Afraid of Being Fired

Question:

I am worried I am going to be fired. Back in February I was hearing comments regarding being fired, so I asked to speak to the manager. I asked if she was happy with my performance and she said yes. A few months later I heard people making comments so I asked the manager if I was making mistakes and she said no.

I am really worried still, as the manager seems ‘off’ with me and seems to be avoiding me. I am also hearing comments of “he’s fired” “opportunity to get him out” “still turning up” “let him keep working” and various other comments.

Can you be fired without warning? Should I ask again?

Signed,

Worried


Answer:

Dear Worried:

I don’t think you should ask again in the way it seems you have asked previously. It seems that you need to honestly and logically consider your situation before you do anything else. Then, your actions should be specific and conclusive.

Consider these things: 1. You say you keep hearing these things about you being fired. Are those people talking loudly on purpose? Are you lurking and listening? Has a friend reported it?

Do one of two things about that: Ask the person you have heard say it what they are basing it on and if they have any advice for what you should do about it. That will certainly put them on the spot!

Don’t let someone say such things and all you do is hear it but not respond to it. You should be civil and not angry sounding, but you should immediately question it. They’re talking about YOU afterall, so you have a right to ask what they are talking about.

If you have a friend, as him or her what they are hearing and what they suggest you should do to safeguard your job. If you talk to the manager again, give the specific names and what they said and ask what explanation the manager has and if he or she can stop that kind of talk.

If everyone denies saying anything, you either have to let it go, accept that you might have been in error, find witnesses or figure that is not a good place to be working anyway!

2. Rather than worry about losing your job, put your efforts into being so effective you would never be considered for a layoff. You say your manager has said you are doing fine. If that is the case, then maybe you can find ways to improve your work even more or to be a good citizen in the office by helping others, looking for ways to save money or to avoid problems. 3. It sounds as though you do not have good relationships with people in your workplace. It may be too late to develop those now, but at least you might be able to minimize the problem by ensuring you are courteous, that your personal appearance and hygiene is at a high level, that you communicate effectively and that you support others as much as you want to be supported.

It may be that you have done nothing to create the chasm and it may be they are simply discourteous or unpleasant, but usually at least one or two people will be helpful and friendly. If you have one or two friends, use them to determine what could be the problem there.

4. Do you get performance evaluations? If so, you should have some idea about where problems might be. If none were mentioned, you can feel much more confident about your job. If one is coming up, use that time to ask again about your work and to be specific about what you have heard.

5. If you want to talk to the manager sooner rather than later, try this approach, in your own words…either directly or in writing:

“I know I’ve asked you about my work status before, and I don’t want to seem to be harping on it. But, in the last month I have overheard four people say things like, “he’s on his way out. Or, “I’m surprised he still has a job.” Mary said something twice and John whispered something to Bill when I was in the coffee room.

As you can imagine, that really unnerves me! So, I’m asking again if there is something I need to be doing to feel better about work. If not, could you help me by telling the others that I’m not on a layoff list and that they should stop talking about me as though I’m going to get fired?”

By being direct about it, you at least get it out in the open. The manager might be very upset to think something she has said inadvertently is being misquoted or that employees are making work uncomfortable for each other.

6. You ask if you can be fired without warning. Yes, you can be in most situations, unless there is a contract in place that requires something else or a state law or other regulation that would require some process.

You can be laid off due to economic situations or you can have your position eliminated or reduced. Or, your manager may say you are not doing well in the team and need to be replaced for the good of the organization.

You can’t control that, but you can do your best to make it unlikely. Here is what will make it unlikely: Your job description is needed. You do not get complaints from internal or external customers. You don’t make an unusual number of mistakes. You produce a good amount of work. You are pleasant to be around and do not violate rules or procedures. Your appearance and demeanor is positive not problematic. You are emotionally stable and behave in a way that is comfortable and effective with others.

If you have those qualities, I can’t think of any reason you would be fired. If there are reasons for you to be fired, they will probably be found in that list. So, consider all of them and if you don’t see any problems, talk to your manager again about the whole situation.

Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.