With layoffs and dismissal rates in the U.S. currently running at about 1.8 million per month, the issue of being fired is a live one for many of us. While there is plenty of advice for people who are in between jobs, there is not so much advice for people locked in that awkward professional twilight zone: when you believe you may be fired soon, but haven’t been fired just yet.
So, to remedy the dearth of information, I thought I’d share some tips on what to do if you think you are going to be fired soon.
1. Don’t Succumb to Fatalism
Don’t just sit there feeling helpless and waiting for career armageddon. That’s far too fatalistic an approach, and it may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy: your belief that you may be fired can affect your performance, and management may decide to fire you as a result of your lowered performance even if they weren’t actually going to fire you before your performance suffered.
You are not powerless, and there are many things you may be able to do to improve your situation and possibly even save your job. Doing nothing and waiting to be fired is the fastest way to find yourself jobless.
2. Do a Reality Check
Before you decide you are going to be fired, you probably want to make sure that you are actually going to be fired. In some cases, it may be clear — e.g., the company may have given advanced warning of redundancies. However, even in these circumstances, you can maximize your chances of being on the “keep” list by being positive, proactive, and effective.
If your fear of dismissal relates to your performance, the glass may still be fuller than you think. You may be on a downward trajectory, but even if you are, in many circumstances it’s possible to pull up and change your course altogether, thereby saving your employment.
If you feel you are going to be fired, do a reality check to make sure you are not being overly pessimistic. If there is still hope – and you want the job – you’ll need to take some corrective action.
3. Have a Conversation With Your Boss
A great way to start thinking positively is to acknowledge that you have reached the bottom of your slide. Once you do that, you can realize that the only way out is up.
A good way to begin your climb upward is to book a meeting with your boss. This decisive and assertive action will most likely surprise and impress your boss. You will certainly have their attention — but you need to make sure you do something with it.
At this meeting, you should acknowledge your shortcomings to date, explain why your performance has not been up to par, and then set out some challenging, inspiring, and compelling career goals for the next year. You may also want to request support in achieving these goals, in terms of training and coaching.
Be prepared to discuss and negotiate. Your boss should be impressed with your dynamism and self-determinism, but they may still need some convincing. This is a great way to say “enough is enough” and work together with your boss to get your career back on track.
4. Apply for a Transfer or Demotion to a Role in Which You Can Be Engaged and Effective
If you really don’t see a future for yourself in your current role — either because you no longer find it inspiring or because you don’t feel competent — why not be proactive and and make an internal move to an area where you can feel competent and motivated again?
Sit down with your boss with this goal in mind and see if your role can be modified to better suit your goals and skills, or whether a transfer into a new, more suitable role can take place.
5. Leave Before You Are Fired
If you’ve tried the previous steps and being fired still looks inevitable, then you should think about leaving before you are fired.
I am not suggesting that you quit before you have a new job in hand, of course. Employers look more kindly upon currently employed job seekers than they do on unemployed ones, after all. So don’t sit around waiting to be fired: get out there and find a new job. Give yourself have a bridge across the ravine of unemployment.
6. Seize the Day, as There May Be an Opportunity at Hand
Being fired is really not the end of the road — even though it may feel like it is. In fact, being fired can be the beginning of something new and exciting. J.K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, Marc Cuban, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Jerry Seinfeld, Robert Redford, and many other were all fired before going on to achieve amazing things.
If you do believe you are going to be fired, you can make a preemptive job search, but you can also think big and scope out a dream. Have you always wanted to go it alone, become a pastry chef, or start your own business? Why not channel your feelings of injustice or anger into realizing a dream?
Your employer might even be able to help you out here — if you play your cards right — by letting you work part-time for a little while to help you bridge the gap between leaving your job and starting your new venture. Your employer might even be prepared to offer you some contract work or become your first client (depending on your business, of course). Leverage the contacts, knowledge, and finances of your current employer as best you can.