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5 Signs You are About to Lose Your Job

This article was written by in Career and Work. 35 comments.

Many of us depend on our employers for our livelihood. Even those not living paycheck-to-paycheck count on being employed to build up savings, invest and insure for the future, and of course pay the bills. Here are some things to look out for. If these apply to you, start hedging your bets and planning for what life will be like without your job.

Fewer responsibilities. Are you being asked to train others on your job? If your responsibilities are being transferred to someone else — and you are not receiving more responsibilities to compensate — you may be on your way to being downsized, rightsized, or “made redundant.”

Exclusion. If you are no longer included in the types of meetings of which you were formerly a part, the group may be moving on without you. It is entirely possible that your boss is recognizing that you have an excessive amount of work to do and is excluding you to allow you to complete other assignments, but if this is not communicated to you, your team is simply getting used to working without you.

Blame for small mistakes. If your small mistakes — everyone makes them — are becoming topics of conversation or your bosses are assigning blame to you for other small problems, there are at least two things happening. First, recognizing your errors will help your boss feel further justified for letting you go. Also, once you are gone, it will be much easier to assign blame to you. You will not be around to defend yourself.

Talk around the water cooler. Word travels fast. If you hear a rumor that the company has it in for you, chances are it’s true. If not, someone has a personal vendetta against you and is starting rumors to make you crazy. I see that as a highly unlikely possibility. Either way, I wouldn’t want to stay in either environment, so striking the first blow by quitting may keep you sane.

Bad review. If your year has progressed well but you’re surprised with low ratings at your annual or semi-annual performance review, you could be on your way out. Bad reviews shouldn’t sneak up on you. If you truly are performing poorly and the review is the first time you’ve received negative feedback, then there are communication problems within your department. But if you feel you’re doing well, there should be no disagreement. If those negative reviews were unsuspected and undeserved, start looking for a new job.

It’s good to be prepared for losing your job even if there are no signs yet. Anything can happen, and anything can happen quickly.

Updated July 15, 2008 and originally published October 24, 2007.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

avatar 1 Anonymous

Typo in title.

Wouldn’t quitting be a bad idea. If you get laid off, isn’t there normally some severance package? At least look for another job first before quitting.

avatar 2 Luke Landes

James: Thanks, I’ve fixed the title. There can be severance but not always. There are lot of things to consider before leaving, and finding another job could be one of those — something for a future post I’m planning.

avatar 3 Anonymous

Because there is always the chance of losing your job, it makes it critical to maintain an up to date resume. It sounds like a no brainer, but you often get comfortable in your job and don’t think much about having to find another one. I make it a point to review my resume every 6 months, especially since I work for a start-up company.

avatar 4 Anonymous

Try to request a letter for your portfilio when you accomplish a project and had great results. It can also help you when people ‘forget’ your accomplishments when times get tough.

avatar 5 Anonymous

I keep an up-to-date text file which documents every new accomplishment or skill. That way when it’s time to refresh the resume or pitch myself to a new job, I have a reference. It’d also be good for performance reviews, I think.

avatar 6 Anonymous

I would add that you may want to watch out for ‘out of the ordinary’ proclamations about your wonderful-ness. This is what started tipping me off about the layoffs
-larger than usual raises
-Taking you out to lunch for a job well done
-Advice about how you should be the manager of the place

avatar 7 Anonymous

I agree with Jason and Mrs. Micah: resume needs to be up-to-date and you need to jot down your accomplishments as they happen or soon after otherwise you will not remember them all when you’ll need to list them on the resume. It’s a good idea to keep the resume updated and possibly keep it updated online at one of the job search sites like for two reasons: 1) you never know what opportunities you’re missing out, even if you’re currently satisfied with your job, and 2) its always a good idea to stay connected with some HR people and/or recruiters at companies you’re interested in – this will make your job search much easier and transition much smoother once you decide to leave your current position.

avatar 8 Luke Landes

These are all great suggestions for ways to always be prepared. Thanks!

avatar 9 Anonymous

Why would one quit? Isn’t being fired better? Then you get unemployment?

avatar 10 Luke Landes

For most people, being fired is better, but there are some situations where it is not. Some bosses I’ve known, when they want to get rid of someone, will simply make working conditions uncomfortable enough without firing the worker. You could stay and have a horrible experience, or you can take charge of your situation and quit.

Perhaps you have another job lined up and you’re ready to go… why wait to get fired?

If you’re just going to be looking for a job, you’ll want that unemployment, but if getting that unemployment is making your life miserable, well, you have to decide if it’s worth it to stick around until they eventually fire you.

avatar 11 Anonymous

My company is constantly moving people around and tossing them like garbage. Most of the people they are moving are those with 3 plus years vacation or more. The manager humiliates, degrades and shows no professionalism towards others. I have seen handicapped people be treated ruthlessly. I myself am given so much work and when a mistake is made told I am being written up. There is little training other then a piece of paper thrown at you.

avatar 12 Anonymous

I think you’re right. It’s better to take the initiative and be prepared for whatever’s going to happen instead of it happening to you.

One thing that I think is becoming more common, especially for people who have been downsized or laid off, is going into business for themselves. Especially people who have jobs that require a lot of skill: accountants and hr professionals, marketing execs, etc — sometimes you can make a lot more money and be happier overall if you just go into business for yourself instead of trying to find the exact same kind of job at another firm.

Susan Friedmann talks about this in her book Riches in Niches: How to Make it Big in a Small Market, and I’ll tell you what — it really gives you a roadmap on how to re-invent and position yourself. Because let’s be real. The economy is not great, and people are holding tooth and nail onto the jobs they’ve got — that means there’s not going to be a lot of openings and the ones that there are aren’t much good or don’t offer much growth potential. Going it on your own — Friedmann calls it being a Nichepreneur — might really be the best option. But the time to start preparing and thinking about it is BEFORE you get canned!

avatar 13 Anonymous


Getting fired doesn’t automatically qualify you for unemployment. In fact, you have have to be dismissed “through no fault of your own” in order to get unemployment. So if your job is eliminated, or your division is relocated, your project is completed, etc. and you are dismissed, then YES, you would qualify for unemployment. If you are dismissed for poor job performance, a disciplinary reason, or something similar….you are S.O.L.

That’s why many employers make certain to document (sometimes quietly/secretly) every naughty move you make prior to firing you. That way if you try to make an unemployment claim (which raises their insurance rates if you’re successful BTW) or try to sue for wrongful dismissal, they have plenty of ammo with which to defend themselves.

However, if you quit “to avoid being fired” then you still have rights to unemployment in many states. You just have to claim that you were going to be fired for reasons that were “no fault of your own”. Then you can tie-up the system while you and your company bicker on the details, all the while you’ll be receiving benefits. Just make sure your case is solid and you win. In some states you’ll have to pay back 100% of your unemployment benefits if you ultimately lose such a dispute.

So if you are confident you’re going to be fired, particularly if you think your company may claim employee misconduct, quit now. Then immediately file your claim (strike first) with the unemployment office. That way you’ll likely get full benefits AND avoid having a dismissal on your work record.

avatar 14 Anonymous

Great tips. No one ever wants to think “I’m next” but it’s good to have some warning if your number’s up. There’s no insurance for any job but if you’ve had a bad review, etc, you best be finding another job. If not, you might end up selling lattes at your local coffee shop.