Signs that you are likely to lose your job and how to prevent it
Here’s how to find out if you are close to being laid off and the steps you can take in order to prevent it.
Nearly 83% of these were in rural India and, in urban areas, it was limited to specific sectors and industries.
The telecom sector saw a major disruption in 2018, with BSNL reportedly asked to remove 35,000 employees, Aircel letting go of 5,000, and Telenor firing as many as 700 staffers. “The telecom sector endured a difficult year, whittling the playing field from eight to four, due to pricing pressures, technology transformation and unsustainable debt,” says Paul Dupuis, MD & CEO, Randstad India. The tech sector, too, witnessed downsizing, with Cognizant laying off 200 people and SAP letting go of 300-400 staffers.
Some of these sectors may continue to go slow this year. “The year 2019 will be one of cautious growth in terms of headcount addition by India Inc,” says Dupuis. “Telecom, construction and real estate, and BPO/ITeS will see the slowest job creation this year,” says Neeti Sharma, Senior Vice-President, TeamLease. On the other hand, the sectors that will show growth include IT, infrastructure, manufacturing and healthcare, as per Randstad. Some HR firms are more upbeat about jobs in 2019, with Mercer India claiming that more than 50% of companies intend to increase hiring and only 3% firms may reduce the headcount.
Losing a job is not merely a function of macro factors, such as overall economic slowdown or poor sectoral performance. It could be just your company that has fallen into bad times or, more likely, your own performance that has left a lot to be desired. Whatever the reason for dismissal, it seldom comes without a warning. There are signs aplenty to watch out for before the axe comes. Has the company imposed a hiring freeze or are you the only one who has missed out on an increment this year? Is your relationship with the boss deteriorating or are new people being brought in to do the same job as yours? Are you witnessing an exodus in the company or are you suddenly missing out on all the plum assignments?
“Awareness is key to staying a step ahead of being laid off. Awareness with regards to the company’s financials and operational health can help serve as a barometer for whether or not you are in danger of losing your job,” says Dupuis. While there’s little you can do to alter the macro factors, upgrading your performance is in your own hands. So be vigilant and tune into the skills that are likely to be in demand in the coming years, or upskill yourself to stay at the top of your career.
In the following pages, we will list six indicators to show if you are on the verge of losing your job and the steps you can take to mitigate this risk. Pay heed and you may never have to hear those two dreaded words.
1. You’ve got poor appraisal & increment
Have you received consistently poor appraisals and less-than-average increments for two or three years running? It is a red flag that is hard to miss and one of the clearest indicators of what’s in store.
However, low increments should not be seen in isolation. If these are low across the board, it could be because of the company’s underperformance or cost-cutting measures undertaken to tide over a bad patch. These could also reflect the industry or sector’s trend over the years. For instance, the sectors projecting a double-digit increment in India have come down over the years, with only five sectors projecting a double-digit increment in 2019, according to Aon, a professional services firm. Employees, as per Aon, can expect an average hike of 9.7% in 2019, which is marginally higher than the previous years. So, if you get a 8-9% hike, it will reflect good performance, not bad.
If, however, you receive a low increment, but the company and sector are doing well, you clearly are not. If the firm ever considers downsizing, you may be among the first to be fired.
What to do
The first step is to talk to your boss or HR official to know the reason for the poor increment. “You could have been passive at work and may not have shown too much interest. Whatever the reason, if you act upon the feedback, you could have the promotion or hike,” says Sharma.
Also read: This is the key to job security
2. You are losing plum projects, are out of loop
Are important assignments that you handled earlier being passed on to juniors or other colleagues? Are you being left out of meetings that used to give credence to your inputs and opinions? It’s also possible that budgetary constraints are being imposed on you and you are being hauled up for minor administrative lapses. All these are surefire indicators that you are no longer in favour with the authorities. If you want to stay relevant in the organisation, find out the reason for this change of heart at the earliest.
A common culprit is competitiveness. Insecurity or rivalry could see your immediate boss or a team member taking credit for your inputs or creating an impression that you are not contributing as well to the organisation as you actually are. It’s also possible that you have inadvertently said or done something that has not gone down well with the bosses or some of your actions or words have been misunderstood or interpreted wrongly.
What to do
Firstly, introspect if you have been the cause of your own downfall. Have you performed, said or acted in a way that could have offended the bosses? If you can’t pinpoint it, talk to colleagues or your manager to clarify.
Have a candid chat with your boss to understand why you are being sidelined and what you can do to change the situation. If the fault lies with you, accept it and commit to rectify it. If, however, the problem has become deep-seated and there is little you can do to resolve the problem, you may have to start looking for a new job.
3. You are not learning new skills, stagnating at work
You should start to feel concerned if you have been performing the same tasks at work for more than a couple of years. “Performance is a prerequisite to ensuring that the employee is identified as a high performer or one with high potential by the organisation,” says Dupuis.
If you are not innovating, improvising and outperforming to contribute to the company’s profits or visibility, you are likely to be branded a non-performer eventually. This could translate to an early exit if the company considers slashing jobs. “So it makes sense to be proactive to ask for intervention if one has hit a plateau in one’s career,” says Dupuis. This can be done by talking to your boss and requesting a redefinition of your work profile. You could also shift laterally in the organisation to fit into a role that suits your skills. Make sure you continuously upgrade and develop new skills or upskill yourself (see How to upskill) through specialised training courses.
What to do
To ensure that you stay ahead of the curve and competition, learn to exit the comfort zone. “Volunteer new stuff, suggest initiatives, help colleagues, look for lateral transfers, and train to up your game,” says Chakravarty. “It is also essential to identify roles that will allow you to grow, take up new challenges and show innovation at work,” says Sharma. If things don’t work out, find a new job for yourself.
4. Machines are being brought in to do your work
A development that signals distress for employees and has been in the making for a few years is automation and artificial intelligence. As per a survey on the future of jobs in India by EY and Nasscom, technology adoption will change the job scenario by 2022, with 9% people in jobs that don’t exist currently, 37% in jobs with altered skill sets and 54% in unchanged jobs. Another study by PwC states that AI will replace jobs ranging from 3% by 2020 to 30% by mid-2030s in the US. So what are the indicators that you could be replaced by a machine?
“The roles that require manual intervention, follow a standardised procedure and are repeatable will be impacted. Machine learning and robotic process automation will reduce the number of people required for customer service, back-office and testing roles, impacting the ITeS, IT and consumer-facing industries,” says Dupuis. The other jobs include those in BPOs, data entry and basic banking operations. So take heed if you are performing any of these roles. And act.
What to do
“AI is here to stay and the sooner we understand it, the better it will be. The one way to combat it is to acquire new skills rather than become obsolete,” says Sharma. You will not only need to keep up with the pace of digitisation by improving tech skills, but also focus on more niche segments. Another way is to upskill yourself by opting for in-house courses or getting fresh degrees.
Also read: Where are the jobs in 2019? Find out
5. Relationship with boss or colleagues is deteriorating
Has your boss started ignoring your suggestions and mails, or is criticising your work? Are you having verbal spats with him in front of colleagues? If the disagreement is healthy and the criticism constructive, ignore it. But if the problem is deeper, spawning from personal or professional reasons, you will either have to find a way to bring the relationship on an even keel, or quit.
Having frequent disagreements with your co-workers can also work against you. “The first to get fired are the ones who don’t get along with others even if they are performing decently,” says Chakravarty. “Bosses don’t want the morale to suffer, so unpopular people are fired earlier for minimum impact on the team,” he adds.
What to do
The first step is to identify the problem. “Find out if the work-related, behavioural or personal problem involves both the parties or if it has been triggered by a specific incident,” says Sharma. If it is professional and you are at fault, take responsibility and find ways to improve.
If the friction still remains and the relationship is unworkable, seek a role or job where you can add more value because if you don’t trust your boss, or vice versa, you will never be able to deliver your best. “If, on the other hand, the problem is personal, be outstanding professionally and impeccable in social behavior,” says Chakravarty. It’s difficult to get rid of an over-achiever or a popular person.
6. Your firm is cutting costs or has imposed a hiring freeze
Your job could be in danger not for any fault of yours, but simply because the industry or your company is going through a bad phase. In such a case, it could impose temporary cost-cutting measures in the form of withdrawal of perks or a hiring freeze. If things become worse or the financial problems last longer, as in the case of several telecom companies last year, the firm may even consider letting go of its employees. If this happens, the staffers in non-core functions will be the first to exit before the focus shifts to employees in core areas.
You could also lose your job if the company undergoes a change in business strategy, or if it witnesses a merger and reorganisation. For instance, the merger of two e-commerce portals, Jabong and Myntra, both owned by Walmart, resulted in a loss of 200 jobs last year. Another indicator is the loss of senior-most employees or star performers. Conversely, a new boss could result in sifting and firings.
What to do
While there is little you can do to retain your job, tracking developments involving your company can prepare you for the eventuality. Keep tabs on the company’s performance, as well as the sector, in the broader context. A gradual exodus of staffers and persistently low increments could also indicate danger to your job. If you suspect firings, update your resume, circulate it among head hunters and start a search for a new job.
What not to do if you are at risk…
To protect your job and reputation, don’t react impulsively and remain professional.
1. Don’t bad-mouth your boss or company
You haven’t lost your job yet. Talking ill about your boss or firm on social media may hasten your exit. Or worse, it will reflect poorly on your ethics if seen by prospective employers and scuttle your chances of getting a new job.
2. Don’t jump the gun and quit your job
There’s a chance that you may not lose the job. By acting hastily and accepting the first job offer that comes your way, you may find yourself saddled with a worse job without recourse to an easy exit.
3. Don’t stop working or be unprofessional
Even if you think you are losing your job, don’t stop working. If at all, work harder and put in your best performance. Your work ethic and professionalism may be noticed and things may turn out differently for you.
4. Don’t wait to be fired, update resume
Don’t preempt your dismissal, but be prepared. Update your resume and circulate it. Start a discreet search for a new job without letting others know about it.
5. Don’t lose emotional control at work
Don’t be frazzled by the negativity in office or rumours about your impending lay-off. Remain calm and don’t talk about your fears or feelings to colleagues. Don’t become offensive or defensive and certainly don’t grovel before your boss to save your job.
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