All too often, employees lose their jobs without seeing it coming. But frequently, the warning signs were there if only they knew what to look for.
Here are five signs that your job might be in jeopardy:
1. You're getting a lot more critical feedback in writing. If your manager used to give you feedback in person but now she's putting critical feedback in emails or memos, it's possible that she's creating a paper trail to build a case for firing you. Employers often require written documentation of problems and warnings before an employee is let go.
2. You used to get positive feedback, but now you don't. It's important to realize that many managers give little or no positive feedback, and you may simply work for one of those. But if your manager used to freely give out praise and it's stopped lately, it might be a sign that something about your performance has changed—or at least that your manager's perception of you has changed.
3. Your boss no longer seeks your input or buy-in when making decisions. If your boss used to value your opinion but lately seems dismissive of your views or unconcerned about them, the change could be a danger sign. It might signal a lack of confidence in your judgment or your manager might be distancing herself from you, knowing that she might need to let you go.
4. You're being increasingly micromanaged. If your boss is scrutinizing your work and appears not to trust you to handle things that she previously left in your hands, it might indicate that she has concerns about your work quality or judgment. The micromanagement might reflect a lack of confidence in you, or it might be an attempt to see if there are other problems beneath the surface as well.
5. Your boss tells you directly that you're in danger of being fired. Many employers issue clear warnings when an employee's job is in jeopardy—including saying directly, "You could be fired over this"—and yet many employees don't take these warnings seriously. If you hear words like, "This could jeopardize your job" or "I need to see improvement on this within 30 days," believe them.
None of these signs are 100 percent conclusive evidence that you're in danger of losing your job, but they're worrisome enough that you should start paying attention to what might be going on. The worst thing that you can do in this situation is to ignore these signals, assume that they don't have anything to do with you, or assume that they won't lead to anything serious.
Many people do ignore these signals and then are blindsided when they're fired. If you're getting the feeling that your job standing is precarious, consider talking to your boss about what's going on … and start looking around for other jobs as well, so that you have options.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.