4 Signs You Might Get Fired (and 4 Signs You're Just Being Paranoid)

I watched a family member get the clamps put on her this year by her boss, who very clearly, wanted to show her the door. But, instead of managing it humanely (or sanely), this manager did what plenty of not-so-stellar companies do: They turn up the burner under the person’s rear end with the hopes she’ll just up and quit.

It was so obvious what was happening that it would’ve been comedic—had it not been happening to one of my dear ones. I watched it all unfold from the sidelines—which was just heartbreaking to see—especially since I could do little. Ultimately, my family member quit, gaining her sanity and a much better boss in the process.

But it was not good.

Conversely, I’ve counseled professionals who come in panicking over “signs” of impending doom. Yet, when we evaluate the situation carefully, we realize the things they’re stewing about aren’t likely blaring signs at all—at least not signs that the end is near for the employee.

So, how do you determine if your job may be in jeopardy, or if you’re maybe being a bit paranoid? While I’m always a proponent of trusting your gut in situations like this, here are a few signs (and non-signs) to consider:

1. Your Boss Starts Putting Everything in Writing

With my loved one’s situation, the ramp up of putting everything in writing was nearly ridiculous. And it wasn’t just that the boss suddenly began hyper-documenting everything, she also began cc-ing the universe on correspondence (including their client, when doing so was unnecessary and arguably damaging to the relationship).

Few things scream, “I’m setting up a case for HR” louder than sudden acceleration of email documentation. If you’re dealing with this, be sure to create a paper trail. Because If HR is reviewing documentation, you want to ensure that your messages make you look like the professional that you are. (This is extra important if you think your boss is in the wrong.) Oh, also consider freshening up your resume ASAP.

Signs You Might Just Be Paranoid

Recognize that some bosses simply use email as their main form of communication. Others are natural micromanagers, so they send frequent and detailed messages to make sure they keep a handle on everything. If you’re not seeing a marked or obvious change in frequency or tone, it really might be nothing.

2. You Get Removed From (or, Left Off) Projects

One day you’re the key point person on a project, and then suddenly you’re redeployed or replaced with either little explanation or, worse, direct explanation that you’re not hacking it.

When an employer starts reassigning your work to others without giving you a clear, understandable rationale, this could very well be a sign that the department’s preparing for your departure.

Consider asking (in a positive, constructive way) for specifics if you’re being removed without explanation from assignments you’d normally be involved with.

Signs You Might Just Be Paranoid

It could be that your focus and attention is truly needed elsewhere, so the shift makes perfect sense. Maybe your boss or team needs you on a priority assignment, or your manager realizes you’ve got a lot going on, so she’s compassionately trying to lighten your load on non-vital activities.

Certainly, don’t ignore your situation if you start getting pulled from projects, but do look at it from all angles to determine if it’s for sound reasons, or otherwise.