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How To Prepare If You Sense You're About To Get Fired

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Feeling like you are about to be fired can be one of the most stressful experiences you can face. It can stir up a range of emotions including fear, anger, low self-esteem, panic, loss of trust in others and self-pity, to name a few.

The feeling can happen quickly or build up over time, which can extend your discomfort and make your dismissal inevitable.

Here are some signs that you may be about to lose your job:
  • You have not been meeting your sales or other business targets and the quality of your work has gone down recently.
  • Your boss has become a little distant and, like your other colleagues, finds it hard to make full eye contact.
  • Your work is more closely scrutinized than before and is criticized more frequently than it was one month ago.
  • Colleagues you count as friends are pulling back and you're not included in online or face-to-face conversation as you once were.
  • When you enter a meeting, the room goes silent or becomes less animated.
  • Your ideas are not as well received as before or not acknowledged by senior management and peers.
  • You are asked to train a person to do your job.
  • After a takeover or merger, many of your colleagues are fired and replaced by teams from the other company.
  • You are passed over for promotions in favour of less experienced peers.
  • Invitations to team and client meetings and other events are less frequent.
  • Visits from the human resources team to your boss' office become more frequent and your boss asks you for your work status reports.

Each situation leading to a job dismissal is unique. The reasons for being let go range from ongoing personality conflicts to poor work performance. An employer may build a case over time for firing an employee. Or, the decision to let someone go can be sparked by one incident involving insubordination or threatening behaviour.

If you feel you are about to be shown the door, there are five steps you should consider:

#1: Acknowledge and address the situation with your boss.
If you have a good relationship with your boss, based on your good performance in the past, be proactive and express your concerns. Table differences between you that may be hurting the relationship and try to find a way to work through them. Assuming that you don't want to be fired, pinpointing areas where you need to improve can give you time to turn things around. If you are stressed by events outside the office, let him or her know. (Consider approaching a human resources colleague on a confidential basis to talk about your situation. Talking to a neutral third party could help you feel better.)

#2: Contact a placement firm and update your resume.
If you are about to be fired, despite being marketable, putting out feelers while you are still employed remains easier than if you are unemployed. Reach out to trusted friends who may refer you to other potential employers. Make a list of the companies you want to work for versus any company who may hire you quickly. Being selective now can save you more hardship down the road when you grab the first offer.

#3: Remain confident and positive around management and peers.
People detect insecurity and fear quickly. Appearing positive during a difficult time for you can make things better for you and position you as a leader, even if you don't feel like one as things get worse for you in the workplace.

#4: Consider getting a lawyer.
If you feel your anticipated firing is without grounds or that you can negotiate a severance package, talk to a lawyer quickly. If you know you are going to be let go, be ready with a lawyer in case your severance is unfair or unreasonable. Bring the lawyer into the conversation only when your employer has put forward an offer. In situations where you have a good relationship with your employers, a lawyer may not be necessary. He or she may create ill-will on the part of your employer and make things even worse due to high fees if the case draws on.

#5: Maintain your self-esteem.
Talented people get fired just as incompetent people or those who are bored with their jobs do. To keep your dignity and emotional and physical resources intact, take the time to write a list and learn from what's happened. Do all you can to ensure it won't happen again. It takes courage and discipline, but try to break the patterns that have led to your firings in the past and move beyond your dismissal. For example, if you are eager to please and are often taken advantage of by being overloaded with work you can't handle, set boundaries to avoid being overwhelmed next time.

It may be that you are in a slump, and like any athlete who eventually breaks out of a losing streak, you will be successful again (if you choose your next job carefully).

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