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Are You About to Be Fired?

Few would argue the fact that losing a job is one of life's most stressful events -- research has proven it, in fact. It's one thing to leave a job of your own volition, but completely another to be dismissed from work against your will.

To make matters worse, it's not always possible to avoid being caught off guard since many employers hire and fire at will, which means your company can release you for no reason. (At-will employment also means you're equally free to leave your job for any reason.)

[See: 10 Reasons to Quit Your Job Already.]

However, when it comes to being fired, you can sometimes see the writing on the wall before the ink dries completely -- if you know what to look for. Here are four signs that you might soon be terminated and some suggestions on what to do about it.

You've made a major mistake. While everyone makes a misstep once in a while at work, there's a difference between a minor slip-up and a more major one. If you're identified as being behind the type of error that is either very costly to your company or brings bad external public response, then it's possible your job may soon be on the line. While some employers may allow greater latitude for failures within the context of innovation, there's a limit to how far this flexibility will stretch. If you're worried that the level of your mistake may soon leave you unemployed, talk candidly to your supervisor about what happened, sharing specific strategies on how you are planning to fix the current damage and keep such a thing from occurring again.

[See: 10 Job Resolutions to Revitalize Your Career in 2016.]

You've received one or more poor reviews. Performance reviews are a tool that employers can use to help justify changes in a team member's employment status. Highlighting a pattern of negative performance via scheduled written reviews gives a company tangible support for a poor performer's dismissal, and legal documentation in case the employee accuses the employer of discrimination or unfair treatment. If you've received your first-ever bad review, be sure to talk to your boss about what you can do to rectify any specific performance issues before your next review period. You want to have points in writing that specify exact actions you can take to raise your score. If you've received more than one poor evaluation in a row and you feel that the feedback is justified, it may be time to look for a new job. If you believe that the criticism doesn't accurately reflect your recent on-the-job performance, talk to your boss about whether any scores can be raised based on your justification. Get human resources involved if needed to ensure there's an impartial ear.

You have less to do. This isn't just about a slow day in the office -- it's about an emerging pattern of decreased workload that seems to affect you but not the rest of your team or department. If work that you've traditionally handled is being offloaded from your plate and reassigned, it may be a sign that your head is on the chopping block. In conjunction with a decreased workload, you might also notice that you're receiving fewer resources to accomplish your tasks -- for example, less budget for your projects, fewer staff members or limited access to services that you've relied on to complete your deliverables. If you notice this happening, talk to your boss about why you seem to have disproportionately fewer responsibilities than you did before. Find out if the changes are happening across the department or companywide, or if they are specific to your role.

[See: Relaxation Exercises for When You're About to Lose It at Work.]

You're frozen out of the loop. You might feel the chill coming from your boss or other higher-ups, people on your team or different departments. Whether you're being ignored, berated or gossiped about, the fact is that there's now palpable tension between you and your colleagues -- often the ones who you previously felt closest too. This type of group shunning by peers suggests that someone might know something that you don't -- and if they've heard a rumor that your job is in jeopardy, they might be steering clear to avoid being associated with a sinking ship. When your boss acts strangely, such as going around you to get something done by asking one of your associates to do it, it's a sign that the usual chain of command may be changing. If you can find a co-worker you can still trust, see if you can get to the bottom of what information is circulating about you.

While these signs are definitely cause for concern, don't assume that if one or more of them happens to you, it means you've lost your job. If you do your due diligence and some digging, you just might be able to turn things around before they get worse.

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