitions. Once I was there, I was told about the hidden agenda to do a health check on the project as the Project Manager was not getting anywhere. Fruitcakes what a place to be. Yep the project is behind, yep there is no project plan, no team, no resources, no defined scope but do I am completely chanelling Chip and Tony - if that manager a) cannot articulate expectations and b) tell someone straight up they are not performing, why the heck am I there? Sacrificial lamb or the next one in line to the throne. I didn't quite get this article either. I was once fired from a job (many many years ago) and knew it was coming as the manager planning on firing me whispered on the phone to the agency I worked for about my unsuitability for the gig. Unfortunately, he did not whisper well and so I found out first hand that I was being asked to leave as he did not think someone with long hair could have any brains in her head. Funny, he didn't mention that expectation when I went for the initial client engagement meeting.

paula.crum
paula.crum

Often times, it is when a manager has hired "his favorite new employee" and has on blinders. Then all of a sudden all the top high profile projects are moved from you to "the new fair-haired newbie!" You'd better get out asap because the writing is on the wall!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Aside from the obvious task two weeks late as you were watching porn, could be lots of things. If this is happening then it's morte than possible there's a personality conflict. When someone you don't like does something wrong, it's always more of an issue, and because you don't like them, you don't feel any particular desire to sort it out.... Then you give them a crap appraisal at the end of year, convinced they aren't very good, but can't really remember why. They get stroppy, becaome seen as negative... A sign the manager needs to be sacked before they pick their next victim of their incompetence...

irishman10000
irishman10000

Amen.... The "can't he/she take a hint" management style has become so prevelent in Corporate America these days. Spineless "Managers" use this style save face. It is the easy way out. It is also unethical and can have a profound, negative impact on the victim. Managers using this style should be thrown out as well. An employee who is not cutting it should be dealt with in a direct, mature manner. Maybe there is a valid reason for the deficiency that can be corrected. Maybe they are just not a good fit. Either way, they are human and deserve respect.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

If you have the sort of clown for a manager, who relies on you picking up subtle indications, probably neither. Blanked him at the last xmas party, or something...

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... that sort of manager goes through people as quickly as s/he goes through toilet paper. And all for the same purpose, of which there's plenty.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

As a consultant, when the top guy decides to bring in another consultant, watch out!