What to Do If You're Afraid of Being Fired
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What to Do If You're Afraid of Being Fired

If you hear -- or are told outright -- by your employer that some jobs have to go and yours "might" be one of them, what can you do about it?

The Dreaded Downsizing

Busy woman at work
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Be prepared in the event of
firings and layoffs.

Losing one's job is a worrying prospect for many who rely on their regular income to cover mortgages, car loans, school fees, food bills, and all the other expenses of living. What you can do about it depends on the size of the company you work for, your skill level and experience, where you live, the status of employment in your area, and other factors. If you are afraid of being fired, there are steps you can take, so first let's take a look at being laid off.

  1. Get the Truth
    Find out first if your job is on the firing line. You may be worrying for nothing. Don't just ask other employees -- they may merely repeat rumors and gossip. Either have a confidential chat with your immediate manager, or make an appointment with the human resources manager. There's no point "worrying" unless you have to.
  2. Use Your Contacts
    If your job is in jeopardy, depending on your current role, you may be able to put yourself in a position of availability to "headhunters" from other companies. Make contact with people in other organizations and ask about job possibilities, or you can contact the human resources managers of other companies and ask them if it is worthwhile submitting your resumé. If you are a member of an association, it's time to network. Let it be known among those in positions to help you that you are in need of a new position...but be discreet.
  3. Update Your Resumé
    Don't leave it until the bell tolls before you start sending out job applications and your resumé. What if you are not going to "lose your job" for another three months, but it takes three to six months before you find another one? Can you afford to wait that long? Start applying now. If you find a job quickly, whether you see out your remaining time with your existing employer or not will depend on whether your "new" employer is prepared to wait. It's hard when you have feelings of loyalty to your existing employer, but if they are planning to get rid of you soon...right now you need to be looking out for yourself.
  4. Know Your Entitlements
    If you are staying until the end, make sure you know your entitlements. What settlement is the company offering you? Have you received a termination agreement with everything set out? If in doubt, have it checked by a professional. You have legal recourse if the company does not pay you what you are entitled to under your agreement with them and state and federal laws, and even union rules (if applicable to you) governing such things as redundancy packages. In addition to this, find out if you are eligible for any government unemployment benefits -- in case you need them.
  5. Get References Before You Go
    Make sure you get references before you leave the company. You will need them.

Other Factors

Now let's say you are afraid of being fired for other reasons. Perhaps you made one too many mistakes, or your boss doesn't like you, or you are being discriminated against for reasons of sex, religion or whatever. If you haven't actually been fired "yet," try to find ways to overcome the situation that is threatening you. Can you transfer to a different department? Would a word with your manager help clear things up? Is there anything you can do to put things "right" or fix them? If not, and the threat of being fired is real, consider this:

  1. Keep a diary of all communications, verbal or otherwise, between yourself and others at your place of employment, including any discriminatory behavior or comments.
  2. If you are with a union, you might like to get advice now rather than leave it too late. For all you know, there may be something else you can do to save your job, especially if it is through discriminatory actions or unfair harassment. If you are not with a union, contact a legal professional or an employment professional to find out your rights. Even if you are fired, you do have rights. And when you are fired, you still have rights. Have you been unfairly dismissed? You can make a claim if you have. You are also entitled to a settlement payout if you have been fired, so make sure you receive all your entitlements. If you can, find someone "friendly" to give you a good, written reference before you leave.
  3. If you are not that happy where you are, update your resume and start looking for a new job. You might consider doing this anyway, particularly if your dismissal has been unpleasant and you have been awarded your job back again... you may find the "after" treatment not much of an improvement on the "before" treatment.

Terri Levine is the President of Comprehensive Coaching U -- The Professional's Coach Training Program, a popular Master Certified personal and business coach, sought-after public speaker, and author of Work Yourself Happy and Coaching for an Extraordinary Life.

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