One of the most stressful parts of the working world is the potential that you could lose your job.
And particularly if you work in the United States, where most employment relationships are at-will, you could be terminated pretty much at any time and for any reason other than things like gender, age, race, religion, etc.
As a result, it’s not uncommon to feel paranoid about losing your job.
To that end, we created this article to help you understand if you are truly at risk of getting fired or just paranoid.
Let’s dive in.
- 1 Why Am I So Paranoid About Getting Fired
- 2 Top Signs You’re Going to Get Fired
- 2.1 1. You Get Placed on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)
- 2.2 2. You Get a Bad Performance Review
- 2.3 3. You Receive Repeated Negative Feedback
- 2.4 4. The Negative Feedback You Receive Starts Getting Documented
- 2.5 5. You’re Excluded From Relevant Meetings and Decisions
- 2.6 6. You Get Work Taken Away From You
- 2.7 7. You Notice a Change In Your Boss Or Team’s Demeanor Towards You
- 3 How To Lose Your Fear of Getting Fired
- 4 How Common Is It To Get Fired
- 5 Conclusion
Why Am I So Paranoid About Getting Fired
For most people, a job is their primary source of income. And with that being the case, the loss of a job has a really significant impact on your stability, security, and well-being.
Additionally, a career is often a source of meaning and status for people. Outside of the money people fear losing a job because they worry about a lack of respect from their family and friends. They think they might be perceived as a failure by their peers for losing their job.
As a result of the importance that a job holds in our lives, coupled with the ease with which companies can sever at-will employment relationships, it makes sense why there would be a baseline level of fear about getting fired.
On top of the baseline fear that we call have, it can be compounded by queues in your environment.
For example, if others on your team start losing their job, you get a negative performance review, you hear rumors or layoffs, or whatever the case may be, there are triggers in your environment that may compound that baseline fear into paranoia.
The key is trying to step away from the emotion that comes with that fear and trying to, as objectively as possible, assess whether you are in real jeopardy of getting fired.
Top Signs You’re Going to Get Fired
Based upon my experience as a manager and employee in the corporate world, here is what I believe to be are the top signs that you’re going to get fired (note that they are similar to the signs that your boss may want you to leave):
1. You Get Placed on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)
In my experience, the top sign that you’re close to getting fired is being placed on a performance improvement plan (PIP).
A performance improvement plan is a document that states any recurring performance issues along with goals that an employee needs to accomplish in order to achieve good standing with the company.
Being placed on a PIP formally documents your performance issues and sets clear standards for what you need to do to keep your job.
Now, a performance improvement plan is no guarantee that you’re going to lose your job. There are many stories of people that have achieved the benchmarks set forth in the PIP, turned things around, and went onto have a great career at a company.
However, if you don’t achieve what is laid out in the PIP, there is a very good chance that you will be fired.
2. You Get a Bad Performance Review
A performance review is a formal assessment in which a manager evaluates an employee’s work performance. It is also one of the most tangible ways to know where you stand with your boss.
If your boss gives you a bad performance review, it’s a signal that you’re perceived not to be doing well in your role.
One single bad performance review is not great but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get fired.
However, if you don’t quickly address the feedback from that review, or if you receive multiple bad performance reviews, you may be on the path to getting fired.
3. You Receive Repeated Negative Feedback
In some cases, your manager will have a direct, or multiple direct conversations, with you about your performance at the company.
A manager may flat at out tell you that your performance needs to change if you want to stay at the company.
Or they may even start to guide you towards alternate companies, or alternate jobs within the company (a process referred to as being “counseled out”) throughout those conversations.
The more those types of conversations happen, the higher your risk of getting fired. If HR starts getting brought into them as well, that’s a big red flag that a firing may be imminent.
4. The Negative Feedback You Receive Starts Getting Documented
If you notice that you receive a follow up email summarizing the negative feedback that you received, that might be a bad sign that a potential firing is on the horizon.
The reason for that is prior to firing an employee, companies typical work to start documenting all of the performance issues so they have a paper trail as to why someone was fired.
They want that paper trail in place in case they get sued so they can show that the person was truly fired for performance and not prohibited reasons like race, gender, religion, etc.
The risk of getting fired increases even further if the manager wasn’t sending those follow up emails in your early conversations and then starts to as the conversations go on.
That’s a change in behavior that indicates that they may be working to build a paper trail.
5. You’re Excluded From Relevant Meetings and Decisions
If you find that you’re not being included in meetings, discussions, or decisions that your team is making or would be relevant for your job, that’s a sign that you may potentially be getting fired soon.
Ultimately, if you’re in good standing, and you’re a valued member of the team, your manager will want your opinion on decisions that are relevant to your job.
If you’re not, however, you may find that you’re being included in meetings less and less.
6. You Get Work Taken Away From You
Another sign that your boss may be planning to fire you is if they start taking work away from you.
If you used to own a particular project, or working area, and you find that your manager no longer wants you to be responsible for that, it’s a sign that you may not be in great standing in your current work.
7. You Notice a Change In Your Boss Or Team’s Demeanor Towards You
It’s never a great sign if a boss or peers start acting coldly towards you.
Now, it may just be that you have a boss that was never a very nice person to begin with and doesn’t really care about you or other teammates.
However, if you see a change in your manager’s behavior, and they begin acting coldly towards you in a way that they did not before, that’s a sign that something may be going on.
How To Lose Your Fear of Getting Fired
I believe the best way to lose your fear of getting fired is to step back and try and look at the situation as analytically as possible.
Take an objective look at the signs provided in the last section and assess if they apply to you.
Look back at your previous performance reviews and see the documented feedback that your manager had for you.
If those are generally positive, and you’re not facing many of the common signs that you’re about to get fired, then there’s a good chance that you’re just being paranoid and a firing is not actually imminent.
How Common Is It To Get Fired
If you do end up getting fired, know that you are know alone. In fact, about 40% of people are fired from a job in their lifetime.
So, if it does end up happening to you, view it as a bump in the road, pick yourself up, and move forward to your next adventure.
If you find yourself wondering “am I getting fired or just paranoid,” try to look at the situation in an analytical and unemotional way.
Assess if the common signs that you’re getting fired apply to you and reference things like documented performance reviews to help make your assessment.
An approach like that will help you to understand your true risk.
And, if you do get fired, know that it’s not uncommon and it’s not the end of the world. You will bounce back and can even use that as an opportunity to find an even better context in which to contribute good through your work.