Work is hard enough. But when you add fear to that — the fear your boss wants to fire you — the stress can become unbearable. In fact, some bosses count on that relentless pressure to get you to quit first.
But before you plunge into full-fledged panic, let’s make sure that your boss actually wants to fire you. You may be misreading the signs. Or, if not, there might be things you can do to head them off at the pass.
Signs your boss wants to fire you
Sometimes it’s hard to tell what your boss is thinking. Well, I guess more than just sometimes. So any clue, no matter how obvious it feels, may be other than what it seems. That said, let’s look at a few things you might be wondering about.
- Boss picks on you all the time – Unfortunately, this is actually a management style for some bosses. Or simply a personality flaw that’s more about them than you. Then again, it may be a clear sign that your boss is not happy with your performance.
- What to look for: Even if it feels like you are their main target, try to observe if that’s the way they operate in general. Or, could there br something about the way others perform / interact with your boss that make them less likely to get picked on?
- What you can do: Too much of your day is spent at work. Either you need to change things for yourself, or you need to consider moving on. Start with an honest talk with your boss.
Don’t accuse — rather approach with the goal of finding a way to make things work for both of you. Be open to receiving criticism, as hard as that may be. Depending on how they respond, you’ll get a better idea of your footing.
- You are being left out of new projects and promotions — This can be a sign that something is wrong. Maybe you won’t be fired, but it’s a good clue that you’re not on the fast track at work.
- What you can do: Again, you need to sit down with your boss and find out what’s going on. Ask what you can do to improve your performance / value to the company. Set clear goals with your boss, and then go above and beyond to show you have lots to offer.
Also, look for ways to stand out. Find things that need improvement, and offer solid, low-cost solutions. Look for ways to save the company money. Learn new skills you know are needed.
- Your tasks are being reduced / reassigned — Unless your boss tells you this is part of moving you to a better position, this is a pretty good sign you need to talk to your boss asap. Better to know than live in fear. If you’re getting fired, cowering won’t change that.
- A new person was hired and is learning what you do — Again, have that talk. If you want to stay, look to find ways to turn things around. But also, it doesn’t hurt to brush up that resume and start looking.
- Your boss actually uses the “f” word — I mean “fired”. Maybe casually at first and then more often. Once again, have the talk. But start looking so you are not caught off guard.
Have you ever been fired?
I have. And I survived. And I wound up getting an even better job down the road. Just so you know that. Not that anyone wants to be fired. As much as possible, we prefer to make our own choices.
But it happens to the best of us. So don’t see it as a mark of shame or proof that you won’t be valuable elsewhere. Still, do learn from it.
Review what went wrong honestly — and really dig in to see where next time you can put yourself in a stronger position, more positively connected to your boss and coworkers.
Tips to improve your chances to succeed in that next job:
In case it’s your boss who is the problem
And if you decide to leave instead of waiting