What most people do when they are about to get fired is worry a lot and take no action. That is not a good strategy because it leaves your future in some else’s hands. If you are in this unenviable position it’s time to think and act outside the box. Here are 4 steps you can and should take. Since nobody else is going to go through anything like what I suggest, you have a very good chance of saving your job if you get into gear.
1. True or False
Your first mission is to find out if your fears of losing your job are well founded or not. Don’t take a rumor and turn into something more unnecessarily. Depending on the relationships you have at work, you should try to get the word right from the horse’s mouth. Talk to your immediate supervisors and try to get a sense of which way the wind is blowing. Just be diplomatic.
If the kids upstairs are keeping their cards close to the vest you can still do some sniffing around. Try to set up a meeting with your supervisors to discuss the projects you are working on. Talk about you plans for the future of these projects. See how they respond to you when you talk about work you’re going to do several months from now. You may be able to get them to tip their hand. If nothing else, they’ll sit up and notice how much initiative you are demonstrating.
Let’s assume for the moment that you get confirmation and conclude that you are in fact going to lose your job. What’s the next step?
2. For Cause of Not
If the whip is coming down, you should find out why. Are you getting let go for cause or are you simply caught in the cross hairs of corporate downsizing? This will impact your ability to find a new job fast and your case for unemployment benefits too. If you are getting fired for cause, there is going to be more fallout obviously and job number 1 is damage control.
If you are being let go for cause, you need to tread lightly. Nobody is going to tell you what the problem is until they decide to actually fire you. Document as much as you can about your (good) work performance – even if you aren’t being fired for cause.
Have you received any promotions? Were you congratulated for a job well done recently? Make note of any positive feedback you’ve received on the job in the recent past.
Just be careful not to take (or copy) any company property or documents that prove your case. Most work agreements prohibit that. And while you’re at it, find out what the contract says about contacting clients and vendors. It would be great to call on current clients when you land your new job – and it would be wonderful to contact vendors to inquire about job opportunities. But if you signed an agreement that says you can’t do that, don’t. The last thing you want to do is make your situation worse by providing grounds for your company to sue you after they fire you.
You’re upset and angry. Understood. But this isn’t the time or place to vent. You have to play this very cool. Don’t bad mouth or threaten anyone. Turn on the charm and be as productive as you can on the job.
You may not be able to save your job at this point but you might be able to stall for time or get your boss to give you a golden parachute. . The only way that’s going to happen is if you become more useful around the office. You may not like this advice, but if you want to help yourself, you’ve got to be extra helpful to your boss right now. Turn it on.
4. Exit Strategy
At this point, you’ve documented all the great things you’ve done at work and you’ve been an extra busy bee helping as many people as possible. If the inevitable does happen, you’re now in the best position possible to ask for what you want.
In a perfect world, you would ask for a chance to keep your position but it may be too late for that. If that’s not possible, request more time before being let go. Ask the firm to keep you on part-time or on an as-needed basis. Would they hire you as a contractor or consultant? It never hurts to ask.
When you find out that you are about to lose your job you will be angry and afraid. That’s understandable. But don’t give in to your nature desire to act on those emotions. That will do you no good. Keep records of positive job performance and support your boss and co-workers like never before. That will give you the most leverage possible to turn the situation into an opportunity for your future.
Have you ever faced this situation? How did you handle it*? What was the result?