signs you should look for another job

Too often I see people missing the signs that they might be in danger of getting fired or laid off, or that it’s simply time for them to move on to something else.

Over at U.S. News & World Report today, I talk about some of the signs that are telling you that it might be time to look for another job. You can read it here.

{ 11 comments… read them below }

  1. Mixed messages

    What do you think it means if

    – ad hoc feedback seems to be nothing but a recitation of flaws (e.g. a project is completed, and the post mortem is nothing but a list of what didn’t work; ongoing running commentary seems like nothing but pickpickpick at what certainly sounds like annoyances)

    – formal feedback like a performance appraisal or if the employee asks the manager point blank “How am I doing?” is very good (highest evaluation possible, or a statement of “Are you kidding? You’re doing great!”?)

    I know that what will matter later is the ‘formal’ feedback, but I find the discrepancy between the two very confusing.

    1. KayDay

      This is really common. Most likely, you are doing well but not perfect–as long as you (continue) improve the specific problems with a project. It’s normal for projects not to be perfect, and you should always go through the “what could have been done better” game at the end of a project. You should be more specific in your questions, instead of just asking, “how am I doing?”

    2. Katieinthemountains

      Sounds like the manager isn’t providing balanced feedback – you hear only the problems, and they’re tiny complaints because there are no major problems. (This would not be a safe assumption except for the glowing formal evaluation and manager’s responses to your questions.) Some people just don’t know they’re supposed to do that.

  2. Anonymous

    3. You’ve been miserable, angry, or bitter for months.

    This is a tough one for me. I’ve been trying to figure out for quite awhile if I am still happy at my job. There’s much about it I like, but the status quo is killing me. Our company is in a holding pattern at the moment so there’s nothing new going on, just trying to keep up with the routine stuff. Hopefully once we get out of this rut my job will excite me again. If it doesn’t, I guess I’ll have to move on. It’s tough to think about leaving when you’ve been in the same place for 11+ years.

  3. Kelly O

    It may be that, in the moment, the person giving you the negative feedback is only thinking of what could make the project run more smoothly next time – what you’re perceiving as negative is perceived by that person as constructive. It may not even be a matter of perception, but simply the way that individual looks at things, or the way they’re being pushed to look at things by their superior.

    I’m not condoning the process, mind you, but just saying that sometimes things get phrased negatively because of the near-constant pressure to improve.

    I see it here – if you’re asked to improve X, it’s a constant battle of showing every little thing you’re doing to make X better. Sometimes when X gets better, the focus changes to Y. Sometimes the focus on X manages to change to some laser-like focus on this one little portion of X, or how come X didn’t improve more… see where it goes? I feel for my bosses, because I know the pressure they’re getting from above them. Nothing is ever right, and any improvement leads to a “why didn’t this improve MORE” line of questioning.

    I guess the main bullet point is to try really hard to not internalize every criticism that comes at you each day. Believe me, I struggle with this one myself, but when you can take a moment to mentally detach from what’s being said and look at it more objectively, it really does help. It’s not always about you and your performance.

  4. Anonymous

    I’ve been through several layoffs and it was usually pretty obvious which employees the first round would include. With the exception of people whose jobs are truly redundant or have been doing the same job forever and are now considered overpaid, the first round is usually people with repeated run-ins with HR or who are a pain in the neck for their managers. A friend of mine was the top performer in her department but she was chosen because she was very confrontational with her boss. He could pick anyone (including interns!) and chose her because it made his job more enjoyable to not deal with her.

    After mergers or acquisitions, it’s often people who are negative about the new direction of the company or simply can’t get over what happened. I work at a somewhat recently acquired company now and you would think the new parent company walked in wearing Nazi uniforms the way some people talk. It happened 10 months ago and only 8 people were laid off! Not to mention, this company has acquired other companies themselves in the past and they truly were ruthless about it from what I hear. Of course, nobody sees that irony.

    Getting laid off or fired is often like the moment you find out your spouse was cheating on you – in hindsight, the signs were there but you subconsciously ignored them. Even if you feel safe, I would have my resume up-to-date and already be connected to my co-workers, vendors, etc in LinkedIn. I also have a loose written plan of how I would handle my finances if I were laid off.

    1. RWPoorman

      Anonymous,
      I think that the only thing worse than getting cut on the first layoff is getting cut on the 3rd or 4th go around.

      Back during the Dot Bomb of 2000/2001 I watched my division go from 146 people to about 40 when I got the ax. And the company wasn’t very good at it either. All of a sudden two managers and a couple of security guards in white shirts would walk into the call center and stop by someone’s desk and tell them to not touch anything and escort them out while one person would box up their stuff. Every time they came in like that, everyone’s stomach would drop and you said a silent prayer. It even happened to one of the managers that usually did the dirty deed one day and she left in tears. Went on for a few months. At least I had already started looking but it’s always nice to leave on your own terms and finding jobs were tough back then, nothing like today but bad enough. I’ll never understand why they didn’t just do it at the end of the shift and lose the dramatics.

      1. Long Time Admin

        My company sent an email to specific individuals telling them there will be a mandatory meeting in 15 minutes in the auditorium and they MUST attend. They were all gone within an hour.

        The next quarter, managers told the people who were getting laid off.

        Now, whenever we see an HR person carrying an empty box, we know what it means.

        1. Vicki

          I know someone who got one of those “Mandatory meeting” emails. In his case, though, the people in the meeting were told “You are the ones NOT being laid off. Go home for the rest of the day. Come back tomorrow.”

  5. Joey

    You missed a really common one. Your boss starts excluding you from meetings/projects and communication with her grinds to a halt.

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