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.