The writing is on the wall: You’re about to get fired.
Once the wheels are in motion, it's often hard to get momentum back on your side. The best thing to do is to start pursuing other work options. However, if you feel strongly about staying with the organization, you can employ several strategies to attempt to hold onto your employment status. Just keep in mind that it’s a long shot.
First, you want to be sure your intuition is correct and you’re actually on the chopping block. Make sure paranoia hasn't seeped in, and assess the situation by talking it through with people who understand how the company works. You should also seek advice from a neutral third party. This can be a career coach, therapist, or even a stranger on a message board.
If you’re still convinced you’re going to get fired, here’s what to do:
Sneak attack. Catch your boss off guard and request an impromptu job assessment. Document the main points you discussed in a follow-up email so there’s a record of the conversation. In many organizations, your manager will have to prove that your dismissal is justified. Make his life difficult, and potentially buy yourself more time, by forcing him into a face-to-face exchange. Most people are uncomfortable with conflict, and this situation can railroad an unprepared supervisor. However, keep in mind that this tactic can backfire (since you are forcing the action), resulting in an even quicker termination.
Ask for a position change. Look for other openings within the company and acknowledge that the current position doesn't seem to be working out for either side. Emphasize that you’re a fan of the company and want to stay on in another capacity. Prove that you understand the organization and display talents that might help the company in another way.
Bust your butt. Find out what you’re doing wrong and take measures to correct it. If your wrong-doings are not obvious to you, ask supervisors for feedback on how to improve. Talk to lifers and maybe they’ll cast some light on the company's culture to help you better assimilate. Work hard, be nice, and control the things you have control over.
One of the tell-tale signs that an employer is setting you up to be fired is when paperwork becomes official, when you’re asked to sign documents that will be placed in your file. This will serve as evidence when you’re asked to leave, a tool designed to placate you and convince you that their case against you is strong. Be sure to refuse to sign any paperwork you do not agree with. If you must sign, be sure to voice your feelings with a hand-written note directly on the document.
Quit. You will have to determine whether receiving unemployment is worth having your work record blemished with a dismissal. Sometimes quitting without another job lined up is your best option. Scary, yes. Recoverable? Absolutely.
Communicate. If there’s a change in management or ownership, seek out the stakeholders and find out whether your job is in jeopardy. Hopefully you have built up enough solid relationships that people will share this information with minimal resistance. A change in management can mean a change for you. Don’t be bashful when it comes to asking questions.
Ask for more work. Have responsibilities and tasks recently shifted away from you? Be persistent about asking for replacement duties. A job without important work will be the first job on the chopping block. Weave yourself into the fabric of the company. Insist on meetings. If you’re not attending meetings that have a direct correlation to your job, request to attend. If you’re not permitted, push for answers on why. When you’re targeted for termination, you will likely see your face time with other departments dwindle. Do your best to keep yourself front and center of all the action.
Respond to crazy demands. One way employees get pushed out of jobs is when their bosses assign tasks that are impossible to complete. Rather than go through the motions, document (preferably via email) the resources you need to complete the task. A carpenter is only as good as his tools.
Again, if a company has already made up their mind to hand you a pink slip, your only option is to seek new employment. However, these tactics can buy you a bit more time and potentially get you back in your boss’s good graces.
Andrew G. Rosen is the founder and editor of Jobacle.com, a career advice blog. He is also the author of How to Quit Your Job and an established freelance blogger who is available for hire. Follow him on Twitter (@jobacle) or connect on LinkedIn.