Want to safety-proof your job? Learn the following 12 signs to stabilize your career, and discover when it's time to escape a sinking ship:
1. The bills aren't paid on time. If you work with a creative agency, freelancers, outside IT, event management, or in another similar service, and your provider is telling you that their bills aren't being paid on time, your ears should perk up. Don't let the accounting department blame it on a temporary cash flow problem; ask what's really going on.
2. You don't get paid. Even companies in trouble will do everything in their power to pay employees first and every other bill second, so if you're not getting paid or your check arrives late, know that your company's financial situation is pretty dire.
3. No raises. Businesses need to invest in talent. Not only do stingy raises bring down morale, but it guarantees the loss of top performers as well. Happy employees are such a significant part of a sustainable business that if you hear the news that there are no salary increases for the year, run for the hills.
4. Leadership changes. When your CEO or president is pushed out of the company, and new leadership comes in, it's time to activate your backup plan. Regardless of whether you do phenomenal work, new leadership often means a new vision and direction—one that may not include your position or even your department.
5. High turnover. Do people keep quitting? It's often a sign of poor management, salary, and benefit practices. Constant turnover affects the entire organization too; new employees act as roadblocks until they receive the required training they need to get up to speed.
6. A hiring freeze. Some companies will tell you about a hiring freeze, but many others simply won't fill a position when an employee quits. The explanation may be that the old position is redundant or no longer relevant to the organization's current goals, but more likely, the company needs to save cash.
7. Reorganization and restructuring. Do you suddenly have a new boss? Did your colleague switch departments? A new organizational structure may not make sense to you, but it probably helps the spreadsheets balance. It's also a sign that the company is floundering to find its footing and focus.
8. Closed doors. If more and more meetings start to happen behind closed doors, take it as a sign that something is up. While being secretive can mean a big product launch, it can also mean that there are tough issues that need to be discussed. In general, a quiet office is a dead office.
9. Employee morale. When complaints start to outnumber celebrations, you have a problem. Look out for signs that employees start leaving early and coming in late first, then listen for the complaints. A toxic environment where all your colleagues are unhappy is not a fun or productive place to work.
10. Unclear direction, goals, or mission. If you're not sure what you should be working on from one week to the next, and asking for clarification gets you nowhere, take it as a sign that the company ship is sinking. Employees need clear, organizational leadership to execute on.
11. Delayed implementation. Got great ideas but can't push them through? When you aren't allowed to execute on even low-cost strategies, it's often a frustrating sign that you won't be able to contribute any sort of meaningful work any time soon. Watch out, your company is probably coming to a standstill.
12. Frenzied, stop-and-go pace. One week you're knee-deep into new objectives and tasks, and the next week your plate is empty. What's going on? A stop-and-go pace will make it impossible to build upon success or failure, so try to find some consistency or find a new job.
Rebecca Thorman's goal is to help you find meaningful work, enjoy the heck out of it, and earn more money. Her blog Kontrary offers career, business, and life advice that works. She writes from Washington, D.C.