6 Signs You Might Lose Your Job

February 24, 2015

One of the unfortunate realities of today’s workplace is that we’re usually not given advanced warning about an upcoming job loss. Many employers would have us tool along thinking everything is fine, right up until the day we’re asked to leave. But even if there is no formal notification that your job is in jeopardy, there several ways to know if it is.

Here are several strong clues…

1) You’ve Just Had a Bad Review

You can virtually assume that you are on probation if you have just had a bad performance review. Even if your employer doesn’t tell you as much, you will most likely be gone if you don’t begin showing measurable improvement soon. But a bad review can be an even bigger marker if you’re pretty certain that it isn’t true. Some employers will use a bad review as an unofficial warning, or as an attempt to push an employee out the door.

Do your best to improve your performance after a bad review, but it’s also a good time to start considering other options. You can never be entirely certain that it’s really about your performance, or maybe about something much bigger.

2) An Important Function (or Two) Has Just Been Taken Away From You

Everyone has one, two, maybe three, critical functions that substantially defines their job, and justifies their existence on the payroll. If one of these functions has been taken away from you – without your consent – there is a better than even chance that you are being demoted, even if your title and pay aren’t degraded.

It’s generally a sign that either your employer has lost confidence in your ability to perform that function, or they think that someone else can do a better job. Unless the removal of the function has been accomplished to free you up for a more important function, it’s probably best to assume the worst.

3) You’re Company Has Been Bought Out

If your company has been bought out by a larger organization, there is an excellent chance that you – and many of your coworkers – will lose your jobs. It may not happen immediately, but there’s an exceptional chance that the axe is being sharpened.

Most companies involved in mergers will dedicate a lot of ink, emails, and stage presentations to assuring all staff that their jobs are safe. But don’t bet on it. One of the major reasons why businesses merge is to take advantage of economies of scale. That is, they will merge operations and eliminate excess staff from one or both entities.

If your company has been bought out, make sure that your radar is up, and that you’re now approaching your job as though you are a rookie who has to prove himself all over again.

4) You’re Increasingly “Out-of-the-Loop”

If you have recently noticed that there are a lot of closed-door meetings and private conversations going on your department that don’t involve you, you may be a short-timer. This is particularly true if you have previously been part of the loop in most information exchanges.

All employees are excluded from a certain amount of information, but if you find that it is more common than not, something is getting ready to happen that you won’t be informed of – until it’s too late.

Sometimes information exclusion can affect an entire department. That probably means something negative is coming down the pike, and layoffs are a distinct possibility.

5) You’ve Been Re-assigned to a Job You Didn’t Ask For

Employers sometimes reassign employees in the hope that they will “take the hint” and leave the company. This is especially true if you have been with your employer for several years. The employer may be trying to engineer the voluntary resignation, rather than being put in the position of having to fire a long-term player, who may have the respect of her coworkers.

On the other hand, if you approve of the change – even though you didn’t request it – it may be an opportunity to thrive in a different capacity. If that’s the case, sit down and discuss the situation with your superiors, making it clear that you’re perfectly happy with the new position and harbor no ill feelings over the transition.

6) You’re Employer Is Losing Money – A Lot of It

These days, employers won’t sit much longer than two or three quarters in red ink before throwing the layoffs switch. If your employer is losing money, particularly a lot of it, you should never ignore this. This is especially true if the company becomes obsessed with cutting expenses, even little ones. I’ve seen companies go from cutting back on the coffee service to large-scale layoffs in less than six months.

This doesn’t mean that you should panic and prepare to jump ship at the first sign that the company is losing money. But it does mean that you should be aware that the situation has changed, perhaps radically, and you may need to have your parachute in good working order.

None of these events mean categorically that your job is in jeopardy. But if any is particularly severe, or you see a combination of several, it will be time to prepare yourself and your finances for whatever may happen.


Will this article help you save or earn more money? Get others like it simply by entering your email address below. Your email is used only for delivering daily money tips and you can opt out of delivery at any time. Click here to see all your free subscription options.


Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.

All posts by


6 Responses to 6 Signs You Might Lose Your Job

  • M.L.

    I would also add that some of your co-workers’ change how they treat you. They either stop speaking to you or keep the conversation brief. I have seen this happen before someone got terminated. It important to keep it positive and focus on getting a new position sooner than later.

    • Kevin Mercadante

      I completely agree. The one who’s about to be let go is usually the last to know, and everyone else stays away either out of guilt, or out of fear of going down through association.

      My feeling is that true positive thinking is when you’re ready with a positive response to a negative situation. Putting on the happy face and hoping for the best isn’t a strategy. If you think you’re about to be let go, then it’s time to get rolling with Plan B.

  • Ben Luthi

    Or you get paid too much.

    My father-in-law just got laid off by Walmart corporate and replaced the next day by someone who was paid less than him.

    • Kevin Mercadante

      Not to minimize his situation Ben, but that’s getting to be standard operating procedure. It’s even more common as you get older, and you cost the employer more. And that’s not just your salary, but can also be the extra cost you bring to the health plan, if you have any chronic conditions.

  • Chelsea @ Broke Girl Gets Rich

    Nice list.

    I think one of the biggest things to keep an eye on (that almost no one does) is how your company is performing externally. If they’re not doing so well, even if you’re a relatively valued employee, it might be time to up your game and start a job search.

    The best part about staying ahead of the game in your job search is that there’s far less stress on you, and your job change expenses are minimal, and you lose out on little income.

    • Kevin Mercadante

      Hi Chelsea – I completely agree. I’ve seen people working at companies that were sinking, and the employees were oblivious. But I often got the sense that it wasn’t accidental either. People have a bias toward “business as usual”, which is easier to live with day by day. Personally, I prefer to stay alert and ready for what ever happens.

      The other problem with an employer who’s doing poorly is that even if you keep your job, you’re likely to stagnate as a result of the external problems. You never want to jump ship at the first sign of distress, but you still have to keep your radar up and working.