Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes. - Oscar Wilde
You’re getting a vague, uneasy feeling that things are not right at work. You just found out that you were left off the list for the project launch meeting. Your manager says you won’t be going to the annual conference this year. She’s also cancelled your last two weekly check in meetings at the last minute.
Should you be worried about losing your job? Maybe. Here are some signs you might be on the way out.
- You are passed over for important assignments or not included in meetings.
- Your boss or your peers seem uncomfortable or start avoiding you.
- Projects you’ve been handling are reassigned without explanation, or with an explanation that seems weak or contrived.
- A peer gets assigned to your project so she can “review what’s been done so far,” or for some other vague oversight purpose.
Here are some ideas on how to save the situation: If your performance has been discussed before (for example, in a less than stellar performance review), you can ask for a formal meeting to review your progress.
If this is the first time you’ve felt that your competence was in question, ask for an informal meeting with your supervisor. Cite specific examples of times when you felt as though you were being excluded or questioned, and ask directly, “Is there some concern about my ability to handle this project?”
Ask for honest and direct feedback, and watch carefully for signs your supervisor may be uncomfortable or not very forthcoming. Offer to work on what she perceives as your weakness by creating a plan of action to correct what’s wrong. If she seems to waiver about this, ask directly, “is this (situation or error or perception) fatal?”
If she reveals that she doesn’t believe that you’re the right fit for the job or assignment, it’s natural to feel angry and embarrassed. But you may be able to salvage your reputation and buy some time if you remain calm and contrite. Take responsibility for your performance; don’t give in to the temptation to blame lack of resources or training or other people. “I am so sorry it’s not working out. I want you to know that I appreciate the opportunity you’ve given me and I worked hard to be successful. Thanks for being honest with me; this feedback, difficult as it is to hear, will help me grow.”
Ask if you can begin the process of looking for another position to avoid being terminated. The best possible outcome is her agreeing to let you leave of your own accord as soon as you find another job. Set a deadline together, a date by which you’ll leave even if you don’t have another job lined up. Resigning is a much better alternative to being fired for cause.
During your last few weeks with the company, continue to do your best work. You can repair your reputation, leave on good terms and make a fresh start at a new company. Be sure to pack your new hard-won wisdom.