If you catch the signs early enough, it may not be too late to save yourself. Other times, such as a company-wide layoff, the decision will be entirely out of your control.
Here are a few of the ways you might be able to tell your job is in jeopardy.
You haven’t been given new projects in a while
If your boss has overlooked you for recent assignments, you might tell yourself it’s just a slow time for the business. But pay attention. If everyone else around you is still busy with deadlines and meetings, it might be time to start questioning why you aren’t. Here’s an even bigger red flag: Your boss has been delegating tasks that you typically handled to other employees.
What you should do: If your boss has decreased your duties, look for ways to regain her trust. Brainstorm a few ideas to improve efficiency in your department or drive revenue and send your boss a project proposal that includes the names of people you would like on your team to help accomplish these goals, suggests Roleta Fowler Vasquez, a professional resume writer and resume expert for CareerBuilder.com. Showing initiative like that could help your boss see you in a new light and make co-workers eager to work with you again, says Vasquez.
You’ve noticed a change in your co-workers
It’s not likely that your colleagues would know about you being fired before you would (at least they shouldn’t). But if you sense a colder-than-normal vibe from your workmates, it could signal that they’ve lost confidence in your work or have stopped considering you as a part of the team. Some companies rely heavily on peer reviews, whether formal or informal. When your coworkers aren’t on your side, it could spell trouble for your future.
What you should do: Be as much a team player as possible. Let your colleagues know that you notice what a good job they are doing, and that you are always there to help. If the vibe doesn’t change, take one of your colleagues aside and ask them candidly if there’s anything you should know about your performance. He or she might be willing to open up about issues other workers have mentioned about your work.
Your boss is avoiding you
If you’ve been trying to schedule a meeting with your boss for weeks to no avail, they could be avoiding you purposefully. Apart from ignoring meeting requests, your boss might stop assigning you the same types of tasks that she always has in the past, simply to avoid the uncomfortable feeling that comes with conflict, which she might know is coming.
What you should do: Make every effort to continue to greet your boss with a smile and pleasantries. If you do finally get your meeting, Vasquez suggests using it as an opportunity to reestablish how committed you are to your job. Talk about the different career paths you would like to pursue within the company, even if it means making a transfer to another department or office. “More directly, you could say that you have heard your job worthiness is being questioned, and that you are seeking advice on how to either improve your stance — always making sure to add ideas of your own, like an independent study or classes — or on how to exit with their good graces and a solid recommendation,” Vasquez says.
Your job description seems to have changed
It’s not unusual for the needs of employees to change frequently with an ever-changing professional landscape. But if it seems that all your important responsibilities have been whittled down to nothing and you’re left with menial tasks or responsibilities, it may be a sign your job is being phased out.
What you should do: Go into survival mode. If your specific job duties are quite narrow, show your team that you have skills in other areas they may need. Your manager should be transparent if your job responsibilities have changed, so you’re within your rights to go to your supervisor or Human Resources and ask for an official copy of your new description. “Normally, you are asked to discuss this with a supervisor or HR, sign it and you’re given a signed copy,” Vasquez says. “This legally protects both of you. If the wording indicates a new lateral assignment or worse — a demotion — you need to ask why it happened, and what you can do to avoid it.”
You’ve been asked to justify your job
The truth is, sometimes positions that once were valuable simply fall out of use (especially when a company is looking for ways to scale back and there are quite a few people on staff who have the same role as you do). If you’ve been asked by a superior to put together a note detailing your value to the company or what you do on a daily basis, it may mean that they’re trying to decide where they can afford to cut what they deem to be superfluous roles in the business.
What you should do: When large corporations are planning a significant round of layoffs, they often have consultants come in to audit the office and suss out any personnel “redundancies.” They’re on the look out for workers whose jobs overlap. “It’s not always because of something you did or did not do, but your job will be in jeopardy if you fail to justify your position,” she says. If possible, ask your boss why this is happening. If layoffs are unavoidable, be sure to show your team why your services are essential to the company’s mission and organization — explain your job tasks and how you perform them, and show the auditor how you go beyond the call of duty to get your job done.