So it has finally happened the biggest (non) secret in football has come to fruition. Louis van Gaal has been fired as Manchester United manager and looks set to be replaced by Jose Mourinho.
News has been circulating since January that this will happen, with van Gaal asked about it during most press conferences. And after Manchester United’s success in winning the FA cup, it was all but confirmed; not only was the news leaked to prominent sports journalists, but the owners and CEO reportedly didn’t even speak to van Gaal at a celebratory dinner to toast the success of the club.
But most people do not have the twitter speculation, press leaks, shareholders singing “you’re getting fired in the morning” and a highly confident rival making public statements about his desire for your job, to warn them of their impending dismissal. So what should act as warning lights that your days in your job may be numbered?. Here are some critical signs:
You’re left out of important issues
If you feel that you’re not able to get the information that you need to do your job, or to get involved in projects that others are doing, then you may see this as a warning sign that all is not well and your boss and others are not happy with you. You may find that you’re not being invited to meetings that you would once have been a key part of, or your boss simply isn’t giving you the same number of projects as they may have done in the past. This can make your time at work very uncomfortable and you might find that this is one of the first signs that your time at the company may be coming to an end.
Your performance is being frequently criticised
The way that your boss reviews your performance is a good test of their views about you – and if you have received a negative performance review lately, or a series of them, then there may be something wrong. If an employee is about to be fired for lack of performance, the company usually wants to keep a robust audit trail of the evidence and the process. If your boss is making comments about your personality, or your approach to team working, then they may have beliefs about your attitude that could be difficult to reverse, even if you tried to do so.
In addition to this, a warning, whether verbal or written, could be more than just a criticism of the way that you do your job and a signal that you need to improve, it could also be the first step in a process that ends with terminating your employment. Even if there are no formal processes, if your boss suddenly starts documenting the details of every conversation with you, this could be a sign that they are collecting ‘evidence’ for the HR process.
You’ve developed a poor relationship with your boss
You might find that there is a lot of tension between you and your boss that simply wasn’t there before. Either they may be looking over your shoulder all the time, or ignoring you completely – neither are good signs when it comes to job security. Constant monitoring could mean that they’re looking for mistakes to pick up on as part of their evidence gathering and ignoring you completely might be a sign that they are no longer invested in you being part of their team.
You no longer get the chance to enjoy the perks of the job
Most jobs have perks, and if you find that yours are beginning to disappear, then this could be a sign that your job is in the spotlight. If you are taken away from the best desk in the office, or not invited on a trip, for example, this could be a sign that your manager is no longer quite as concerned about your enjoyment of the role as they may once have been.
No information after a large company change
When there have been significant changes within an organisation, such as a merger or acquisition, there are often a number of staffing changes involved. Where this is the case, you would expect to be kept in the loop as much as possible – and if you aren’t being given key information about the changes, you could well be one of the members of staff whose job is impacted.
Your job is becoming more difficult
Previously, you may have felt as though your job was well defined, and that you were able to complete tasks given to you without any issues at all. Now, however, you might feel as though you are almost being set up to fail – by being given jobs that aren’t really in your job description, or that you’re almost certain to struggle with. In the worst case scenario this may be so that your boss can demonstrate that you are failing to achieve objectives set.
Your records are scrutinised more closely
Whether it is your expenses claims, reports you have written or presentations you have prepared, if you find that these are being very closely scrutinised and lots of searching questions are asked, this could be another area where evidence of poor performance or – at worst – dishonestly or incompetence – is being sought.
Of course, none of these in isolation will definitely mean you are going to be receiving your P45, in fact, taken in isolation, there could be perfectly legitimate and non-sinister reasons for all of the above scenarios. However if you are experiencing several of them simultaneously then it’s time to act by talking directly to your boss and raising your concerns. Ask for a meeting and then seek feedback.
Be prepared to hear any negative criticism they may have of you and/or your performance and don’t be defensive. Ask for clear guidance on what you need to do to address issues raised and make sure that you document these points after the meeting and confirm your understanding back to your boss. Then work together to put in place a plan to turn around the situation.
But be realistic, depending on the outcome of your conversation and how long the situation has gone on, it may be too late, and being prepared to leave may be the best course of action. We’ve written previously about how to behave when you’re fired. And you always should remember that, even when it’s not by choice, career change can be good.
So if this is the end of the line, make sure you are prepared and have a plan in place, rather than letting it hit you out of the blue. Van Gaal was not surprised by his dismissal and by all accounts has reacted calmly and his reputation will be enhanced by this.