When someone gets fired in the movies, it's always a melodramatic event. Typically, an employee walks into a regularly scheduled Monday morning pow-wow with their manager and find him or her joined by the HR manager, an attorney and a head honcho, informing them that their services are no longer needed.
Security guides them to their desk, watching as they put their half-dead plant, a framed photograph of their children and their coffee mug in a file box, and then ushers them out the door.
But in real life, learning that your company no longer wants you around is rarely a sudden incident, but a series of subtle events that, in retrospect, most realize they saw coming.
For example, long before there is a pink slip, there is often a breakdown in communication.
"I think that there are subtle signs that people don't see, such as a slight change in your boss' behavior. Maybe they generally got back to you within 24 hours of your e-mailing or calling them and now they're getting back to you in two or three days," Chuck Pappalardo, principal and managing director at Trilogy Search, an executive recruiting firm, told eWEEK.
"They're breaking patterns with you. Communication stuff is always subtle."
There are plenty more where that came from, ranging from activities that are a little worrisome to those that are clearly going to be a point of no return.
"There are certainly common signs that employees should keep a look out to assess their own personal job security," said Bernadette Kenny, chief career officer for Adecco Group North America.
"Important indicators and circumstances to be observant of include an industry downturn; company or department layoffs; being excluded from meetings; sudden reduced interaction with your boss; feedback that your behavior or performance has been lacking; any written sub-par performance document provided to you; a poor performance appraisal; new hires doing your job."
In short: You can't always save your job, but you can reduce the time you're out of work by seeing it coming.
Here are some signs to look out for:
1. There's Been a Changing of the Guard
Your boss or immediate mentor has left and new blood has taken over, and no matter what you do you fail to win their support or positive feedback. Meanwhile, the CIO loves the new guy. This is never a good sign.
"If the boss gets changed out, their direct lieutenants will probably be reshuffled too," Pappalardo said. "The new boss wants to bring in people they've worked with before, that aren't connected to the old regime. You may not be moved out immediately, but you would want to be prepared."