Think You May Get Fired?

Sep 29, 2011
5 Min Read

While writing my new book Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success, I met a guy named Sebastian.  Sebastian told me that he had worked as an activity director at a Florida-based family resort for the last few years and that his boss had recently told him that the staff and the members didn’t like him.

Sebastian did not understand this feedback.  He had just circulated a membership evaluation form that rated him an above-average 4 out of 5.  Additionally, he had had no verbal exchanges with any staff members to indicate that they were unhappy with him, and certainly no one had filed a complaint.  Sebastian confided that he was insecure because he didn’t know where this attack from his boss was coming from, and he was worried he might be fired.

Just a few months before the conversation with his boss, Sebastian probably would have told me that as one of the highest rated staff members, he was indispensable.  This situation took him completely by surprise, and he was right to be concerned about it.  The fact that his boss was looking for excuses to complain about him indicated to me that there was – literally – trouble in paradise.  In a subsequent conversation with him, I learned that Sebastian’s boss had recently documented the fact that Sebastian had overspent his budget.  Neither of us was particularly surprised when he was fired a few months later.

Watch for the Signs

Like Sebastian, you may have received signs that your demise is imminent.  These could include:

  • Your performance review wasn’t stellar, and/or you are on probation
  • You were hired for a specific project and that project wasn’t done well or at all
  • You are always clashing with your boss over non-issues
  • Your boss has told you that you need to change your attitude
  • Your boss is keeping a paper trail by documenting every conversation in e-mail
  • Your colleagues are handling responsibilities that were formerly yours
  • Your colleagues have stopped confiding in you
  • You have been vocal about your unhappiness in the organization
  • Meetings are being held without you
  • HR has spoken to you about inappropriate behavior (emotional outbursts, insubordination, sexual harassment, etc.)
  • An important client or partner said they no longer wish to work with you

Just because one or more of these signs applies doesn’t definitively mean you will lose your job.  Most organizations – and managers – are somewhat tolerant of employees who are going through a hard time.  They may well have faith that you will work through your issues.  However, it’s important to understand when you’re in danger of being fired so that you can take steps to avert it – because unlike layoffs, many firings can be prevented.

Take Action Immediately

If you’re on probation related to poor performance, any actions your boss instructed you to take should be burned into your brain.  Do whatever it takes to improve in each documented area within a matter of weeks.  If the feedback is that you are not contributing, you should zealously amp up your performance in ways that can be measured and tangibly impact the organization’s bottom line.  For example, after the meeting with his boss, Sebastian might have implemented a member-requested surfing class, which would bring in additional revenue for the resort and boost his customer satisfaction ratings.

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