8 Secret Signs You Might Be Getting Fired

HR pros reveal how to avoid getting a pink slip, how to know when it’s coming, and what to do when you’re shown the door.

By Michelle Crouch
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine April 2011
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If you're being set up to fail.

“If there was someone we no longer wanted at the company, we’d give him all the worst assignments on impossible deadlines, set him up to fail, and document that. After a few months, we could safely terminate him.”—Cynthia Shapiro, former human resources executive and author of Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn’t Want You to Know

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If you aren't a team player.

“If we ask you to travel for your job or attend a conference, it’s not really a question. Say no, and it can be career-ending.”—Laurie Ruettimann, HR consultant and speaker in Raleigh, North Carolina

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If you're on a performance review.

“If you’re put on a performance-improvement plan, you’re cooked. I might look you in the eye and say we’re going to do everything possible to make this work, but that’s just total BS.”—HR director at financial services firm

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If you've ticked off the executives.

“I once had to fire someone with four kids right before Christmas. When he asked me why, I couldn’t tell him it was because he said something in an all-company meeting that the CEO took as an insult.”—Cynthia Shapiro

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If your job got smaller.

“If you’re a high-level employee and they put you on a special assignment and take away other responsibilities so you can focus on that ‘special assignment,’ start fixing up your résumé, because you’re on your way out the door.”—Suzanne Lucas, a former HR executive and the Evil HR Lady on bnet.com

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If you see HR managers behaving oddly.

“The worst feeling in the world? Going into the ladies’ room and seeing nine people you know who won’t have a job in a week and having to act normal.” —HR professional at a midsize firm in North Carolina

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If you do lose your job:

“When you get laid off, you’ll probably get a separation agreement in which you agree not to sue. That document is what allows you to negotiate, so before you sign it, ask for more severance money, ask for more COBRA, something. The worst thing they can do is say no.” —Cynthia Shapiro

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If you can't find new work immediately:

“Always apply for unemployment, because the state makes the decision, not the company, and often the company won’t bother to fight it.” —Suzanne Lucas

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