If the organization is planning a termination or a layoff of your position, how would you read that situation in advance? More often, employees receive no prior feedback that the employment relationship is not working. Then suddenly comes the termination meeting. If things are not working out, there should be discussions to see how to correct the situation. But having that conversation is not easy and the manager needs training and courage. So, if you have not received such feedback formally, would you still be able to anticipate whether a change is coming up? What signs and indications would you be looking for?
There are different reasons your job may be at risk, some of it might be in your control and other reasons might not be.
  • If you or your department is not consistently meeting your targets, you may have to worry. If you know why the performance is failing, try and fix it. Otherwise, the employer may not have a lot of patience to wait and may decide to make changes. Whether you are to blame for the failure or not, the changes will affect your employment. 
  • Watch signs that your manager is not happy with your performance. Sometimes these feedbacks are not shared formally but through day-to-day conversations. If you received a lower than usual rating, or a performance improvement plan has been mentioned, look into the reasons. Check if there is a clear, realistic and achievable path to improvement or is it a step towards the termination of the employment. Also, if you suddenly see a paper trail being created and every communication from your boss is coming to you in writing, they might be trying to build a case for termination.
  • I know of a situation when a boss took away a major project from an employee saying the employee’s health will not permit the workload. This was not a physician’s recommendation, but an employer’s excuse to take away work from the employee. Sometimes such actions can be reviewed for constructive dismissal. It indicated that the employee’s position is about to be reprofiled.
  • Are you trying to get time on your boss’ calendar and they are too busy? But do they have time for others? This can be an indication that they are avoiding the discussions or they think there is no point in investing time in your case.
  • If your employer stops investing in your training or development, it can be an indication too. It is best to ask them directly and see if it was an oversight or strategic action.
  • In another case I have seen an employee’s team has been asked to report the employee’s manager, skipping the employee. That is a possible sign. Or consider another situation. Your boss starts directing and managing your team members directly. The boss is undermining your authority at every step. Needless to say, you cannot work with the boss for long and need to look for a change.
  • Too many closed-door meetings and a hush-hush silence can be a sign of organization restructure. It may not always be the bad news, but be alert and keep your options open. If your company is sold or merges with another, layoffs are probable. 
Employees generally have a sense of when their jobs are at risk. If you ever get that gut feeling that something is wrong, do not wait for formal feedback sessions. It is important is to be alert of situations around the office.
Seek guidance from mentors and workplace counselors. A detailed conversation might help. As an HR, I have been approached many a time by employees asking for advice. Often a transfer to a different department or location can turn challenges into opportunities. Don’t let your fears get the best of you. A strategic approach is worth developing.