The No. 1 Sign You Are About to be Fired

Just how hacked off at your job are you? I was idly surfing the web the other day when an item caught my eye, entitled “The Number One Sign You Are About to be Fired”. It tweaked my interest if only because, in retirement, “being fired” doesn’t actually apply to me. That’s a big change from the near thirty years of my previous working life. For most of those years, being fired was a risk you lived with.

The core of the article boiled down to this: if you hate your job, it will be noticed and inevitably management will take action. Making it obvious that you hate your job is the Number One reason people are fired. Which is no surprise when you think about it. The surprise – if it happens to you – is possibly that you weren’t concealing the hatred of your job too well!

When I left my job, I was in the fortunate situation that the severance was professionally handled. For a variety of reasons, it was clear to both my employer and myself that I’d come to the end of that particular career, and neither of us had further options we felt were worth discussing. Neither of us had done anything “wrong”, and so I was “looked after” with a fair settlement. I was a “good leaver”. The word “fired” didn’t come into it – it just lurked unsaid between the lines. Lucky me, I was treated well. Had I stayed longer, things might have turned out differently, because I was pretty fed up with the job and seemingly wasn’t disguising it too well.

Once I had left the role and the company, my friends from work whom I kept in touch with started telling me that it had become very obvious that I “wanted out”. I had been “switched off”, “demotivated”, “highly critical” and “in withdrawal” during the previous year of work. Reading my journal from that time, I have to hold my hands up. All true. Unfortunately, nobody was giving me that feedback when I was there! Okay, things turned out alright for me in the end, but losing your job isn’t a recommended course of action that I’d advocate for anyone. If you’re worried that you might be heading down this road in your career, it would be valuable to ask for some personal feedback from trusted friends and colleagues and think hard about what your options are.

One of the most appealing exit routes would be to try and engineer a departure from a company with some compensation – but you’ll be a highly skilled negotiator if you’re a thoroughly hacked-off employee trying to get out with a “package”. Try not to let things get to that stage. Can anything about your employment improve? Working part time? Moving to a different function? Reporting to someone else? What would make it better? Do you know? Have you really thought about it? Or are you stuck in a negative rut that only flags up everything you hate about the job? It’s an easy mindset to fall into and there will be no shortage of people happy to back up  and reinforce your discontent. Very few, if any, will ask you to question it.

There’s plenty of advice out there on the internet that will help you find strategies to move on from a job that’s getting you down. A good start would maybe be to consider the general advice given out by Sam at Financial Samurai who has thought a lot about the process (albeit from an American perspective). I didn’t guess what “The Number One Sign You Are About to be Fired” was, so I wrote this as it offered me an interesting insight from an employer’s perspective that might also benefit others. It strikes me that many people are drawn to the idea of FIRE perhaps because they’re unhappy with their current career. It could be deeper than that though. As ever, the answer to a lot of difficult questions can only be found through understanding what it is that’s really bothering you, as opposed to finding something or someone to blame. It’s worth doing the work before someone else decides for you.

17 thoughts on “The No. 1 Sign You Are About to be Fired

  1. The MegaCorp I work at is going through layoffs right now, but the terms of the packages aren’t attractive enough for me to volunteer. I don’t “hate” my job, so probably no one notices that I have a secret plan to retire in less than 6 months. I think you are right that it is the “hate” that begins to show through.


  2. Hmmm, very true – it’s so obvious once pointed out, but I don’t think I’d have realised either, when I’ve been in disgruntled stretches in the past. I guess it may be because subconsiously you expect to be treated the way you would handle it for your own employees, I’d think ”Did I do something to make this person so unhappy or are they just blaming work because they’re already unhappy with another area in their lives?” …….then try to talk with them & see if we could tweak their role to make them feel better, otherwise I’d have someone dragging down my whole unit as well as not doing their job properly.

    But most managers irrespective of their managerial capabilities, in a corporation that doesn’t have a good culture, would take the lazy way out just because they can – the ‘Horse’s vet book of solutions’ approach – Shoot the patient always if they seem to have any problem, ask questions later if you want.

    I was always aware [it was hard not to be] when I worked in places with toxic cultures, so would instinctively try to hide it when I was unhappy, being in no doubt how it would have been handled, but the point you make here is I don’t think I would have realised I was throwing off visible negative vibes, so my cover would have been blown.

    Such an interesting point & I reckon a lot of people will mess up thinking they’ll get help if they’re unhappy – but back in the real world, it should be clear that if they can do it that quickly to premier league managers, then what chance for Joe Bloggs?


    • As ever, it’s hindsight that generally gives you the insight. I wish I’d read about “the No 1 Sign…” about eighteen months ago, I’d have done some things differently.


  3. I had the opposite experience, I thought it was pretty obvious that I was unhappy at work at the back end of last year but when I raised issues with my boss he had no idea!

    Well, at least that is what he said anyway. I guess as I bought it up he had a perfect opportunity to deny all knowledge lest he look like a bit of a tosser.

    I would have loved to get redundancy back then but it’s worked out pretty well staying on so can’t complain!


  4. Interesting post, Jim.

    When I first started looking around the PF blogs, initially I thought that aiming for FI wouldn’t be for me as I couldn’t really identify with the people who were doing it because they hated their jobs, they wanted to ‘stick it to the Man’, they wanted to build up their FU pots etc. It all seemed quite negative.

    As I read more though, I got a more balanced view – it was more about choice, freedom to do your own thing etc and that’s more where I fit in. I like my job, I like my colleagues – I’m saving for FI because firstly, I know this won’t always be the case and when the time comes, I’d like to be able to choose to walk away and not have to worry about income. Secondly, I’d like to retire while I’m still young and fit enough to do stuff!

    My boss is a real ‘people’ person – too much so sometimes, but better this way than the other way though, where it’s like nobody cares that you’re unhappy.


    • Having the choice is the goal, that’s for sure. Employment is a good thing, generally, and if it’s not there’s usually a lot of options besides sitting there and moaning about it 🙂


  5. Not always quite the same in the public sector. I’ve known teams full of people all miserably grinding on for years, giving off “I hate my job vibes” 24/7.


    • Now you mention it, my wife works in the public sector and I’ve been on a few nights out with her workmates where I’ve thought, “Actually, I must be Mr Happy at work!”


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