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(Michal Kowalski/iStockphoto)
(Michal Kowalski/iStockphoto)

BOOK EXCERPT

Warning flags that say you're about to get fired Add to ...

This is an excerpt from Employee Rights and Employer Wrongs: How to Identify Employee Abuse and How to Stand Up For Yourself by Suzanne Kleinberg and Michael Kreimeh. ©2011 Potential To Soar Publishing. Printed with permission.

How to tell you are being terminated

Most people are completely blindsided when they are terminated. But termination is not a process that happens overnight. It takes some time to get the paperwork ready and co-ordinate the parties that need to know (i.e. HR, IT, Security, etc.). Here are some typical signs that you may be marked for termination.

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Has your area of control been reduced?

Any reorganization in which you no longer have the full level of control as before is a sign that you could be moved out.

Have you been left out of key meetings and decisions?

If you are respected and accomplished, you’re asked for your opinion. So when you’re suddenly no longer asked to weigh in on key issues, especially that affect your area or that you have been engaged in before, it can signify that your coworkers don’t see you as strategic, your subordinates have lost confidence in you.

Are you being treated like a telemarketer calling during the dinner hour when you try to get buy-in?

Not being able to get necessary approvals can indicate that management no longer supports you.

Does your supervisor minimize your accomplishments?

If you’re doing back flips and your peers are saying they didn’t notice or refuse to recognize, that’s pretty bleak. It shows a lack of respect and that your colleagues don’t see what you’re doing as worthwhile or they sense that you will not be in the fold too long.

Does your boss ask you to work on “special projects”?

Special projects are a euphemism for busy work. When you’re assigned to special projects only, it means the boss has lost so much confidence in your ability to lead that s/he’s trying to get you off the high-profile projects you had been working on until s/he can find a replacement for you. For example, you are asked to work on a special project that involved investigating opportunities for a new product line in Eastern Europe but the company has no plans for expansion into Eastern Europe any time soon, and you weren’t given a staff or a travel budget. This is a sure sign that you are in line to be thanked for coming out and let go.

Did you see a confidential search ad that describes your job to a tee?

You see (or worse a friend notices) a job posted on an online website that describes your job exactly in a company that sounds suspiciously like yours.

Are people avoiding you at all costs?

Eye-contact is difficult to make with someone if you know his or her head is on the chopping block. So if people are no longer doing that fun “stop ‘n’ chat” in the hall or the coffee room empties when you enter, then guess what?…You may just be a marked man or woman for termination.

Are you being given impossible jobs with no chance of success?

This one is underhanded, which is why it’s so popular. You are being set up for failure. The company needs a legitimate reason to give you the boot, especially if you’ve done everything right and are the key to your team. Enter the impossible project. If you’ve been given a thankless task, at least be thankful for the obvious tip-off that you’re about to get the boot.

Are your responsibilities redefined so that you have less responsibility than the boss’ kid?

Being “streamlined” of your responsibilities is a sure-fire sign that there’s something unpleasant on the way. After all, you don’t fire someone who’s got a ton of important work to do, with loads of people underneath him/her. So, be mindful if you are given a new job title with less work, less budget, less people (or no people) and yet you have a hard time finding anything of any real value to do all day.

Has your office, cubicle or working space recently been downsized?

When employees are in the firing line, it’s a lot easier to move them around and downsize their environment without worrying about their morale. If you are reading this in your new six-foot by six-foot cubicle with no lights on a five-year-old PC with a 200MB hard drive and dot matrix printer to match, you’re not exactly a valued employee any more.

Have you recently been asked to take some time off?

As we know, companies in North America are not prone to encouraging vacation time (compared to Europe, where they get tons of time off). If you are encouraged to take vacation but it is not to use up your annual allotment before the end of the fiscal year, or for a genuine reward for a huge project you’ve just finished, then you are in trouble. When the boss tells you to take a break, they’re more than likely telling you that they’d rather not have you in the office.

Are you noticing paper trails between yourself and your superiors?

Suddenly, you now notice everything is happening through emails instead of casual conversations. There’s a reason for that. HR requires written/printed evidence of everything if there’s to be a firing. A paper trail is necessary to determine that your manager did everything by the book, and to record every single one of your screw-ups. So, if you’ve gone from getting a few emails per week, to a daily deluge of paper and a full inbox, these are warning signs that you’re being watched very closely.

Suzanne Kleinberg is a Toronto based career coach and author who has provided consulting services to corporations, not-for-profit organizations and individual clients. Her books include Employee Rights and Employer Wrongs ; It’s All About the Elizabeths , and From Playstation to Workstation .

Employee Rights and Employer Wrongs is available in paperback through her website .

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