Clear Out Your Desk: 10 Signs You’re About to Get The Pink Slip

May 29, 2013  |  

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It’s May and what that means for me and others in the non-profit struggle, is that the fiscal year end is quickly approaching. Management will review budgets and see who’s worth keeping and who’s just costing them money.  I work in a small office so when someone is let go it doesn’t go unnoticed.  Once I became familiar with the signs, they were easy to see; like “neon construction sign” easy to see.  Co-workers who were let go had seemed unhappy with their jobs and communicated with management less and less.  The little conversation they did have wasn’t exactly personal and more and more there was major shade thrown over minor things like who didn’t change the toner.  And we can’t forget the  team meetings to address problems that everyone knew were actually meant for that one person with a pink slip headed their way.

Sometimes it really is nothing personal and with budget cuts there is nothing you can do to stop the inevitable.  But other times you have to be honest with yourself and question if you’ve truly been performing to your full potential and if you’re even happy in the position anymore.  It’s understandable that any job is better than no job in an unpredictable job market, but no employer wants someone who is simply showing up and you shouldn’t have to spend 40+ hours a week simply going through the motions.

You’re job may be in rough waters, but you don’t have to be left without a paddle.  Here are 10 signs that you may want to refresh that résumé:

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1.  Your position was created for you or labeled a “trial position.”

Beware of positions that never existed before your employment. Smaller companies and non-profits are big fans of employees who can easily transition between departments and know a little bit of everything, but it can become tricky when your responsibilities aren’t complimentary.  I once had a co-worker whose job title grew longer and longer because she believed she could make herself stand out by doing a whole lot of everything.  Management allowed her to take on a number of responsibilities to see if someone could successfully manage two very different positions at the same time.  She took the shovel and quickly buried herself and burned herself out.

There’s a reason why someone is rarely an “Administrative Assistant/Office Manager/Grant Writer/Program Director.” Inevitably deadlines will conflict and instead of doing one job well, you’ll end up doing a lot of jobs incompetently.  Trial positions are just that: an experiment.  If management sees it’s not working, soon you won’t be either.

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2. There is a high turnover in the position that pre-dates your employment.

Do your research on the history of your position and how it came to be vacant in the past. Do people usually get promoted from it, are they often fired or do they resign?  If there is a high turnover rate in a position it could be because job duties aren’t designed in a way that makes sense for the company or because they are especially difficult or demanding. Is the position set up in a way that will sabotage even the best employees or is that particular manager difficult to work for? Sometimes it really isn’t your fault.  It’s not that you weren’t a right fit for the position, but rather the position isn’t a right fit for the company.

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3. You can’t clearly define what it is you do (and why only you can do it).

You’re at a networking event and after revealing with pride your fancy professional title, you’re hit with the obvious follow-up, “So what does a (insert fancy title) do?”  If you can’t easily ramble off three major job responsibilities you might be in the danger zone.  It’s one thing to do a little bit of everything or get in where you fit in when your workload is light.  But if you don’t have major designated responsibilities and find yourself regularly looking for tasks and end up watering plants, color coding the Outlook calendar event or labeling the cabinets in the employee lounge you may not be as vital to the organization as you think.

If you’re not given an important project, create one.  When I noticed my agency’s Facebook hadn’t been updated in over a year when I started, I designated myself our agency’s social networking coordinator and began updating it frequently.  I set goals to get more followers and web traffic and it didn’t go unnoticed when management noticed how much visibility they gained.

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4. Your PTO is approved a little too easily.

Damn, you forgot to request off for your niece’s graduation which unfortunately falls on the day of the annual fundraiser.  When you bring your concerns to your supervisor they sign off on your PTO request, no questions asked.  That was easy, right?  Either your boss in still in her “I just got a man” glow or your absence doesn’t make much of a difference because soon you’ll have a whole lot more days off.  Most management will want key employees at special events to at least show their face and represent even if they aren’t assigned any major tasks.  If your company allows you to skip major events , it could be because you’re not needed or there’s no point in having someone network who won’t be able to access their work e-mail in a week.

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5.  You’re given very little responsibility or tasks.

On one hand you have management with major control issues who would rather do all of the work their way instead of delegating.  On the other hand they may have lost faith in you to do a decent job. If you find that your boss has been picking up more of the slack and doing tasks that would have otherwise been assigned to you, don’t be afraid to ask why.  Firing an employee is something that no one looks forward to and it’s just as awkward for management as it is for you.  Sometimes it’s best to get things out in the open so you both can better prepare for you departure instead of awkwardly avoiding the pink elephant in the room.

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6.  When you’re headed to the team meeting, you’re told, “You can sit this one out.”

Could you imagine if the Heat told Lebron James he could sit the championship game out?  Or if Kelly and Michelle told Beyoncé at the Superbowl, “It’s cool, Bey.  We got this.”  When you are a valued employee, companies take your opinions into consideration.  You may not have any hiring power, but you’ll be asked what you thought about the spring interns.  Even if you’re not the star player, if you’re making any kind of significant contribution your coach will need you in that huddle.  If you’re sitting on the bench it’s because, sadly you’re not needed and well , “they got this.”

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7.  You notice a lot of conversations are happening behind closed doors.

Consider yourself lucky if you work for supervisors who keep the lines of communication open and update you about any issues within the company, even if they don’t pertain to you. When you have this type of relationship you can rest assured that when conversations start happening behind closed doors, management is discussing you and/or your co-workers.  I once had a co-worker who was already on management’s hit list because she revealed way too much about her personal life.  When she revealed she was 4 months pregnant by her less than stellar boyfriend (information which she openly revealed to management), more and more meetings were held down the hall as opposed to in the office.  Next thing I knew when she went to deliver, an “agreement” was worked out so she could part ways with the company.

Closed doors don’t have to mean they’re working on your severance package, but prepare for some kind of big announcement, because it’s coming.

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8. Management is increasingly encouraging job-sharing or instructs you to train someone on your responsibilities.

Raise your hand if you’ve been tricked into training your replacement.  Take a note from Breaking Bad’s Heisenberg:  They’re not asking you to train the new guy to hold it down because you put in a vacation request, it’s because they’re trying to take you out.  I personally think it’s a poor practice and that if you are managing anything you should know how to do tasks that are below your pay grade instead of asking your subordinates to pass on the knowledge that you don’t have yourself.  Otherwise, why not train the new hire yourself and allow your employee to leave with some dignity.

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9. You do your job a little too well.

It’s no secret that for every great manager there is one who is power-hungry, insecure and doesn’t really want to bring out the best in their employees for fear of creating competition.  A supervisor that is confident in his or her abilities is not worried about cultivating a mentee to grow into a skilled professional.  If you’re making more of an impression on your colleagues than your supervisor and co-workers are looking to you for guidance, a disgruntled manager may find any minor slip-up to send you packing for “insubordination.”

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10. Expenses are cut.

As I mentioned earlier, lay-offs are inevitable and even if your bosses are still faxing and filing while the Titanic sinks, you should keep an eye out for the iceberg.  Have your Del Friscos lunches been reduced to Dominos?  Does your manager’s blood pressure shoot up whenever you print out anything in color? Cutting expenses doesn’t mean that you’ll show up to see an eviction notice, but it may be a sign that management has money concerns.  Before  they start skimping on the big things, find little ways to do your part.  Try not expensing your parking everyday when you live 10 minutes away and don’t write off the McDonald’s you had while on a conference call as a “corporate lunch.”  It may seem like nothing, but those $9.00 value meals add up.

Toya Sharee is a  community health   educator and parenting education coordinator who  has a  passion for helping  young women build their self-esteem and  make well-informed choices about their sexual health.  She also advocates  for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about  everything from beauty to  love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets  and Blessings.

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  • BobbyBrownsUnhingedLowerJaw

    but on the other hand…most of these could also be symptoms of being, the boss’, owner, judges, etc. child or relative….whatevs.

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  • Rashida

    I would take this in stride. The list is general and doesn’t speak for every situation.

  • bigdede

    The only thing I agree with is the budget slashing otherwise this doesn’t make sense. A position was created for me at my last job because I did my job so well. I also was given a raise. I also trained others to do my position. The only reason I am not there anymore is because I transferred to another hospital in the system. If I had read this list before they created that position for me, I would have freaked out instead of being happy.

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  • This list is ridiculous. You could be training someone bc you’re getting promoted, you could be given other duties added to yours bc they don’t wanna hire someone else, you could have to sit out on meetings because it doesn’t apply to you, And doing you’re job too well? Seriously!?! Smh so many people will read this and go to work in fear. How about if you think you may get fired it’s probably because you been messing up not working too hard.

    • ToyaSharee

      Wasn’t trying to have anyone working in fear, but just trying to point out some subtle signs that could be a forewarning. It doesn’t necessarily apply to each and everyone. Do you realize how many times I’ve witnessed someone train their replacement? I’m not saying you need to blow the dust off your resume whenever you get a trainee, but this does happen and happen often. Consider yourself blessed if you’ve never been placed in that position. As far as the meetings, keep in mind I was referring to meetings about company events or issues you should be involved in (note the Beyonce’ reference). Just speaking from experience; these are all things I’ve seen unfold prior to people getting fired, but I hope your optimism rings true in most people’s situations.

      • Wasn’t trying to offend your work but most of what you said could go so many ways very general. Just seems like the blogs on this site here lately are very negative.