There are many tell-tale signs that your job may be in jeopardy; if your company has just undergone a corporate merger, layoffs have begun to wind their way around the office floor, or your department's benefits have been slashed, for example. However, much of the time the signs are not so blatant and many employees are blind-sided when they are handed the pink slip. They never saw the red flags. Here are five warning signs that you might be nearing your final days: (Find out if spreading your wings to try a new career will make you soar or fall flat. See Financial Career Options For Professionals.)
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1. You have been stripped of responsibilities.
Have you been given less work, had your projects and promotions stalled or been given a dead-end task? Does the office intern seem to have more responsibility than you? All of these are clear signs that your skills are not valued and your superiors do not see many prospects for you in the future of the company. Having a boss who champions your work and promotes you internally is a clear marker of your worth within a company. If this is not happening for you and you feel that your job is stagnating, you can try taking matters into your own hands. Start increasing your visibility in the company and volunteering for tasks to show your enthusiasm and commitment.
2. There has been a change in your boss's behavior.
Rusty Rueff, the director and career expert for jobs and career website Glassdoor, recommends becoming aware of any major changes in your boss's behavior towards you. Rueff cautions that "this isn't always a fatal sign, but you should be sensitive to it."
Take note if your boss is not being as friendly as normal or starts consistently canceling your one-on-one appointments. Without physically cornering your boss, you can improve your own work habits and then ask him (over an email if he is successfully avoiding you in person) how else you can develop your work.
3. You feel like the office leper.
Going beyond any relationship with your direct boss, take notice if you are left out of crucial decision making or company meetings that you would have previously been consulted on. Did someone forget to tell you about a recent management meeting that you would normally attend? Have you not been invited to an upcoming company event? Pay attention to any change in the attitude of your co-workers. Does the chat around the water cooler go mysteriously silent as soon as you pass by and does the kitchen empty as soon as you walk in? This may be a sign that the company believes you to be expendable and are slowly fazing you out of decisions. The most proactive response you can take is to start looking elsewhere for jobs in your field.
4. You have been given a poor written performance review.
Generally performance reviews are full of subtle praise and avoid overly negative comments. There is always room for improvement but you should pay attention if your performance review reads like a train wreck. Not only is it a clear sign that your work is not up to par but your boss may be creating a paper trail in order to build a case for firing you. In order to let an employee go, many companies require written documentation of problems and warnings. Take heed of their comments and determine whether the job is a good fit for your skills. If you decide that you do want to succeed at the role, make a conscious effort to step up your work.
5. You have seen a job posting that eerily matches your own role?
Companies don't want to fire an employee without having someone waiting in the wings. Beware if you see an advert for a job on the internet that sounds very similar to your own. If a new hire appears it is possible that your department needs extra staff but keep in mind that HR departments can be sneaky. You may be asked to train the new guy and then receive a pink slip as soon as he is ready to take over your role. Make sure that you have considered your own exit strategy.
The Bottom Line
Be sensitive to any of these red flags but try not to obsess over them. Rather act positively and use this information to excel at work. Volunteer for tasks that no-one else wants, speak to your boss, ask how you can improve your work and keep track of your accomplishments. Start updating your resume and job hunting just in case your suspicions are correct. (If you want to switch careers, you may not have to go back to school to do it. Check out Sell Your Skills, Not Your Degree.)