6 things to do when you think you’re about to be fired

So you think you’re going to lose your job. It’s a scary feeling. Here are 6 things to do when you think you’re about to be fired.

Is the boss treating you coldly? Are the winds of change blowing in a way that makes you feel super uncomfortable and like the axe is going to fall at work? That feeling when you think you’re about to lose your job is terrible. The waiting and wondering is enough to grind down anyone’s nerves.

What can you do? Well, a lot, actually. There’s not benefit to sitting there just waiting to get the axe. Be proactive and set things in motion to come out as best you can. Here are 6 things to do when you think you’re about to get fired.

1. Have a conversation with your boss

If you think you’re getting pink slipped and you would actually rather keep your job, talk to your boss. Sometimes these things happen because of a communication breakdown that can be remedied with…you know… communication. Ask for feedback and how you can improve. Be receptive and don’t be combative. Resist any urge to argue or defend yourself. Just listen. If your boss seems willing to work with you, you can then decide if any changes or improvements they’re asking you to make are reasonable.

Note: your boss might not tell you the truth. They might say there are no improvements to be made or that the situation can be remedied, and still be planning to fire you. Proceed with caution.

2. Plan your exit

Look over the contract you signed when you were hired to get a refresher on what you can expect severance-wise and what you are and are not entitled to.

The New York Times quotes Alison Green, author of Ask a Manager, as saying, “read your employee handbook. You might find things in there about separation procedures. It might prompt you to start thinking about negotiating a neutral reference, or you might find out if they pay for unused vacation.”

You might also be able to negotiate more severance and a story with your employer about why you left. Green told the NYT that sometimes they will agree to say you weren’t fired and in others, whey will just confirm your dates of employment when called for a reference. You can’t talk about it until the big meeting (if that happens) but it’s good to know what you’re going to talk about when you go in, in case you get overwhelmed with emotion.

3. Pack up and take what you need

When someone is fired, they usually have a few minutes to pack up their desk, often with security looking on and waiting to escort them out, while colleagues avert their eyes uncomfortably. You’re then locked out of your computer and will no longer have access to your files and emails. Once you’re fairly certain it’s going to happen, getting your desk cleaned out in advance will make it all much less painful and awkward.

Take the files you’ll need from your computer, and forward necessary emails. Make sure to have the contact information of anyone you want to keep in your network.

4. Use your benefits and vacations days

If you have been meaning to get to the dentist or the massage therapist, do it now. Those benefits are gold. And you might want to take your vacation days. Obviously, if the plan is to improve the situation and keep your job, now might not be the time to take off for a week. If, however, you don’t care about getting fired and/or know it’s inevitable, you might as well use what’s yours. (I’m not sure if this will negatively affect the goodwill at the bargaining table when it comes to the final meeting, so weigh your choices, but it’s a risk a lot of people would probably be willing to take at this point).

5. Polish up your resume and LinkedIn profile

Now is the time to really spit shine all your application materials. Redo your resume and make sure your LinkedIn is up to date. Write a new cover letter. This is, in fact, a good way to use that vacation time we just talked about.

6. Start looking for another job

Start applying for jobs. You’re always better off applying from a place of employment than from a place of unemployment. So, if you can get a new job before you’re fired, amazing. And, if not, at least you got the ball rolling. Don’t leave it to the bitter end. Get out there.

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