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Build Your Career Get Ahead

About to Get Fired? 5 Steps to Save Your Job

About to Get Fired? 5 Steps to Save Your Job
Credit: vichie81/Shutterstock

Your boss is avoiding you. Your colleagues are getting chosen for special projects before you. Your company hired someone new to take over some of your job duties. You feel like your team is moving forward without you. What's going on?

While any of these scenarios on their own don't necessarily spell trouble, they could be an indication that your job is at stake. Sometimes it's expected — for instance, if you know that you haven't been giving 100 percent lately — but other times, there are some bigger changes going on within the company that management hasn't shared. In either case, the paranoia you likely feel is not going to help the situation.

"Being paranoid about the security of your job is not good for you and it's not good for business," said Drew Fortin, vice president of marketing at business consulting and workforce analytics firm PI Worldwide. "If you think there’s reason to believe that your ... job is on the line, there is likely a lot of stress."

If your supervisor hasn't spoken to you about your job performance yet but you suspect your position might be in danger, there's still a chance for you to turn yourself around. Here are a few steps you can take to improve your standing and, with any luck, save your job.

Before you panic about your job security, take a moment to analyze the situation and ask yourself if you truly have something to worry about. Steve Sims, founder and chief design officer of gamification company Badgeville, offered specific examples of signs that should send up a red flag to you:

  • Micromanagement: Your boss suddenly starts calling frequent meetings to discuss what you're working on and the progress you're making.
  • Circumvention: Other people are being assigned work that you ought to be doing. If your boss hasn't hinted at a promotion for you that involves different responsibilities, it's possible that he or she is testing a scenario where you don't exist. If you don't get assertive and try to pull responsibilities back under your control, you might find yourself out of a job, Sims said.
  • Lack of communication: You feel out of the loop because there are things going on at the company or your department that you don't know about. Your manager may be communicating these things to other team members, but not to you.
  • Unexpected management change. Sims noted that the sudden removal of a boss (or even your boss' boss) from the company could spell trouble. These unexpected changes are drastic measures that often come with drastic consequences. New management is often under the gun to make a quick change of direction, Sims said, and that may lead to hasty dismissals.

If you've experience a few of these warning signs, it might be time to sit down with your boss and have a talk about what's going on. This is especially important if your supervisor has been out of touch with you lately, since your concerns about job security are likely due to a severe lack of communication, Fortin said.

"If you ever feel left in the dark, it could just be a fluke," Fortin told Business News Daily. "Perhaps your boss is busy or has something going on at home that you don't know about. The best thing you can do is straight-out ask. Address the situation head-on and mention that you have noticed a lack of communication or engagement lately. Ask if the communication lapse is due to something specific having to do with your or if there's something bigger going on."

"When you speak with your boss ... you want to confirm there is an issue," Sims added. "You want to know the expectations for doing a good job, and reiterate that that's what you are striving for. You may also want to try and figure out what his or her working styles are so you can deliver what you need to in a manner they are more [receptive] to."

Once you've received confirmation that there is a problem, you'll need to approach your boss about what to do next.

Many companies will create a performance improvement plan (PIP) for employees who are struggling to meet their goals. To prove that you are serious about keeping your job and contributing to the company's success, take the reins and ask what you can do right now to turn things around. Don't wait around for your boss to give you an ultimatum about the status of your job.

"You can suffer from the regret of not having done something or you can suffer through the pain of discipline," said Craig Morantz, CEO of video interviewing platform Kira Talent. "Ask for feedback. Ask for coaching. Don't wait to be empowered."

Fortin advised asking which specific instances that have been attributing to the perceived or actual shortfall, and then offering to work together to build a plan to get you out of the slump.

"If you feel blindsided, it's important that you tell him or her that and ask why you were not told sooner," Fortin said. "This will show that you are legitimately concerned and that you are interested in performing [better] in your role."

Getting right to work on your PIP is a good start, but going the extra mile for your boss and your company will prove that you're willing to do what it takes to succeed at this job. Miraz Manji, founder of TLAC Studios and TLAC Toronto Printing & Publishing, said the best way to do this is to find out which areas of growth your company is exploring and determine what skills are required to achieve it.

"Research those potential areas of exploration as much as possible and make yourself an expert," Manji said. "Align yourself with the company's future. If you contribute valuable insights to a company's future, then you are more likely to solidify your spot in [that] future." 

A good way to start adding more value to your company (if you haven't been doing so) is to really embrace the role of team player, said Joseph DeMattos Jr., a principal at Protégé Executive Coaching & Consulting and president of Health Facilities Association of Maryland. Ask questions, anticipate what your boss and teammates want and, most important, have a good attitude about your work.

"If you can make a positive contribution, don't self-censor your [ideas] at a meeting," DeMattos said. "There's a reason you're there — you have a unique perspective to provide. Be part of the solution."

Being told your performance is lacking can be a pretty tough blow to your confidence at work, but it may not necessarily be a reflection of your competence levels. Manji reminded workers that they were hired for their skills and experience as a professional, and those skills are still there. It's just a matter of setting yourself up for success.

"If ... you just don't seem able to perform at the level you imagined yourself performing, it may have more to do with your lifestyle choices than your professional competence," Manji said. "Get to bed at an earlier time, eat a healthy breakfast, keep a bottle of water at your desk and take a walk in the fresh air when you get stressed. Set yourself up for success every day outside of work, and you will begin to see a difference in your performance as a professional in the workplace."

Nicole Fallon
Nicole Fallon

Nicole Fallon received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.