You’re Fired! 20 Signs That a Pink Slip is Coming

By Paul Michael on 23 May 2007 (Updated 15 April 2011) 129 comments

There are two types of employees. One has a good idea of what they do, who they are, and what position they play in the company. They are savvy. They know the score. They are under no delusions, and will no doubt leave for another job long before they are ever considered as cannon-fodder. (See also: Laid Off? You May Have to Fight for Unemployment Benefits)

And then there's the other kind. The guy who could get Gandhi to hate him. The woman who spends most of her day chatting on the phone to friends or doing online shopping. Or the nice chap in sales who is completely oblivious that the recent merger means his job is now obsolete. They all have Ostrich Syndrome. They couldn't see a pink slip coming if it was 8ft tall and glowing in the dark, screaming "you're fired!"

You want to avoid being in that second category at all costs. So I've compiled a handy list. If you can answer yes to THREE or more of these questions, you may want to think about sprucing up your resume and dry-cleaning your best interview attire.

1. Are you no longer in the loop about, well, anything?

This is a huge telltale sign. Suddenly you're finding out about company news from the cleaning lady or the new girl in accounting. If you were formally in the know about all things business related, but now suffer from "the company's doing what??!" disease, the writing is probably on the wall.

2. Did you recently screw up big-time?

We're not talking a minor faux pas here. Did you lose money on an account that was previously bulletproof? Oh dear. Were you caught having sex on the boss's desk with the boss's spouse? That's probably not a career-enhancing move. Unless you're a real dope, you know if you have screwed up. And if you know, HR knows. It may not be the final nail in your coffin, but it's a nail in the coffin nonetheless.

3. Are people avoiding you at all costs?

Eye contact is difficult to make with someone if you know his or her head's on the chopping block. Small talk is just as tough. It's best just to avoid that person altogether. So if people are no longer doing that fun "stop 'n' chat" in the hall, or the coffee room empties when you arrive, then guess what…you may be a marked man or woman.

4. Did your last performance review read like a train wreck?

Most of the time, a performance review is a whole bunch of niceties. The boss really doesn't want to say anything TOO good, because everyone has room for improvement. But generally, they praise within reason and avoid anything too negative. So if your review paints you as a stupid version of Homer Simpson with less talent than a Backstreet Boy, well, that tap on the shoulder is coming.

5. Has your company recently been sold or merged?

This is rarely good news for about 90% of the staff. Sure, management is fine. After all, they negotiated the deal. But whether you were sold or merged, the outcome is the same…changes will be made across the board. A merger means duplication of many jobs. Duplication = redundancy. Being sold means new management, and they always have new plans for the company. New plans that includes cutbacks and layoff. Basically, watch your back if there's a new name on the front door.

6. Are you being given impossible jobs with no chance of success?

This one is underhanded, which is why it's so popular. The company may need a big reason to give you the boot, especially if you've done everything right and are the life and soul of your department. Enter the impossible task. "Ahh Wilkins, we need you to expand our new line of warm, alcohol-free beers to construction workers." "Johnson, how's that line of umbrellas doing in the new L.A. store?" You get the picture. If you've been given a thankless task, at least be thankful for the blatant tip-off that you're about to be let go.

7. Do you now have less responsibility than the intern?

Ouch. Being stripped of your responsibilities is a sure-fire sign that there's something unpleasant on the horizon. After all, you don't fire someone who's got a ton of important work to do, with loads of people underneath him/her. So, over time the poor sucker in management's sights will be given a new job title, less work, less people (or no people) and will eventually have a hard time finding anything of any real value to do all day. Not long after this, that same employee will be out on the street. In fact, if you're at work and have enough time to read this article, you may very well be in the firing line.

8. Has your office, cubicle or working space recently been down-sized?

Remember poor old Milton in Office Space being moved from one small space to another, until he was eventually sat in the dark, in the basement, dealing with pest problems. Well, this is not so far from the truth. When employees are in the firing line, it's a lot easier to move them around and downsize their environment without worrying about their morale. If you are reading this in your new 6ft by 6ft cubicle with no lights on a 1999 PC with a 200MB hard drive, you're not exactly a valued employee any more.

9. Do people whisper more, or does the conversation change as you approach?

If you're marked for termination, you'll be the last one to know about it. And being the grown-up responsible people that they are, your co-workers will be quite happy to whisper about your impending doom in a dark corner of the coffee room. Until you show up, when suddenly the conversation will change abruptly to something really original…like the weather.

10. Did your recently receive a pay freeze or, worse still, a pay cut?

There are a few reasons this could happen, none of them are good. Either the company is in trouble and they need to cut costs, or you're in trouble and they don't want to pay you. If it's the first one, you may not necessarily be in immediate danger but no-one wants to work for a company that's going down the tubes (read Who Moved My Cheese for more on that one). If it's the latter, well, your boss is basically telling you that you're about as welcome as a fart in an astronaut suit. Begin the job hunt immediately.

11. Have you seen a job posting for your company that matches your job description?

Human Resources can be crafty. They don't want to fire you without having someone waiting in the wings to immediately fill your shoes. That's why it's not uncommon to see your own job out on the Internet months before you eventually get canned. Worse still (and this has happened to someone I know) they hire your replacement before you're fired and get YOU to teach the newbie how to do your job. Nice. Then they fire you.

12. Does everyone hate you? I mean really dislike you with a passion?

If you're one of those people who are oblivious to this kind of question, please skip to #13. If you have a thread of common sense, read on. It's not an easy thing to face up to, but you can at least spot the telltale signs. Do you eat alone at lunchtime? Do people never laugh at your jokes? Can you clear a room faster than a pack of rabid pit-bulls? If you're ok at your job but are just not popular, that will be seen as affecting morale. And morale is not something to mess with. Either shape up your attitude, or find a new job that maybe doesn't require you to work with people on a day-to-day basis.

13. Have you recently been asked to take some time off?

Let's face it. Companies in America are not prone to encouraging vacation time (compared to Europe, where we get oodles of time off). If it's not to use up vacation you're about to lose, or for a genuine reward for a huge project you've just finished, then you are in trouble. When the boss tells you to take a break, they're more than likely telling you that they'd rather not have you in the office. Maybe they'd like to talk about you behind your back (which is a lot easier when your back is in Tahiti). Maybe they need time to figure out how to can you. Either way, it's all a lot easier with you out of the picture. Time off = firing scenario.

14. Are you noticing paper-trails between yourself and your superiors?

A quick word in your ear used to be just fine. A phone call was great. A stop 'n' chat in the hall was a regular occurrence. But now everything is happening via memos and emails. There's a reason for that. HR requires written/printed evidence of everything if there's to be a firing. A paper trail is necessary to determine that your boss did everything by the book, and to record every single one of your screw-ups. So, if you've gone from getting a few memos and emails a week, to a daily deluge of paper and a full inbox, these are warning signs that you're being watched very closely.

15. Are you finding it almost impossible to get approval or 'buy in' on projects?

Think back. A long time ago, people would green light your projects faster than the Road Runner on amphetamines. But that's no longer the case. The boss is suddenly silent when it comes to approval. You're being passed around fro middle-manager to middle-manager. You get voicemail 99% of the time you call someone for their opinion, and the other 1% it's their secretary…who then puts you through to voicemail. No-one is going to green-light a project from someone whose time is up at that company. They don't want to associate themselves with the kiss of death that is your idea. If it happens to be a great idea, no worries, they'll take credit for it once you're gone. The silent treatment is a sure sign of pink-slip disease.

16. Have you recently been asked to work on a "special project"?

This could have many other names. "New company initiative" or "Confidential research assignment" are other known terms for this. But it basically comes down to one role…the project takes you away from REAL work and puts you on something that's either mildly important, not important at all, is going nowhere, or is just plain useless.

"Hey Smith, how is that special project on frozen concentrated orange juice coming along?"
"Fine Sir. Can I ask what this has to do with the IT department?"
"Oh, you'll find out Smith. You'll find out."

Rule of thumb. The second you are asked to leave a project you know is important for one that sounds like a bunch of bologna, your career is heading south quickly.

17. Are your successes and accomplishments being glossed over?

This one's tricky to work out, because most bosses and coworkers are weasels who will happily play down your role in order to make themselves look good. But, judge this one by looking to the past. Did you boss used to praise you up to management? Were you a golden boy or girl? That's great. But if it's now impossible to get praise for doing something spectacular, like doubling company profits, then you're being disrespected and probably have a large 'fire me' target printed on your forehead. If you're not getting kudos, you may be getting fired.

18. Are you currently being 'retrained' or are taking coaching sessions?

Again, a tricky one. Retraining or coaching is often a way to try to save an employee who has lost his or her way. It shows that the company or your boss still gives a crap. BUT, it also has a darker side. It's another one of those 'cover the company's butt' scenarios, in which HR demonstrates they did everything they possibly could to make things work. And alas it didn't, so they had to let you go. Not a major warning sign on its own, but combined with a few others, this has danger written all over it.

19. Has your immediate boss or mentor gone bye-bye?

If someone you trusted and respected, like a boss or mentor, is no longer around for whatever reason (promotion, fired, quit) this could spell trouble. This person may have been the only one keeping the wolf from your door. And there's an easy way to find out. Is it now impossible to get projects approved? Are you being left out of meetings? Does nothing run smoothly now that this person is no longer on the scene? If this is the case, that's cause for concern.

20. Have you recently been promoted to a position of less responsibility?

What a cunning rouse this one is. It's quite simple but efficient. In your old position, it may have been very difficult or almost impossible to get rid of you. But if the company promotes you into a newly created role, with less responsibility and no direct reports, then you have a new scenario…position elimination. It's hard to fire someone. It's easy to eliminate a position. You can get rid of anyone, even protected classes (older folks, pregnant ladies etc) if you simply eliminate a position. So, be afraid. Be very afraid. If you were formerly "Account Manager" and are now "Director In Charge Of Special Project Development" you may as well clear out your desk right now.

Remember, THREE or more and you're more than likely heading for the unemployment line. Take a long hard look at your working life, and do something about it. After all, if you're not good enough for them, then they're not good enough for you.

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Will Chen's picture

I can think of a few people who could benefit from this.  Max, are you reading this?

Guest's picture
Matt

I concur this is a great list. Keep it up...

Guest's picture
Steve Sandvik

Certain companies give certain groups of employees unplanned vacations as an internal control--it's a way of detecting misuse of company resources. So it may not be a sign of danger, since the employees that's normally done for are usually in financially critical jobs, which is why they would have the chance to misuse resources.

Andrea Karim's picture

This isn't specifically covered under the "less responsibility" thing, but it's in the same spirit - do you have fewer direct reports than ever before? Does the term "reorg" get whispered in the hallways?

Guest's picture

I remember when my friends company was reorganized, it meant the head of the department was fired and replaced with a newer, younger and cheaper version. My friend managed to hang in for awhile but then received his Pink Slip.....he was depressed for quite awhile, but then remembered that along time ago (like college - and that was a very long time ago, he was pushing 50) he had wanted to be an actor, but thinking that was too unsteady, he went into Public Relations. He is now acting, albeit small bit parts, but he is much happier, even though he has much less money. What I'm trying to say is that every "negative" that happens may actually lead to a more positive place....in fact I don't believe in negatives, only opportunities.....so yes, it is scary, but keep looking for what new discovery you may make about yourself and go for it.

It was the fact that my friend was laid off and another impolitely fired (along with being angry at my spouse for not employing me on a project) that led me to write, direct, produce and do the art and set decoration for "Pink Slip" - Part 1 - Suzie, a new webisode now on youtube. The link on youtube for Pink Slip is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plG3WOzL6Zs. There was nothing in my work experience that would lead me to think that I could do such a thing, but then if I look back my webisode actually combines every aspect of myself. All I'm saying is that although these are depressing times, take a few minutes from your job search and watch Pink Slip - Part 1 - Suzie. Maybe you will laugh if only for a few minutes. Part 2 which comes out in November is actually hysterically funny, as our hero Max's depression takes an unexpected turn. Have fun and don't give up hope.

Muriel

Guest's picture

Your clues are indeed the ominous clouds that can portend trouble down the road.

See my recent post for how managers should handle terminations with dignity and professionalism. May be a boring read for some, but if the ominous clouds come to fruition, my post contains some clues on what people can do to better protect themselves.

http:// thecenekreport.squarespac...ermination.html

robert edward cenek, RODP
www.cenekreport.com
Uncommon Commentary on the World of Work

Guest's picture
Guest

"One has a good idea of what they do, who they are and what position they play in the company." How did you get from singular "One has" to plural "what they do"?

Guest's picture
Nate

The jury for the "they" to describe singular nouns is still out. Yes, it's awkward, but I believe the "he/she" alternative is even worse.

Guest's picture
Guest

It can replace instances of "he or she", "his or hers"!

Examples:

He said, she said. => Hershey said.

If one wants to play with hershey's own balls, then hershey must first learn to juggle with one of hershey's balls first.

Guest's picture
Guest

"They" is becoming a standard pronoun to replace the awkward "he/she." It's no longer considered wrong.

Paul Michael's picture

You're so nice, guest (and brave too, for giving out your real name). I admit, grammatically I could learn a thing or two, but I write for ease of understanding and use common langauge. I end and begin sentences with prepositions. I break all kinds of rules. As a copywriter by trade, I'm allowed to. This is not an English contest, it's a way of getting across information. I think it read better my way than...

"One has a good idea of whom he or she is,  what he or she does and what position he or she plays within said company."

By the way, Word thought the grammar on my first sentence was just fine, so take it up with Bill Gates. But as I say...did you like the message, or the delivery?

Guest's picture
Your name

"copywriter by trade"

How is it someone with such a poor grasp of basic grammar is able to have a career in this field?!

(this is not a rhetorical question, I am curious how you managed to land a job that required the formation of sentences greater than six words. I'd much prefer you'd composed a primer on how to land one of these positions you have a penchat for being terminated from.*)

some friendly advice:

- You need to learn how to use a colon.
- You use far too many pronouns.
- Do not switch from second to first to third to second person.
- You should never capitalize / bold words (especially at the beginning & end); use context clues to give weight to what's critical.
* It's usually not wrong to end sentences with a preposition...
http://www.grammartips.homestead.com/prepositions1.html
- It usually IS wrong to begin a sentence with a conjunction (a mistake you make in every other paragraph).

Thank you, I'm sorry, I love you!

Andrea Karim's picture

As to the first complaint of using "they" as a singular third person pronoun - get over it. That is simply how people speak in American English. As Paul rightly pointed out, "they" is the only simple way around the "he/she" conundrum.

* It's usually not wrong to end sentences with a preposition...

That may be true, but the whole "don't end with preposition" rule isn't actually ENGLISH. It's Latin (English is a Germanic language, despite our Latin-derived vocabulary). Please read up on some Steven Pinker and John McWhorter if you have any other questions on these ridiculous, antiquated rules that don't actually apply to our language.

By the way, how can one use too many pronouns?

You should never capitalize / bold words (especially at the beginning & end); use context clues to give weight to what's critical.

You just made that rule up. That is simply our way of formatting - it is related to QuikScan abilities - highlighting crucial information so that someone can skim and article and take away the same message that THEY would have had THEY read the entire thing in detail.

As to how those of us with lousy "grammar" (grammar is in quotes there because I think most grammar rules are bunk, having nothing to do with the way we speak), who can't string together a sentence more than six words long, manage to land jobs at copywriters, well my friend, here's an inudstry secret: copywriting involves creating sentences that are only six words long.

Paul Michael's picture

As I said, and will have to keep repeating, copywriters don't follow the traditional rules of grammar. Pick up a magazine and read any advertisment. This is what I do for a living. I also happen to be very very good at it (if you'd like to ask every creative director I've ever worked for, I'll happily supply phone numbers...and photocopies of my bonus checks). 

People do not talk with perfect grammar. Ads communicate the way people talk. It's the first law of copywriting...keep the writing conversational, not grammatical. My copywriting has won prestigious several awards. Yes, awards. Even though i make the "mistake" of beginning sentences with conjunctions. And I'll keep doing it (did that just annoy you then? Gee, sorry). All in all, here's my advice. If my writing bugs you so much, don't read it. If you want to save some cash, smile and live life a little bit larger on a budget, please drop by any time. If you want perfect English, don't read my blog on this site. And that's all I have to say 'bout that (that one was from Forrest, another moron who made a fortune).
Andrea Karim's picture

I might add that anyone who really feels like they know English grammar might want to take a gander at this web site.

http://www.gpuss.co.uk/english_usage/start_sentence_conjunction.htm

 

Paul Michael's picture

is enough. As has been pointed out to me, and I hang my head for not realizing sooner, getting drawn into this whole debate merely gives the original comments more validation than necessary. I am hanging up my hat on this round of comments, hoping that readers simply enjoy the content of my article regardless of my misgivings.

Guest's picture
Guest

Hi Paul

Excellent article!

Very true of the signs that a pink slip is coming, can't believe someone was paying more attention to grammar rather than the true content of the article! Lol

Will Chen's picture
Will Chen

I am terrible at spelling and grammar so I can't really argue the finer points you guys are discussing. But I do know for a fact that this is wrong:

"You should never capitalize / bold words (especially at the beginning & end); use context clues to give weight to what's critical."

Many great bloggers use this technique to draw their reader's attention.

Bloggers also use short paragraphs because they are easier to read, even though technically single sentence paragraphs are frowned upon in serious writing.

And many bloggers do use conjunctions to start sentences because many blog readers are more interested in information they can easily scan than fancy transition sentences.

I realize not all our articles are mistake free. That is why we appreciate it when people correct us. But would it be so terrible to give the advice in a friendly manner?

When you give friendly advice on how to make Wise Bread writing more accessible to readers, you are helping the entire community. But when you are just shooting off advice to show off your grammar skills, you are acting like that MIT student Matt Damon destroyed in Good Will Hunting.

 

Paul Michael's picture

with a shotgun in Good Will Hunting 2 - Hunting Season. From Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back.

Guest's picture
Guest

#21 Your boss puts you on a "performance improvement schedule."

#22 Your boss makes a huge mistake and pins it on you.

#23 Your boss's boss asks you to check your boss's work. (not sure exactly why they pulled that one on me, but it got me fired.)

Guest's picture
Trumpi

We have a guy at the office for who many of these point will be applicable. Pity about South Africa's draconian labour laws...

Guest's picture
Historian

Hey, you are offending a lot of casual readers by mis-spelling the name of the greatest man who walked this earth - Gandhi (it is not Ghandi)

Guest's picture
brian

This is an great list. I have seen some of these lists before but this seems most complete. Thanks for putting these together.

Brian http://bsjpark.blogspot.com/

Paul Michael's picture

I meant no harm, it was a genuine mistake.  I have righted my wrong, and hope you will take a leaf out of the great man's book and forgive me. Thanks.

Paul Michael's picture

I'm fortunate that I've never been fired yet, but I was in an agency that was going down the tubes and at one point we had no receptionist, were answering our own phones, the staff went from 20 to 8 in three months and we lost 2 accounts. Myself and my art director ran away as fast as we could. As it turns out, they survived, but when you see warning signs it's best to act on them.

Andrea Karim's picture

So, I recently learned a couple more signs from some drinking buddies:

1. The boss gathered everyone into a room and asked "Who here is feeling a little overwhelmed? We'd like to make sure that you have all the help you need, so tell us if things are getting out of hand" and you raised your hand. You'll be gone in six months.

2. Depending on the organization, have you been in the exact same position for several years? I'm not talking promotions; some companies, like Microsoft, prefer to move people around constantly. Stay in one area for too long, and they start thinking that you lack the talent to be useful to more than one area of the company.

Guest's picture
Mike

As someone who's been on the receiving end of numbers 1, 6, 8, 9, 11, 14, 16, 17 and 20 (all at once) I'm hoping someone sees this and gets out while the getting is good. That smarts. I still haven't fully rec-overed and it's over 2 years ago...

Guest's picture
www.thepoplab.com

As a postal worker,my duties at the plant have become slim to none. I'm not sure if I'm going to make it to the christmas rush. No one talks to me anymore, not that they did much in the first place. I can't help but feel that people are conspiring against me. To be brief, if I'm going down, how do I take as many people as possible with me? Thanks in advance!

Guest's picture
Guest

Has it ever occurred to you, DL, that two people might come up with the same idea? If you go back and read the two lists, you'll find different ideas and different writing styles.

How many "how to get promoted" or "how to land that job" books or articles have even been written? Are all those writers ripping each other off?

These are things that I teach my young students when they complain about or tattle on each other (which is what this criticism about grammar and accusations of plagiarism sound like):

1. Are you saying this just because you want to get the other person in trouble? Or...

2. Are you saying this because you truly want to help.

If it's the first thing, then don't do it. If it's the second, then think about how you would like to be told.

Guest's picture
Guest

Everyone at my company are on pins and needles except for upper management. We've had over 20 people quit in the last 3 months. I got written up for 6 months for explaining my side of a work-related situation. I'm sitting at work right now writing this. I've given up...I'm putting out resumes and waiting to get fired. Sigh...

Paul Michael's picture

Sorry, your link took me nowhere. I used several sources for my research, as well as my own experiences, and this CIO magazine may have been one of them. As far as I know, I have written the most extensive list out there. I don't rip-off articles, it's not my style. 

Guest's picture
Linked and Observed

Mr. Michael
The following link,

http://www.cio.com.au/index.php/id;202416649;fp;;fpid;;pf;1

**does** work for me, even now, 3 months after your article, on a Wintel machine and a Mac OSX machine, using current IE, FF, and Safari. Meridith Levinson's 18 signs in CIO very closely resembled your 20 in content and scope. It predated yours by 2-3 months. On the plus side, the signs bear repeating. Your reiteration isn't the first. Even Levinson's feature is highly derivative. The signs haven't changed since before Personnel aggrandized itself into HR. Thanks for your post.

Guest's picture
Guest whos maybe fired

sorry not commenting on your comment just saying something, maybe to add to ur list,

not 3 hours ago my manger told me 'im not being funny, but if i fired 2 night porters, i could easly get 3 people to replace them..just saying' oh im a night porter by the way if anyone is wondering.

so yeah im looking for another job, working my bottom off to keep this one, but i think its more to do with shift changes and a new set of people working here, and seeing my job is posted online...im not holding my breath....hope this helps, or just gives people something to think about.

 

p.s for all you GRAMMER O.C.D's out there..i'v left some goodies in my comments for you to correct...enjoy

Guest's picture
Guest

17 and 20 describe my current status

-Siplin

Paul Michael's picture

at least you have some time to do something about it. Remember, forewarned is forearmed. Get your resume up to date and go get a better job. Then quit, and feel that accomplishment of knowing you did it to them before they did it to you.

Guest's picture

Andrea wrote: "So, I recently learned a couple more signs from some drinking buddies: 1. The boss gathered everyone into a room and asked "Who here is feeling a little overwhelmed? We'd like to make sure that you have all the help you need, so tell us if things are getting out of hand" and you raised your hand. You'll be gone in six months."

That's true only if you work for a horrible manager. A competent manager isn't going to fire someone for being honest in that situation (assuming that it's reasonable for someone in their position to be overwhelmed). I'm a manager and I ask my employees this periodically; it's because I know that lots of people are afraid to speak up if they need help, and that's not good for anyone. I'm grateful when people are honest with me. But, of course, if your manager sucks, that won't apply.

http://AskAManager.blogspot.com/

Guest's picture
Siemenstainz

When people read this drivel they will become paranoid and probably think they are going through what you described. L2Play NOOOOOOOB

Greg Go's picture
Greg Go

@Siemenstainz - maybe those people have a legitimate fear (ie., it's not paranoia) if lots of things on this list apply to them. If this is happening to someone you know, maybe it's best to not dismiss their chances of getting fired so casually.

Paul Michael's picture

This story may help many people who may be blissfully unaware that something terrible is coming on the horizon. I don't think it will cause paranoia at all, as everything listed here is usually a good indication that something is wrong, and I did point out that 3 or more spells danger. On a more pressing note, I believe we have a fine article on WB about stain removal. It could help with your personal problem.

Will Chen's picture
Will Chen

Hmmm.... that name sounds so familiar....

Guest's picture
Guest

Any working person today who believes that their job is totally secure is a fool. Even if you own the company, you can be blindsided by competition and regulation. So, it’s important that you be aware of changes in your work relationships and environment.

Many people ignore these signs and they are shocked when the hammer falls.

Guest's picture
Guest

Another big red flag is when people in the department are asked to write down their job responsibilities and what they do each day.

Guest's picture
Guest2

Dear Guest,

I recently had to write down all my job responsibilities as did my dept. Why did you have to do this and what was the result?

Guest's picture
wdlaurie

Other clues (from the experienced trenches in Silicon Valley):

Has your boss been let go?

Is your company talking about outsourcing?

Is your company sending workers to another company to train people for a job similar to yours?

Is your company bringing visiting workers from another company to train people for a job similar to yours?

Are you making conference calls often to a time zone that is 12 hours different than your own?

Has your company recently acquired another company or companies?

Is your corporation talking a lot about "reorganization"?

Has your employer called meetings about "employee morale"?

Backstory here: the day my department was having a meeting to ensure employees that their jobs were not going anywhere (until the next product release, 3 months away), 50 of us were laid off.

Luckily I had been job hunting, and landed the job so I only had 1 week between jobs, which is really the lesson here. If you see the train coming your way, update your resume! Get in contact with other people in your field and let them know you're looking! Add your profile to linkedin.com! I was at least a couple steps ahead of some of the other people who were laid off at the same time because I had acted pro actively.

My husband served on a jury in San Mateo county a few years back. The case involved a manager being fired for sexual harassment. My husband was shocked to hear many of the other jurors say "they can't just fire you for no reason!" Oh, yes they can. In California, employers need to follow whatever standards the company they work for has set in order to fire an employee. It may be 2 written warnings, or 1 written warning along with retraining. In the case of reorganizing a corporation and eliminating positions, they don't have to do anything specific that I'm aware of to fire you.

And remember: what seems like the worst thing that has ever happened to you can often be the BEST thing that has ever happened to you.

Keep that resume up to date! :-)

Guest's picture

I got laid off, after experiences a number of these things (and I was the general manager).... I remember for the prior 12 months I was coaching someone else on their career issues and I was not following my own advice.

Then, I got laid off... started a job search with an incredible resume and.... hardly got an interview. It was very, very discouraging.

No matter how great or poor the company is doing, whether you are worried about becoming Employee of the month, getting laid off, or getting fired, you should ALWAYS be preparing.

Having an up-to-date resume is one thing. But what about regular networking ("dig your well before you're thirsty")? How about personal branding? There are other things to consider when creating your own job security - I guarantee your employer won't do it for you.

Jason Alba
CEO - JibberJobber.com
:: self-serve career management ::

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"Have you recently been promoted to a position of less responsibility?"

I call that being "side-moted", and it's not a good sign.

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Guest

If you do get the axe how do you account for that time on your resume'?

Lesson I learned: Don't become an assistant director if there looking to hire a new director. You may not get along and they will win!

Mergers: Better to be on the merger side than be the merged ones.

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Janet

Here's one you forgot:
If you have time to sit around finding grammatical errors in Web stories about how to tell when you're about to get axed...guess what.

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Tony

Good article. I have two jobs and don't believe either one will last forever. As you said, people will tell you if you are on your way out. They can't help it. They just won't act the same around you.

Is the grammar nazi gone?

Guest's picture

I've never been fired, but thanks for this info, I'll watch for the signs. If I ever get a job, that is!

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Guest

Has the corporation your company sells their product to been on any variety of news broadcasts for the last few months?

*cough* mortgage industry lay-offs *cough*

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The Lady

I got fired two months after I had a positive performance review. The manager said, "Your review was just 'satisfactory.'" No, it was glowing. The manager was a lunatic--she later got fired after some more folks she fired threatened to sue the company about her firing techniques.

As a result, I don't trust performance reviews, no matter how positive. If they want to get rid of you, they'll find a way to do it.

Right now, I'm being left out of just about everything, but I don't think they have any intention of firing me. I think I'll just sit her for another few years, rotting away at my desk.

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Guest

My company recently merged and I am pretty sure I know what the layoff date is. The director is not making eye contact and seems to be avoiding me. My plan to find out for sure if I am being laid off is to ask for that day off. I figure that if I am one of the workers being laid off my manager will not approve me for that day.

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blah

I was recently fired and maybe a few of these points applied to me, but not really, I think it was just my paranoia. I didn't even get my performance review because a "conference call came up" and it got pushed...and never rescheduled. Then the next week, I was fired!

It sucks because I was a new graduate in a supporting role and so it's kind of hard to tell if these points apply to me or if it was just due to me being in a subordinate position. Nevertheless, without any external factors (i.e. mergers, losing an account, etc) or personal factors (i.e. huge mistake on my behalf) being part of the equation, my firing was really out of the blue.

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Survivor

If you are smart and a little-bit lucky you can take advantage of a situation in which you feel that you are going to get fired and get into a different job without having a bad job history on your record.

First, if you really have a gut feeling that you are going to get fired contact your HR department (or have a co-worker that you can trust contact them) and ask what is their policy of how they give out information to third parties, (other companies calling to check references, mortgage lenders checking to verify income, banks, etc). Most companies (to avoid lawsuits) only give out the dates that you worked with them and if you are eligible to be rehired. Being eligible for rehire is key because if you get fired, the company will mark on your file that you are not eligible for rehire which is a trick HR departments use to tell another company that you may have applied for that you were fired without flat out saying it.

My point is that NEVER wait around to get fired when you have a strong feeling that its going to happen, just resign from your position by giving them a two week notice which is standard. I was able to use this strategy to get out of a bad situation in which I made a major screw up on the job and saw the writing on the wall when my ex-boss started to take some responsibilities away from me and I lost out on a promotion that was in line to get before the screw up. It took me a while to find a job in my field and I almost had to move back in with the parents, but now I have a great job with an excellent supportive boss at a great company.

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Guest in CA

The group situation discussed in this article refers to group layoffs, not firing. So if a large group is involved, your HR file most likely will be marked as eligible for rehire. Firing for cause, as opposed to being laid off, is usually an individual instance that would make you ineligible for rehire.

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joanne

I have been on a job for 22 months and my co-worker leaves early without telling the boss,goes off the job site to run personl errands,makes and recives personal phone calls all day.
I have been called on the carpet more than once saying that I was rude to the patients that I serve after I have reported my co-worker to the boss.My mistakes are always the first ones searched out but my co-workers are alays said to be human err.When I bring my co-worker up to the boss he says that they are working on it but it gets worse daily.I want to sue for being in a situation before I get fired.What do I do?
My co-worker may have a bad dayand goes to the boss saying that I am the one that is causng these problems,when I am doing my job and covering her ass.

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Guest

It sounds like your boss is playing favorites. Your coworker may be friends with your boss or having an affair with your boss. In any case, if your boss wants to keep your coworker around, despite his or her performance, it's not going to help you to complain about your coworker. Keep quiet and cover your coworker's ass while finding a job where the employees are on an even playing field.

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Guest

Before I got fired they hired two new people and I personally trained each one of them. I remember when I was new there, I had to sort of follow others and learn on the job for the first few months. I felt bad for the new hires because I knew they'd have the same experience as I did, so I was nice and helped them... a LOT. Even covered for one of the girls a few times. Then a few months later I was fired... over the phone, on my day off. Man, what a way to spend a day off.

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Runelady

Even if it one person's opinion, I still find it helpful. Thank you for the list.

Guest's picture

From point one "If you were formally in the know about all things business related" - that should probably read 'formerly'. The former does make sense, but I doubt it's the meaning you were intending.

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Guest of 2009

Let's face it. If you're looking at this page, then you probably don't need this article to tell you anything that you don't already suspect. Watch your back(and your paycheck)!

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Guest

thanks for the post. I'm packaging layoffs for a design project and this helps a lot. =)

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Guest

I know someone at my company who is prob going be fired and I have warned them about things they can do to improve to no avail. I think some people just do not "get it". I feel bad backing away from this person as does everyone else in the company but after a while, you give up and it is frustrating to try and deal with or make sense with someone who is totally clueless. The company is willing to keep people around who can work with others and has a good attitude. Those that get canned are those with crappy attitudes, poor work ethic, bad communication skills, inappropriate behavior. You think it would be obvious but some people just don't get it.

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love

bless this post with love,peace,respect and success.

just let love be

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A. Nonymous

This post is pretty epic. I've seen a number of these signs and I'm prepared to BE fired. The most obvious sign I saw was the "Paper Trail" and other obnoxious CYAs. It's a shame though, I've been here less than a year. It's corporate bliss compared to where I worked before.

*Notes to managers: If your employees think you're going to crucify them when they come to you with issues, they WILL give up and they WILL fail.*

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Guest

I've noticed that in some mass firings, bosses or other management tend to be out of the office on vacation or business trips so they don't have to encounter the fallout that goes down after the firing. This should be another bonafide sign

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Guest

So, let's be clear. I take it the grammer police was canned and had nothing better to do than transfer her frustration to someone who tried to post a helpful list?

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Guest

And before you get too excited, yes I know it is grammar!

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Ryan

I’m looking for some advice from some more seasoned workers who have the experience to know. I am 25 years old with a trade certificate in Information Technology from a vocational high school in 2003 and havn’t used it since. I worked a few automotive jobs as an uncertified mechanic and parts counter sales for little pay but I loved what I was doing. When I was 20 I fell into a job as a Drop Forge Operator in a factory forging steel which I have been at for 5 years. It’s a union job, 1’st shift, making $17.41/hr plus overtime, health/dental/life insurance, 2 weeks vacation, matching 401k & a pension. Plus it’s a relatively low stress job and I love my boss. My dilema is my job does have a lot to offer but there are not many factories in my area with Drop Forge Machinery and I don’t have any other skills. I fear that if my company eventually closes or outsources that I will find myself older and unskilled making it very difficult to find a good job. Especially as I get older as I know age discrimination is all over the place. Should I get into a new line of work while I’m young enough and most likely take a hit in pay and benefits so I can have a more secure career or should I just take the $$$ now, build up my pension, and worry about it when it happens? I have considered night classes, however if I stay at my current job for too many years my training will be outdated (like my IT cert) so there is no point if I stay at my job. What would you do?
If you are interested in leaving feedback please e-mail me your advice at my1990cavalier@hotmail.com. Please put in the subject line "Should I look for a new job?" So I know it's not spam. Thanks

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Lynne

(24) If your boss refers you to the EAP (Employee Assistance Program), it's time to start looking for another job. Your boss cannot force you to get counseling, nor can she check to see if you are going. But it is often the first nail in the coffin.

I advise you to follow your gut instinct. If you think you may be fired, something is wrong. Always keep an updated resume, no matter how secure you believe your job to be.

Guest's picture

I can tell you the government plays these games. If you make the right people angry, they will use these methods and more to build a FAKE case against you. I've seen them do it to coworkers.

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Guest

#21: you have time to read this post (and the comments) at work

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Jordan

My friend was recently fired. And, true to what you predicted, he was experiencing at least 3 of the 20 signs: given near-impossible tasks, then moved down to a less important position (dressed up by a fancy name), all happening after his immediate boss was 'let go'.

Of course, that I found this list after him becoming unemployed means that it didn't really help him, but it made me laugh none the less.

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m65

And then there’s the other kind. The guy who could get Gandhi to hate him. The woman who spends most of her day chatting on the phone to friends or doing online shopping. Or the nice chap in sales who is completely oblivious that the recent merger means his job is now obsolete. They all have Ostrich Syndrome. They couldn’t see a pink slip coming if it was 8ft tall and glowing in the dark, screaming “you’re fired!”

kamagra l acne

Guest's picture

I had hoped that the economy would have improved since my last post.  It is tragic that it hasn't. I hope some of you have found a job, but I believe most have not.  Since my last post we've completed two more Pink Slip episodes and put up our website http://pinkslip.tv/.  We've added Pink Slip - Part 3 - Christmas and Pink Slip - Part 4 - The Dance.  Just click video on the home page and scroll down to view them.  You can also see them on youtube and vimeo. They are both very funny, yet really sad, although, we stay away from that. In Part 3 Pink Slipped Max and Pal Joey ensnare fashionista Suzy into their zany plot for survival. Max and Suzy finally hook up in a most unusual and sexy way. Be strong...keep job hunting...but take time to laugh. We also have a Pink Slip - A Comedy Webisode - by Muriel Campbell Facebook fan page and would love you to tell your stories.  How do you keep hanging in, what can friends say that is helpful.  What well intentioned comments hurt? We may not be able to get you a job, but if we know of anything, we will try.

 

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Tricia

I had 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 to an extent, 8, 9, the top hocho at 12 for some reason understandable only to himself and the subordinates that are his buddies, 14, 17, 18, and 19 (My mentor's reviews of me were positive, so of course they had to find a reason to stop having her do written evaluations on me fast) PLUS having the boss pin his mistakes on me. Yep, I found out my contract is being nonrenewed this past Friday, and I saw the writing on the wall as early as the beginning of December, before ever getting the performance review that read like a train wreck. Trust me, once your  main superior decides he does not like you, your head WILL be put on the guillotine.

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Jeanette

You should have found another job and quit if you saw the writing on the wall in December.

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Tricia

I would have, but instead, I took all of my written reviews and wrote rebuttals and explanations next to the comments. One time, I did go in to meet with the main boss and he was very nasty when I told him I was confused about the reviews, and he was very nasty... right after that meeting, I wrote the  date and time we had it, plus the fact that I no longer felt comfortable asking questions that might improve my performance on account of feeling as though I would be crucified if I did.

I will bring these, plus more positive reviews from other superiors and other evidence that my performance was not as bad as they were saying, and use them to file a grievance... I will not go down without a fight! I now have 4 months of evidence, plus evidence saved from before December, to have a strong case. Who knows, I might even get him fired too if I have a strong enough case that I was being treated harshly and unfairly =)

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Guest

Good point. That's another sign of impending doom - your boss just doesn't like you

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Raj

Good post, I think many peoples who could benefit from This.

Tax Planner CPA

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Michelle

Good list. Prior to my layoff, my boss started slowly responding to my email or not responding at all. She decided that I needed to be "retrained" on the accounting software I'd worked on for years, which meant another staff member would watch me input the numbers. She gave me projects which were exercises in futility and eventually quit giving me any projects. My evaluation was not bad but not the high marks I was used to and she added stuff in there that she'd never brought to my attention before. She became completely indifferent when I updated her on current projects. She'd say hello but made it clear she had little time for me other than that. She'd go to lunch with her other staff and not invite me or take other staff out to eat on their birthdays and conveniently forget mine. I'm not one to be real social at work and had nothing in common with these folks. At some places this is okay, but in this environment it hurt you, as they cut big time that year and it was mostly those who weren't her good buddies...felt like the movie Mean Girls. I didnt immediately start looking for another job because I liked several of the other managers there but they turned out to be utterly powerless and this glorified admin type who was my boss was super powerful. I hate politics but it still rules supreme in most places. Fortunately, every now and again bad behavior comes back to haunt folks, as this boss was run out months later for fraud by her former good buddies, who apparently couldn't stand her either...

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Guest

25ish The boss schedules your hours directly his own; this way, he never works around you.

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Guest

25ish The boss schedules your hours directly_around_his own; this way, he never works with you.

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Guest

Paul,
Your writing can improve; but, your points are terrific. Your work contained many errors as I sifted through it. Primarily, it is is unclear--though it also grammatically incorrect in several areas, and lacks concision. Chief to all persuasive writing is relevant content--and this is your strongest attribute; but, you will benefit from improved clarity and proper English. -Ted

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Guest

Its not that I dont like the ppl I work with but Ive never liked making friends at work. I dont go work to make friends. And Im actually one of the nicest ppl you will ever meet, but at work I come off as a a major b*tch. Im still working right now, but I feel my job is coming to an end. For one, girl who trained me, didnt properly train me. I had to figure out everything on my own and if I make one little mistake, she goes off. Im actuallly going on vacation all of next wk. But I got a feelin I wont be comin back!

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Marc L.

Thanks, In my cashier/sales clerk job I tend to think the bosses can cut me lose anytime they want since i'm easily replaceable but in the end, with many times asking my manager how the big bosses see me, telling i wasn't on the fire radar or being hated, and that i was doing a good job... I still am anxious as whether i'd get fired anytime soon or not at all...

i'll walk on eggshells, or in my way, turn around the coin and pretend to be the perfect employee who's reduced to silence, who agrees with everyone and never calls other cashiers to just talk when bored, never has his cellphone in his pockets and takes the right amount or less in his break times. This is gonna be a boring ride.

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Snel

#19 happened to me.. I worked in outsourcing, and one day, without warning, my 'resource manager' (person in charge of my assignments & stuff) got sacked. Then I suddenly got transferred to an extremely-low-responsibility assignment, and a couple weeks later I got fired too.

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Exhausted

I need some advice. I've been given this clueless newbie to train. I am afraid he's untrainable; I show him the ropes one day, he seems competent in doing the duties the next, and the day after it's like he was never trained at all. Boss has no intention of getting rid of him as the boss just bounced him out of another area where the newbie made a serious mistake with very serious consequences. I have also been tasked to learn the duties of another area; doing both is extremely hard.

I have a lot of seniority. Is this their way of getting me fired without having to pay me severance pay?

I don't mind being laid off as right now the commute is hell (4 hours round trip), working shifts, with the paycheque being the only thing keeping me going. Unable to transfer as there is nothing available, but friends say they may be able to get me in somewhere else.

How do I handle the situation? Do I stay at work and hope they lay me off? Do I quit and hope for the new but significantly less-paying work? Or should I just suck it up and quit whining?

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Guest

I wish I had of seen this a while back............1) I was put on special projects to "add more responsibility and stand out to upper management" 2) I was suddenly downed in a performance review when I was up for promotion before 3) It was suddenly very hard to get praise, everything no matter how insignificant was a huge mistake. All of sudden random emails from management in the loop came in with praise....because they knew what was going on and didn't like it. 4) my manager left and all of sudden I was a real problem 5) all of sudden entrapping emails were sent from my manager to me

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Guest

I started an internet store selling electronics, my spouse works for an electronics store but not in sales. I contacted owner of her company and told him what I was doing, he had no problem with it. Than 6 months later someone in wifes HR department saw my web site and pulled a sheet from employees hand book that spouses can not go into business selling products that we sell(Home Electronics) My wife is not part of my business period, I own it alone. Now there saying I need to close shop or they can dismiss wife-FIRE-. I have not talked with owner,but was told I have to close it by 11-1-10. Is this legal? Yes she did sign HR handbook , but again does no sales of electronics, nor is she part of my business-Frustrated don't know what to do!

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Guest

Oh boy!!! 6, 8, 14 and 19...I'm out the door. Sigh!

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Newly Senior Citizen

I was referred to the EAP program for financial difficulties. I made the mistake of stepping into an empty office to take an unpleasant call and was caught looking distraught. I only work 12-20 hours a week with no benefits.

One of the referrals the EAP gave me was Goodwill job services for the disabled. I am not disabled, but you can bet the company will use it to fire me, even though they said that was not in the works (yeah).

My concern is that any future employers will balk at hiring me because I was forced to call EAP.

My only problem is finding a full time job that will pay the bills :(

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Paul

19. Has your immediate boss or mentor gone bye-bye? He left 2 days ago. Gone all-of-a-sudden.

Plus one not on the list:

#21. Doing a complete inventory.
I have to mark everything item and receipt from the past 3 years, mostly all my boss purchased.

I don't know if I'll get his job or be completely gone. I'll know in one month.

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Pat

Yes, #19 happened to me. I landed a 90 day temp to hire job. My supervisor, Linda (not her real name), praised my work and assured me the job was mine permanently. Halfway through the 90 days, Linda quit without notice. I sensed an immediate shift. No one knew what to do with me. I was told to continue on, "for now", but there were meetings behind closed doors. I wanted desperately to stay, but I didn't get to. "Now that Linda has left, we've decided to move in a different direction." Standard kiss-off phrase.

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Guest

I can recall some really ridiculous jobs I had when I was younger. I used to help this family build fence. One morning I was feeling sick and being truthful about it. I always had to meet my boss at his house. I knocked on the door and told him I was feelin a little sick. He said I will be right out. So I was sitting in my car eating pink iced animal cookies when he came out and told me to roll down my window. He said, well I just can't use you anymore. Your fired. Since then, I can't hardly stand the sight of animal cookies. It give me a sick feeling.

Another job was making buckles for belts. The guy who was my boss, his name was Guy. So my coworker says, watch out, I heard Guy is coming back here to fire you. That wasn't really true. Guy was a good guy. I was too young to realize it at that time, but he was simply counseling me. He was shocked when I said, I dont care. He say okay your fired. I still think of that when I see umpires on the baseball field calling people out.

Later in life, I was desperate to work and took a job with this corporation. You all know the name..but I will not mention it. The people I worked with was great, but the corporation and corporate policies were horrible. People think we dont have slaves or indentured servants these days. Their trick was to stress my importance and they needed me to fill a position where someone had abrubtly quit after working there 7 years. Please, do not, DO NOT be nice and volunteer for something like that. There is a reason why the guy quit, and I went over there and fell into the same exact trap.
When I think back about it, that one hurt the most. I really hurt in my heart. I was devastated.

Those few experiences have scarred me for life. Now I have a phobia of it and get paranoid. What makes coworkers so vicious and manipulative?

I wanna be a billionaire so freakin bad, haha. I tried to add some humor here in case you don't get it. Yet, I really do have a phobia. I just count it as excitement though. It gets your heart pumpin, makes you experience emotions you never thought you could handle. It plays on your paranoia, mistrust, and word games.

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Guest

Can I just say... the line about you being "as welcome as a fart in an astronaut suit" made me laugh until I couldn't breathe.

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Monkey Tiller

I'm Boned. (1,3,6,7,11,17)

Was working over 40 hours a week, now working for 5 hours. Got written up for an error I was unaware I was doing for the last 10 months, in which no one in my work corrected me on, including my boss. As well, a person that was leaving the job a few weeks ago is now starting to get their hours back up, and taken over some of my work.

Word of advice, don't ever take a job that multiple people seem to get fired from, there is a reason.

Guest's picture
Guest

This is a fantastic list, keep it up. I've seen #14 in action, and the reverse of #13.

I was laid off my previous job, and I had some advance clues. One was getting a vacation day request denied - it turns out I had picked the Friday they were planning to do layoffs. How odd, I never knew anybody at the company to have a simple day off request flat-out denied. I asked my supervisor why and he said I was slated to start some training and I just had to be there. I did some investigation with a friend that worked in a different department, and nobody there had heard of this so-called new training. Yeah, that was very suspicious, and my instincts were correct.