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What are the Warning Signs that I am about to get Fired?

I am getting the sense that my company may be changing direction, and that I might not survive the transformation. I am not as involved in certain areas as I have been in the past, and I notice that I am not involved in meetings where I would have been invited in the past. I really enjoy my job and I think I have the skills, passion and expertise to contribute wherever my company pivots going forward. How do I get myself back in the game? I want to be sure everyone knows what I have to offer, and if I go out, I want to go out with no regrets. Any advice is much appreciated?

Answers

Keith Johnson
Title: Principal
Company: Keith E. Johnson CPA PA
(Principal, Keith E. Johnson CPA PA) |

Ask your manager, but be prepared for the answer

Lyle Newkirk
Title: CFO
Company: Corrigo Incorporated
(CFO, Corrigo Incorporated) |

Yes, asking is the most direct way. You may get evasiveness, which is also an answer.

Mark Woolley
Title: Director
Company: Corporate System Solutions Inc
(Director, Corporate System Solutions Inc) |

As a CEO I'd be concerned that you're not directly involved in these discussions since all C level staff should be inputting into that process. Perhaps that's your answer?

Randy Moore
Title: CFO
Company: SJB Bagel Makers of Boston
(CFO, SJB Bagel Makers of Boston) |

Have a heart to heart talk with your supervisor. Start by saying how much you love the job and sell yourself as being capable of handling new and challenging tasks.
But...be prepared for an answer you don't really want to hear.

Christian Nantel
Title: CEO
Company: CFO Toolbox
(CEO, CFO Toolbox) |

I would also recommend that you talk to your manager. But, I would suggest that you ask for a discussion about your career planning. Take this opportunity to prepare yourself and have a good discussion. This will avoid presenting yourself as being insecure and if your perception is not accurate you minimize the risk of being perceived as worrying for nothing.

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

Be proactive. Keep engaged by asking questions and providing meaningful input. You can still communicate even if you aren't in the meetings.

Anonymous
(Portfolio Manager) |

I once asked my CEO if I was going to be fired. He actually responded, "yes but we were going to do it in a month but since you brought it up, let's do it now." Fortunately, I was smart enough to do this with another offer in hand. I strongly suggest DO NOT ask your manager or CEO. It can be a big mistake to assume management will act professionally if the transition means reducing headcount. Instead, ask a friend at work. Also, go get an offer before you raise the subject with anyone above you.

Andy Jorgensen
Title: Principal
Company: Lighthouse Investments LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Principal, Lighthouse Investments LLC) |

People who perform don't get marginalized for no reason. Peers recognize hard work and results. That earns you the respect you need to move forward.

Ask yourself the hard questions:

Have I delivered what I was brought on to do?
Have I demonstrated that I could deliver my own, and the company's goals?

If the answer is NO. Then you should have resigned already.
Nobody should wait around to be fired.

Take the hard lesson, and find a new place where you can thrive...

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Careers
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

I have to respectfully disagree Andy, people who perform do get marginalized for no reason, and peers do not always recognize hard work and results. If you have never "seen or experienced this" then you are very fortunate.

Andy Jorgensen
Title: Principal
Company: Lighthouse Investments LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Principal, Lighthouse Investments LLC) |

You disagree that they shouldn't ask themselves the hard questions instead of blaming others for their circumstance? We live in a society where people are all too eager to blame others instead of looking inward.

I am not talking about some staff accountant that is unpopular. The poster is in a CEO role and if they are being removed, it usually means something is going wrong. Can you name a single CEO that's been replaced for no cause whatsoever?

Andy Jorgensen
Title: Principal
Company: Lighthouse Investments LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Principal, Lighthouse Investments LLC) |

Also worth reviewing here is the Dunning-Kruger effect on cognitive bias.

Just because someone says they have the "skills, passion, and expertise" we take the statement at face value, that does not mean it is necessarily true.

Anonymous
(CFO) |

Andy:

Have you ever faced a board?

They aren't exactly known as being the most honest and capable of group of so called leaders.

Maybe that's why I like corporate raiders so much. They force boards to actually consider their fiduciary responsibilities to shareholders. They take away the "it's my company and I'll do what I want" mentality that seems to fester in entrenched management. They force us all to consider that the entity itself is larger than any individual or sub-group of individuals in the organization.

David Rau
Title: CFO
Company: Cornerstoner Building Alliance Lumber SW
(CFO, Cornerstoner Building Alliance Lumber SW) |

If you have to ask, be totally prepared for the answer and that the asking could accelerated the decision. If it is driving you crazy, you may just have to ask to keep your sanity. Better to keep you nose to the grind stone and work hard.............and look for a job. Good luck.

Anonymous
(Controller) |

The fact you love your job, have a sincere desire to contribute and willing to adapt your approach shows you still have a great deal to offer the company. Asking the question about your future (if there is *any* trust with your manager) is the way to go. I don't agree that asking the question will accelerate any process of termination, that is horrible management and frankly the manager that fired the other poster who asked was probably playing fast-and-loose from a legal perspective and not indicative of the vast majority of professionals and how they would deal with that situation. Good Luck if you go forward with the conversation.

Anonymous
(Director of Internal Audit) |

I would not ask anyone in the organization at all. I would continue finding ways to contribute, and at the same time start using my network to find out what else is out there.

Thomas Sabath
Title: Controller
Company:
LinkedIn Profile
(Controller, ) |

I really hate to write this but “You Are Toast”, you are “Out of the Loop”.
Yes the decision has been made to reduce and or eliminate your participation in the decisions of the company. I have been there and at this point there is NOTHING you can do, the decision has been made. If there has been no obvious errors in your performance or changes in your attitude then more often than not it’s simply a personality conflict with either your boss or your bosses boss.

Continue to perform at your highest level, be a professional, keep your attitude and appearance at its highest level. You don’t want to leave them thinking “good riddance”.

Be prepared this includes telling your family (husband/wife/partner).
Document everything, hate to be cynical but there is a reality that needs to be faced.
Start looking but do it quietly.

Good Luck.

Jon Schwartz
Title: Controller
Company: Slavik Enterprises
(Controller, Slavik Enterprises) |

If you have to ask this question then the real question you need to ask is how effective is your leader. A good leader will not treat you this way. A good leader lets his/her staff know where they stand at all times. If it is a matter of downsizing and not as much performance than even a good leader may not discuss your career status with you until the position is downsized. I have been in this situation two times in my career, and neither was due to my work, my contributions, or my results. Both times it had to do with poor leadership. You have to ask yourself, do you think you can affect a turnaround by discussing it with your supervisor. If not I would get the new offer in hand prior to having the discussion.

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

Personally, I would never ask my Manager if I was going to be fired.

If it is for “Cause” – You should know if you are providing maximum value to the firm. I know when I am providing my best effort and I know when I am just going through the motions. It should never be a surprise. Asking will not give you the answer. Some Managers will respond honestly; while others may avoid the uncomfortable discussion. If you can’t be sure the answer will be correct, why ask?

If it because of a change in company direction, there is nothing you can do. I have witnessed highly qualified people being terminated, at no fault of their own. New management comes in and alters the direction. The old management immediately becomes marginalized then reduced.

My suggestion, become more engaged and increase the value that you provide to the firm. Stay positive. Termination lists are never locked until the date of the discussion. I have seen names flow on and off lists daily.

Anonymous
(Co-CEO) |

Having been in the workforce for 30 years, I have seen a lot of people let go, and they not have a clue it was coming, including myself.

Many things, management keeps away from the laborers out of fear. They fear if the laborers know things will change, agitation will start, possibly leading to strikes, slow down of production due to lack of motivation, etc.

And, if you are the guy that goes to the manager and says, "It feels like we are headed to layoffs," those same fearful managers will can you first, and possibly immediately.

One of my many jobs in history was working at a hog processing plant. I didn't do it, but I knew one man at the plant that his whole job was to shoot agitated pigs. He kept a constant eye open for any pigs that started acting crazy. Once he found such a pig, he would shoot it dead, immediately.

Why? Because, it was felt it was easier to remove one dead, formerly crazy pig, than to corral a heard of pigs that were formerly cooperative, but are now agitated by the crazy pig.

In a like manner, if you go to the bosses and confront them with your suspicions, you will be canned before you get back to your desk.

So, what do you do?

First, realize, you are not working for a company out of the goodness of the hearts of your employer. You work there because you agree to labor and they agree to compensate you for your labor. The moment it is found more economical to remove you, either to replace you with something cheaper...another laborer, or a mechanical substitute...or to eliminate the desired labor completely.

Second, evaluate your situation. Would you like to work elsewhere for the same pay, or stay here with a pay cut? Most of us have set our budgets so that we cannot afford to take pay cuts. Either trim the fat from the budget, or your get your resume in order.

It is very rare that once a decision is made to eliminate a worker, that a company will alter it. I had it happen once. The company showed me that I was making $10 per hour more than anyone else...$56/hr vs $46/hr. They could not come out and tell me that if I did not take a pay cut, I was gone, but i figured it out rather quickly.

Well, my wife would have none of that! She did not advise me, she ordered me, to go back and tell them that I would NOT take a pay cut. I did as she asked. I wanted to make her happy.

That was the last time I ever listened to her.

They canned me a week later. It took a long time to get back what I lost that day. But, I gained the backbone to stand up for myself.

Finally, if you haven't yet, start putting away 25% of your take home pay into a fund that does not get touched, for any reason, other than you lose your job. The belt tightening you do now will make the lean times a lot easier later.

One final piece of advise. Consider taking your skills into business for yourself. People will pay double for a person they need half the time as opposed to keeping a person on fulltime. You find two companies willing to pay you double for halftime work, as a business to business transaction, you have effectively doubled your income. The tradeoff is that you do not get the security of knowing that you will wake up at 6am each weekday to head to a job by 8am to get an hour lunch at noon, to leave work at 5pm.

Instead, you wake up whenever, start working whenever you arrive, work until you want to stop, and get paid for working how and when you want. Keep in mind, people pay for promptness, quality, immediacy of response, so be as cavalier as you want, but be as responsive as you need. Funny thing about running your own business: people put more value into your perceived knowledge, and respect you more than if they "own" you as an employee.

Ron Lathouwers
Title: CFO
Company: WEM Corp
(CFO, WEM Corp) |

Because you are at the "do not include stage", you may have had your head in the sand and missed past clues that would have indicated to you that you need to find a new job. Suggest you start looking fast. One should always be "looking" as you never know what types of pressures are being brought on your boss about your position. Sounds like you do not have a good one on one relationship with you boss and that is bad to begin with otherwise he would be protecting you or explaining to you why you are not being included. Take some time off and start looking. Or gamble and prepare a "what I can do for you speech". That is how your future services will make the organization money or contribute to the corporations goals. But as someone mentioned before the decision may already have been made and selling yourself may be too late.

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Careers
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

I think we might want to assume that the original question came from a person who may not be "incredibly seasoned", so comments like "you may have had your head in the sand" are not really "value add" to this compelling conversation. I would like to shift the conversation back to a positive/helpful avenue: How can we help people recognize the signals they need to "step up their games"?

The original question mentions not being included in certain meetings, that is a sign, and at that point, anyone should not be afraid to find out why. Maybe we can help people recognize when they need to be proactive and fight for their jobs (and how to do it).

In my experience, many times people are not "protected" or "let go" because their bosses or colleagues do not really understand all that they have to offer. "Blowing your own horn" or those of your colleagues is a art, and in some companies it needs to be done to promote your professional value proposition.

Let's keep this conversation going!!!!

Andy Jorgensen
Title: Principal
Company: Lighthouse Investments LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Principal, Lighthouse Investments LLC) |

Ernie - again, the original poster represented themselves as a finance executive and CEO, so in suggesting they are not "seasoned" by asking in the first place begs the question - were they really qualified for the role to begin with?

I get that you're trying to keep the conversation positive which is great.

Enterprises and the job market have become incredibly competitive. Think about a sports team for a moment. The top performers get a "franchise" tag attached to them - but perfectly capable players get cut and traded all the time. Not everyone likes or appreciates this transition in our society to a more cutthroat approach to business and hiring - but our work lives have been moving that way since the 80's. Everyone should have realistic expectations about their jobs and career. Unless you are self-employed, transition is the new normal.

Anonymous
(Accountant) |

My current boss was fired from a company he had worked for about 30 years. And I realized why, after having worked with him for a year (and I think it was a big mistake for our company to have hired him)
He knows everything he learned for the past 30 years, but be could never be updated with the new technologies. He was a person who used to work with telegrams, faxes, etc, but now he has now very hard time to organize his 800-900 emails daily, get used to a new software, process some online transactions, etc. For every new simple task with the PC, he needs to call somebody for help.
As Andy says, he could not survive in this fast-paced transition era.
In my opinion, old people like my boss do not get fired just because they're old. Many of them get fired because they cannot be adapted to the new technologies or work in a fast-changing environment with younger people.

Anonymous
(CFO) |

Your reply says a lot. About you and your biases towards computer skills. Those are certainly important in this day and age. But they aren't the end all, be all either.

You could well be right about your new boss' weaknesses with new, electronic technology. But, if you are wise, you'll respect his experience, put aside your criticisms, and look to see if there aren't some real strengths you could learn from him due to the thirty plus years of experience he's been through.

I came through the dot com boom years ago doing a lot of temping and consulting at tech related firms. Particularly wireless telecoms on their way up. I found, as did an awful lot of others in the same position as I was (over 40 and pushed out of major employers by a wave of middle management layoffs that trended through the 1990s) that many youngsters at those firms while brilliant in the electronic aspects of modern finance departments, had some real weaknesses in terms of people skills and seeing the forest for the trees.

It didn't help any that many of them didn't hide their disdain for seasoned finance professionals like us that were now forced by economic need to temping while we tried to get back on our feet. They frequently made comments about us being "losers" for ending up in temporary staffing as we had. They were sure it wouldn't happen to any of them because they were the "new face of finance".

Many had MBAs. Frequently expert Excel skills. But, they lacked the sense to keep their mouths closed and their ears open.

Their hubris was boundless. None of them had ever been through a serious downturn as any of us had and seemed to have little understanding that the market doesn't always go up. We quietly knew better. This perception among the older temp workers was common enough that, wherever I went on those assignments, we nicknamed these folks "the young Turks".

I'll bet they speak differently about experienced workers now after all the layoffs, consolidations and the dot com bust they had to live through since those go, go times. Those times when, "everything is different" and "the market only goes up". ;-)

Live and learn!

Topic Expert
Scott MacDonald
Title: President/Owner
Company: AlphaMac Resources, Inc.
(President/Owner, AlphaMac Resources, Inc.) |

I have two words for you "Team Player". Unfortunately, you are not. Since you are apparently an "expert" on everything, maybe you could help him. And maybe in the process he can help you learn how to work with people different from you. In the process you may learn that in fact, you don't know everything, which will no doubt be a shock to your system.

You are displaying fairly classic behavior of a millennial. You see little value in people that aren't exactly like you. Your upbringing has also not prepared you for the real world and you no doubt believe that you can do a better job than he can and you probably want his job. Get a life. You don't know what you don't know.

He was probably fired from his company because they thought he was too old and making too much money, probably because they hired an HR Director that thinks like you do.

By the way the attitude you display is called age discrimination.

Anonymous
(Controller) |

Wherever I've worked the CEO could walk into any meeting he wanted to be in, so I'm not sure what kind of CEO can be excluded from meetings he wants to be involved in unless it's a BOD meeting and their discussing firing him.

Anonymous
(Manager Finance) |

A new CFO on the job three months. He ignore his Finance Manager (John) but directly talk to finance team members and assign the work to the members without letting John know. The CFO will ask other team members but not John if CFO has some questions in front of all the members.

John feels that CFO ignore him and disrespectful John as finance manager. When John asked that I felt you ignore me, the CFO said he wants to engage all the team members and empower them. John said I was your direct report why don't you empower and engage me first. CFO said he will continue to do his way because he thinks this is right way to engage his staff.

What do you think John needs to do in this situation?

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

Run!

John has been identified as a barrier to staff performance. The CFO's "empowering" of the staff says a lot.

On the outside chance that you are "John", it would seem to the reader that John is used to an authoritarian role and vertical structure whereas the new CFO wants something more lateral and less authoritarian. Maybe John should take the hint?

Topic Expert
Scott MacDonald
Title: President/Owner
Company: AlphaMac Resources, Inc.
(President/Owner, AlphaMac Resources, Inc.) |

John needs to find another job. The CFO is too weak to come right out and say what he really thinks and must use passive aggressive statements. You don't want to work for such a weak individual.

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

Here is another perspective (but not necessarily something I agree with)......

Being CFOs and Controllers, we have to remember that most of us (if not all) are AT WILL employees of a company. If the CEO suddenly woke up one morning and decided he really hated your face and does not want to see you again...does it really matter what reason it is or if you agree with it or not? Whether there are warning signs or not? Whether you are doing a good job or not?

Topic Expert
Scott MacDonald
Title: President/Owner
Company: AlphaMac Resources, Inc.
(President/Owner, AlphaMac Resources, Inc.) |

I teach my employees and kids to ALWAYS have a plan B. In today's world, everyone is expendable. Control your own destiny!!!

Topic Expert
Scott MacDonald
Title: President/Owner
Company: AlphaMac Resources, Inc.
(President/Owner, AlphaMac Resources, Inc.) |

By know, you might have already found out if your gut was right. But here is my advise, should you still be undecided on what to do.

Unfortunately, you must look out for yourself, no one else will. I wish companies looked at their employees as assets, but most look at them as an expense. DO NOT talk to your manager about this. Your gut is probably right. If you do, be prepared to hear the answer you feared.

Time to dust off that resume and contact some headhunters immediately. No time to waste, make the decision and approach it with INTENSITY!!!!

By the way, I teach my staff and my kids to always have a plan B. Always be working on something better. ALWAYS. NO EXCEPTIONS. The average time in a job is about 4 years and in my experience that time-frame is shortening to 2 to 3 years.

I would advise that you also make copies of anything you want to take with you such as performance appraisals, commendations, etc. Also write down everything you did at your company that saved or made money for them.

So here is the plan:
1. Update your resume and have a professional review it, TODAY!!!!
2. Talk to the headhunters that specialize in your industry. You are most valuable while you are currently employed. You are on the "A" list. Do this TOMORROW!!! (Take a day or two off if you have to.)
3. Don't look back once you find a new job. Give them 2 weeks notice and tell them how much you enjoyed working for them. DO NOT do an exit interview, politely decline.
4. DO NOT accept a counter offer. They are only keeping you around for their purposes, not yours.
5. Know that there are alot of exciting opportunities that you will like much more than the job you have now.
6. Take this opportunity to find the job you always wanted.
7. Crank up your network of trusted friends and professional people. Let them know what you want to do.
8. Your job every night is to also go on the job boards and look for jobs. EVERY NIGHT!!!!
9. Go to every professional lunch you can go to and start networking. (You should continue to do this even after you find a new job. See discussion of Plan B)
10. Keep your head up. Finding a job is a roller coaster, up and down. But get excited about every opportunity.

Make it fun and enjoy the opportunity to control your own destiny.

Anonymous
(Manager Finance) |

Three months ago, I have a new boss (CFO). His management style is working around me. He directly assign work to my staff and tell me later. I have asked him to cc on me when he assigns work to my staff and to keep me in the loop. He said he is too busy to tell me and that my staff should tell me what he has asked them to do. He does not do detail work and thinks all the work we do here is easy and doesn't take much time. He is hands off on areas (yearend audit and corporate tax return) he is not familiar with but spends more time tracing APs. Should I talk this to my CEO? I have been with the company for seven years. Please advise.

Thank

Anonymous
(CFO) |

Read Mr. MacDonald's advice just before your post.

Failure is not an option!

Topic Expert
Scott MacDonald
Title: President/Owner
Company: AlphaMac Resources, Inc.
(President/Owner, AlphaMac Resources, Inc.) |

Here are my suggestions:

Your immediate concern is to make sure your CFO doesn't "break" the process you have in place by stepping into the middle of your accounting clerks' work. So.......

1. Make sure your staff tells you whenever he goes around you. Unless he has told you otherwise, you are still responsible for your staff and their efficient performance. Requests direct from the CFO tend to mess up efficient processing.
2. Instruct your staff to ask the CFO (politely) if he has told you about the assignment. Their response (again politely) should be, "I will get on this as soon as I check with my manager and see how this fits into my list of duties."

Then you have to consider this:

It appears your work style and the CFO's style do not match. You will need to make a decision as to whether this is something you can live with. Going to the CEO probably won't solve anything, so if you can't live with it, find another job. (See my earlier post on how to do this.)

Life is too short to have to be frustrated everyday. Your boss has no concern for you or your feelings or the efficient performance of your staff. He is oblivious to others concerns and I would venture to guess extremely self centered. He probably has an inflated opinion of himself as well. I personally would not work for someone like that. His uncaring and in my opinion unprofessional attitude will soon manifest itself in other ways, all of which are not pleasant.

By the way, from your description, your boss is not a true CFO. A true CFO has little use from information they would obtain directly from an accounting clerk. He should be using summarized and targeted information he gets from you, especially since he has no idea (after 3 months) of the information that is available or how it could potentially help him in his decisions as a CFO.

Final advice - stepping into the C Suite with complaints about the CFO is a very dangerous situation. The danger is that the CFO was brought in to "fix" issues they may have seen or thought the saw in your operations. If you go complaining to the CEO be prepared for the worst..... that they didn't trust the information they were getting from your area.

If you do decide to approach the CEO, then make sure you are bulletproof as it relates to your performance and the performance of your staff. But if the CEO and CFO are best buddies, then your approach is going to be viewed negatively.

Rich Robins
Title: Accountant
Company: Tec
(Accountant, Tec) |

You're a CFO and being "frozen-out"? Well, even if you're not getting fired, why do you want to work there? Now is the time to start your job search.

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