my coworkers were fired … am I next?

A reader writes:

For the last three months, I’ve worked at a small company doing a job I love. But there’s been some weirdness lately that makes me worry about my job. Here’s what’s going on: multiple people have been fired in a three-month period. They were all “not good fits” for various reasons that upper management told us about. But I don’t think these people had any clue they were about to be fired, based on their messages leading up to and on the day of the firing. Things like “hey guys, just letting you know I’ll be out on Tuesday” on a Friday afternoon and then hours later the “she no longer works with us” announcement. After the fact, we’re usually told what happened and I can see where upper management is coming from because so far I think they each of the people who were let go did deserve it based on their performance. But it’s still scary, especially since I’m only a few months into the job! I do not believe any of this is malicious, and I think all of it is done in an attempt to be more “transparent,” but it doesn’t feel that way.

For instance, I recently took over a new data entry task from the financial department. A month later, the CFO messaged an open Slack channel to say the task wasn’t being done right and in future it should be done differently. This is the first time I had received negative feedback on that task, and all the examples were ones from my work. Should I consider this is a warning sign I could be let go too? Or a first strike or something?

I’m early in my career and I’m told I’m doing amazing by coworkers, but every once in a while there’s a random message in a shared channel from management addressing everyone to say that my job duties are being done wrong instead of addressing me directly. There’s no HR and no internal review structure that I’m aware of, and I’m not sure how to delicately bring up adding a bit more structure to review our job performance when they’ve been so trigger-happy with firing lately. Any advice?

It’s possible your company just fires people without warning, but it’s just as possible there were warnings behind the scenes you weren’t privy to.

The way it should work (but doesn’t always) is this: A manager has concerns about an employee’s performance and shares those concerns with the employee. That employee has some time to incorporate that feedback into their work and improve. If the concerns aren’t resolved, the manager initiates another conversation — this time, a more serious one. If things reach the point where the employee could lose their job if they don’t improve, the manager should explain that so the employee understands the severity of the problem and the potential consequences. In other words, there’s an ongoing conversation about the issues and where things stand. Many companies formalize this process by using what’s often called “progressive discipline,” a series of increasingly serious warnings accompanied by a formal improvement plan that spells out what must change, by when, and the consequences if that doesn’t happen. (Generally, within these systems, there are especially egregious acts that could result in immediate firing without warning, like punching a client or embezzling money.)

Not every company operates this way, of course. Typically, the larger the company, the more likely you are to see a formal process with warnings at each stage, though lots of small employers have a similar process. But there are badly managed companies — and bad individual managers — who fire people without first warning them and giving them the chance to improve.

Still, though, even with managers who don’t give explicit warnings before letting someone go, it’s pretty unusual to be fired out of the blue. Not unheard of, but much of the time, you’ll see signs that things aren’t going well, like getting a lot of criticism of your work, being cut out of meetings you used to be included in, or having your manager seem increasingly displeased with you. (That’s not to say that method of doing things is acceptable — it’s definitely not. Managers have a fundamental responsibility to give clear feedback and warn someone when their performance is falling short. You don’t want to work for someone who won’t do that.)

In any case, it doesn’t sound as though your employer has been particularly clear with you about how they handle performance issues behind the scenes, and asking might give you some peace of mind. It’s fine to say to your boss, “The recent firings have me wondering about how work concerns are handled and what kinds of signs I’d have if my own job were ever in jeopardy. Is it typically a surprise to the person who’s let go, or are there conversations and warnings before it gets to that point?” You can also say, “I really value honest feedback and would want to know if anyone had serious concerns about my work so I could have the opportunity to try to improve.”

You should also ask how things are going in general. If your manager isn’t giving you feedback on a regular basis, try asking things like, “Could we talk about how things are going overall? I’d really like to get your feedback on how I’m doing big picture and whether there’s anything you’d like me to do differently.” You can ask for feedback on specific projects too: “Could we talk about how that meeting went? I wasn’t sure how to respond to X.”

You mentioned that you’re rattled by those occasional messages from management addressed to everyone that call out a mistake you’ve made. I can’t tell whether those messages mention you by name (“Jane, the X report has errors in it”) or whether it’s more general than that (“The X report has errors in it; can that get fixed?”). The former isn’t a great management practice; you deserve to hear corrections in private, not have them blasted out to everyone. But if it’s the latter, it’s possible your management doesn’t know who handles X and is just putting out a general call to get it fixed (also not ideal but not terribly uncommon in a small office).

Unless these errors are serious ones and happening repeatedly, I wouldn’t take occasional corrections as warning signs your job is in jeopardy — but it’s okay to ask your manager about that too. You could say, “How concerned should I be about the message in Slack this morning about the X report? I’ll of course make sure I do it the way she requested from now on, but should I be worried she had to flag it, and is there anything else I should do to take care of it?”

You can never fully inoculate yourself against the possibility of a bad manager firing people out of the blue without warning, but ensuring you have an open dialogue about your work and asking for regular feedback should give you a lot more peace of mind about where you stand.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 60 comments… read them below }

  1. movingonup*

    I used to work for a small company (20-30 people) that operated exactly like this. Generally, someone who “wasn’t a great fit” (either due to personality clashes or lower skill level than expected) was fired out of the blue without warning. We were a “flat” company, meaning no one had a manager between them and the VP. There were not regular performance reviews and getting individual feedback was like pulling teeth. I was eventually in a position to hear from our VP about upcoming firings and did what I could to ensure they were done tactfully, but there was a lot of bad management around this before I got to be influential.

    If you’re building good rapport with your bosses, then Alison’s wording should be a good way to get them to provide feedback, but be aware that if they’re already not doing a great job at it, they’re likely not to keep it up, and you’ll have to take ownership of asking for it often (but balance the cadence so it doesn’t get nag-y). From my experience “not a good fit” was more about personality clashes, and our VP was more willing to give time and help for a low-skill to be improved if we liked the person and could see that they were really trying. Asking for guidance on improving anytime your get negative feedback and continuing to build good rapport with your peers and bosses should help insulate you from the out-of-the-blue firing. Good luck!

    1. LittleMarshmallow*

      Can I just say… the “flat” structure is a bunch of malarkey! I don’t think you need like one person per manager but there’s a happy medium in there somewhere where people in more entry and lower levels get the support and development they should without having 1 manager per human.

      I’ve so far seen literally nothing good come from flattening of org structures and in my experience they slowly shift back after a few years because VPs just aren’t equipped to deal with entry level employees and their needs especially in large organizations. So then management lands on non-managers who are in a tough spot because they have to “manage” without “authority” and they’re basically doing stuff that’s not their job on top of their own jobs. It’s corporate shenanigans and it’s dumb. There I said it.

  2. KHB*

    Even if the company is doing everything right in terms of giving people feedback behind the scenes, it’s still worrisome that multiple people are being fired from a “small company” in a three-month period. That makes me think that the company either is holding people to impossible standards, isn’t doing a great job of hiring the right people to begin with, or has something else deeply dysfunctional going on.

    It’s possible that I’m wrong, and that there’s a reasonable explanation for this. Maybe new management just took over (or old management just grew a backbone) and is working on dealing with a whole bunch of “bad fits” that have been festering for a long time. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence that you happened to arrive during a period of abnormally many firings. So maybe you should adopt a “wait and see” attitude. But it wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye out for other opportunities. Surely, this isn’t the only company that will hire you to do a job that you love.

    1. Dona Florinda*

      I agree. Add the lack of proper feedback, and it’s definitely a yellow flag.

    1. Meep*

      My former company has a high turnover rate to the point it is obvious. It is a tech start-up so there are some recent grads learning it isn’t as cool as glamorous as Tumblr/Twitter presents, but for the most part the final red flag for me was fiving two non-cis people within two weeks after I expressed concern that their manager was discriminating against them. (She is a massive bigot.) The excuse she gave for both was “performance”. One was told she was fired over a bug, while the owner was told she hadn’t put in work for three years…

      Turns out, she was fired the week of her transition surgery! The lawyer they hired to investigate had a field day with that one.

      Unfortunately, small companies can get away with it as they don’t have the same standards as 50+ employee-companies do.

    2. Lacey*

      Yeah. I worked at a small company for 10 years. There were two firings in that entire time.
      Certainly some people left on their own, as people do, but only two were fired.

      And I would not say this was a particularly well run company. One firing was a manager being malicious against a long-time employee in good standing who she just didn’t like. The other one was a terrible choice in the first place, completely lacking the necessary skills.

      So multiple firings in one quarter… that’s pretty alarming.

    3. kiki*

      Yeah, I think it’s a yellow flag. It *could* be that three people were put on PIPs that ended around the same time and it’s just an unfortunate coincidence.
      But I’ve also witnessed small companies that are really bad at management and everything that comes with that, so I could see someone in leadership being very “over it” and just going ahead and letting go everyone who they feel isn’t living up to their expectations. I’d try not to lose sleep over it, but I would keep your resume fresh and keep your LinkedIn active.

      1. PB Bunny Watson*

        I agree… or it could be that the company had a culture of not holding people accountable and new management has come in and is actually following through for once.

      2. Reluctant Mezzo*

        The firings could also signal financial problems with the company, especially if remaining employees are given unfamiliar tasks and then gigged for not doing them right without any training. These are often signs the company is floundering and looking to cut any expenses they can think of.

    4. Rachel in NYC*

      I work in a “small” department (40-50 ppl) at large school.

      For us, we’ve had a lot of firing in the decade I’ve been there. Definitely 3 people. Maybe as many as 5.

      People leave but they leave because the job was a stepping stone for them. (That said, we did have 2 people fired in a 4 month period when sorta all of a sudden, the head of our department seemed to realize he could fire people. It definitely needed to happen and was better for the department but was jarring.)

    5. Turtles All the Way Down*

      Indeed. At a previous job, my department of 20 people had a 40% turnover rate in a 1 year period. Full of people who didn’t know how to manage. Red flags galore.

  3. Zephy*

    This part stood out to me:

    After the fact, we’re usually told what happened and I can see where upper management is coming from because so far I think they each of the people who were let go did deserve it based on their performance.

    What exactly is being shared with employees about people who were let go? At OldJob the most we got was an all-staff email with something like “Colleagues, please be advised that Tangerina Warbleworth no longer works for Organization. She is allowed on campus and should be treated like a member of the public.” That’s all we really need to know – if Tangerina wants people to know more, it’s her prerogative to share that she resigned of her own volition or was fired for cause or whatever the case may be. The company does not need to publicize their reason for firing her, and in fact they probably shouldn’t. If she was fired for some cause that got her banned from the premises, people do need to know that she is not permitted on campus and who to contact if she shows up, but they don’t need the whole story (“Tangerina was caught stealing from the safe after hours,” “Tangerina cussed out a manager so bad they melted into a puddle on the sales floor,” “Tangerina ran over the CEO’s poodle in the parking lot and laughed about it,” etc) – and if it’s a reason that results in a new SOP a few days later, most people will be able to put two and two together, anyhow.

    1. KHB*

      That’s a good point. Giving management the absolute benefit of the doubt, I can kind of see that they might be thinking “We don’t want employees thinking that we fire people arbitrarily. So we’ll tell them everything that Tangerina did wrong, so that if they’re not doing things like that themselves, they’ll know that they have no reason to worry about their own jobs.” But this is not the way you reassure employees that you don’t fire people arbitrarily. The way you do that is by having a clear policy of how you handle performance problems, letting everyone know about it, and following it.

      1. Anon for this*

        The one and only time someone was let go without warning, it was after two weeks where they made one mistake after another, forcing another team member to spend 100% of their time cleaning up their rapidly multiplying messes, insisted they didn’t make any mistakes, and then turned around and made more mistakes. When they were escorted out, everyone except for the one person who was too new to know exactly how awful this one person was breathed a sigh of relief. And then carried on without saying anything, because honestly, he was a nice guy, just way too error prone for this line of work, don’t want to turn the new hire against him if they end up working together elsewhere that caters more to his strengths, which this job clearly did not.

    2. The Rafters*

      I was signing in to say the same thing. All we’re ever told after someone is fired is that so and so’s building security badge has been deactivated. That let’s us know that we are not to allow them into the building. Usually their behavior has been so egregious that we can figure it out anyway, without anyone giving details. As far as being fired without warning, the employees may have been put on a PIP but not told “date is your last day,” so the employee may behave as if they will still be employed next Tuesday.

      At this moment, my smallish office is hemmorhaging employees, but every one of them is leaving for promotions and retirements!

    3. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      Yeah I thought that was really odd. I’ve never been told specifically by management why someone was let go. In one place there was of course gossip and I was friendly with one of the team leads so I found out why another team lead was immediately fired (he was doing uhem “private business” with his female direct report in a back room). But that place was a dumpster fire and more like high school than a place of work.

      I want to know what they say. It almost sounds like they air out what the employee did wrong, which should never be the case.

  4. Boris*

    Oof this is so unnerving. I used to work at a nonprofit where abrupt firings were common enough that we called them “alien abductions.”

    Even where you have a fair amount of trust in management to be putting people on PIPs, communicating with them about their work, etc. it is SO UNNERVING AND SCARY to see multiple coworkers leave suddenly like that

  5. goducks*

    I’d put my money on the company needing to cut costs and not wanting to do a layoff because that might cause folks to flee. So they fire the low performers. The LW didn’t mention whether they’d hired replacements, but I’m guessing if they did, they hired people at lower salaries.

    It’s entirely possible that there were behind-the-scenes warnings, but when companies need to reduce payroll, often that all goes out the window.

    1. Blue Glass*

      I wondered that as well, if the sudden dismissals had to do with money. Maybe the company doesn’t have healthy financials. And, like you say, they might prefer not to do a massive layoff.

      I wish the OP had stated whether people being sacked were also being replaced, or if the positions just remain open.

    2. Katie*

      Right. My company fired the bottom 5% of performers… to save money. The whole thing still frustrates me to this day because how it was handled.

  6. Alex*

    In my experience, the person who worries most about being fired (without it being explicitly messaged from a manager) is the person who is least likely to get fired, lol.

    1. Alex*

      I’ll also add that the practice of calling out mistakes vaguely and publicly is crappy, unless the person calling it out really doesn’t know who did it. It gives the less conscientious people the ability to fool themselves into thinking it was someone else, and the more conscientious people reason to needlessly doubt themselves.

      1. Orora*

        I’ve worked in mostly small companies and more than my fair share of startups over my 25 year career. My “something’s fishy” radar is going off in a major way. They may be short on cash and thus ‘firing’ people so they can cut the position without incurring unemployment or starting panic with lay-offs. Or, they’re just terrible managers. In small companies lots of people know who does what. If OP is the only one performing that task, it’s pretty shameful to point out their mistakes in public.

        Multiple firings in 3 months is highly unusual for a well-financed, well-run small business. Something is amiss.

    2. Blarg*

      Nah. Some of us are just anxious. You have one bad/surprise experience, and it takes decades to not be convinced that the same thing will happen everywhere. I was proud of myself recently when a senior person requested to meet without a reason and I didn’t panic. That was progress. (And the meeting was about something totally innocuous).

      1. Nameless in Customer Service*

        In all seriousness, congratulations and well done. From one anxious person to another, that *is* progress.

    3. anonymous73*

      Nope. When you’ve been laid off as many times as I have, you tend to be a little paranoid about big changes happening at work.

      1. anonymous73*

        That came out weird. What I meant is that I “have” been laid off after seeing major changes happening, so it’s not always least likely to happen to us.

      2. NervousNellie*

        Not once have I ever left a career job. I’ve always been laid off. At this point, I just assume I should start looking at the 4 year mark.

  7. Lobsterman*

    Since there’s no chance of getting a straight answer out of management, and since the job market is decent right now, the clear thing to do is start up the search and try to get a raise.

  8. Karia*

    Is there a pattern to the firings? Are people fired just before they pass probation / qualify for benefits? Are the ‘bad fits’ typically minorities or marginalised people? Is it the people who skip happy hour or have kids or decline to be BFFs with the boss?

    IME there’s usually a common thread in these situations.

    1. Zelda*

      With a small office, you can also get statistics-of-small-numbers errors on these, too. Not saying you’re wrong, just to proceed with caution about drawing conclusions.

  9. anonymous73*

    I’ve been laid off 3 times and whenever something odd is happening, I always worry that I’m next. I did survive a massive layoff a few jobs ago, but was job searching the entire time. I would start looking for a new job just in case. It’s not a guarantee that you will be fired, but it’s better to be prepared in case it does happen. And honestly 3 firings with no forewarning in a short period of time at a small company is a red flag. If someone is performing badly, they need to be given a chance to improve and not just fired on a whim. Also, are you given feedback as to HOW something is supposed to be done when you’re told that you’re doing it incorrectly? Based on the info you’ve given us this company sounds like a dumpster fire and it’s probably best if you move on as soon as you can, whether it’s by your own choice or theirs.

    1. Zephy*

      Tbf how much advance warning did you have about colleagues‘ firings, though? Surely your manager never stood Fergus up in a team meeting and said, out loud in front of everyone, “Fergus, you’ve only painted 8 teapots and we’re already halfway through the month. You’re five behind schedule, if you don’t get caught up by end-of-month we’re going to have to let you go.”

    2. ThatGirl*

      I’ve been fired once — 15 years ago — and I had clear signs it was coming. Since then, every job I’ve had I’ve gotten good feedback on and had clear signs that I was doing well.

      I have ALSO been through numerous rounds of layoffs around me, and two layoffs myself. The layoffs came out of seemingly nowhere, but that’s because … they weren’t performance-related. (A lot of layoffs can also be a yellow or red flag, depending on the situation and company — for some companies, it’s just a normal part of the business cycle.)

  10. AM*

    Maybe it’s possible your co-workers knew they were being fired and they didn’t want to tell you or anyone else? I had experiences where someone was here one day and they were gone the next. The co-worker didn’t feel like telling his colleagues, but the company would make an announcement about so-and-so not being here anymore due to X reason (like a reorg) or not mention a reason if they couldn’t disclose it.

    1. Cj*

      In my experience, when people get fired they are almost always here one day and gone the next. Unless the fired person is on a PIP with an end date of when they have to improve by or else, the exact day is usually a surprise to them also, even if they’ve been given warnings about their performance.

      And I would say most, if not all, people don’t want to tell anybody if they are about to be fired. And management certainly shouldn’t be telling anybody.

  11. EPLawyer*

    The company probably thinks it is being transparent by publicly calling out errors. Which is .. not helpful.
    Are you even being properly trained on your duties? Or are you just told — here do this task. Then later you are publicly told it was all wrong?

    Your company is actually pretty terrible with the public calling out errors and then the sudden firings.

    If you don’t get the answers you need from management (and you probably won’t) you need to consider leaving before the fickle finger of firing lands on you.

  12. Blarg*

    Explaining publicly why someone was fired, across the company, feels … gross? Like it’s good to acknowledge the person existed, unlike Mandy in the West Wing. And perhaps to let immediate team members who were maybe impacted by whatever the precipitating factors were know that they’d been addressed or something. But does everyone need to know? To stick with the theme, unless it’s Toby leaking national security secrets to a reporter, that doesn’t seem like something that should be broadcast to everyone.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      Her wikipedia page says: “Aaron Sorkin said early on in Season 1 that he and Kelly had agreed that the character was not working out, and that she would have less of a focus because she would not be returning for Season 2” and “Series creator Aaron Sorkin said that the character was not working out,[10][11] and the decision for Moira Kelly’s departure from the show was amicable:[11] “Moira is a terrific actress, but we just weren’t the right thing for her. She expressed that she felt the same way, and as a result, story lines hadn’t been invested in that character, because we knew that at the end of the year, we’d be shaking hands and parting company.””

      1. Blarg*

        Oh I know, they just literally never mentioned her again on the show. She’s in the last scene of season 1 (which involves the president being shot), and just … disappeared. I know what happened in real life, and the character was terrible, but it was odd that they just never brought her up again.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, even when I’ve had coworkers get fired for gross violations of policy, I usually didn’t find out the exact reason. Except for the two involving violence…

  13. El l*

    Two thoughts:
    1. It’s unlikely the CFO knows who did the data entry she objects to. You’re entry level, and this is a pretty low-level task. If the exact same mistake keeps happening again and again – even after being called out – then you’ll be in trouble. Until then, nothing personal about you – all you can do is fix the mistakes that are pointed out and keep them from occurring again.
    2. I’ve been in small companies where lots of people were fired (including at my last stop 2 CEOs in 3 years). It’s always unnerving, and you always worry you’re next, no matter how well you’re doing. No way around that. The last firing I witnessed, I did do something (though I was more senior than OP). When the colleague came up in conversation, I merely looked my boss in the eye and said, “I’ve got nothing to worry about…right?” It was taken in the right spirit, though I ended up leaving 3 months later.

  14. learnedthehardway*

    Keep in mind that what seems sudden and without warning to you was probably in the works with management for quite some time. If the people who were let go were poor performers, then it stands to reason that their managers tried to get their performance to improve before they were let go.

    Eons ago, my manager reassigned some projects to me. They weren’t easy assignments, but I completed them successfully. I didn’t think anything of it at the time – partly because the way it was positioned to me was that I was coming in to finish assignments while the colleague was assigned to other ones. It was positioned that the colleague was needed for a bunch of assignments with one client, and would be working closely with our manager on those projects. The colleague was later let go for performance reasons. Everyone was shocked, but in retrospect, I realized that their assignments had been reassigned to me because they couldn’t do them, and that they had been put on lower level assignments in hopes they could be successful there. Management knew what was going on, even if I and the rest of the team did not. (In fact, it was well handled – very discreetly.)

    I think that you should connect with your manager and ask about how they see your performance. Tell them that the messages from senior management about these mistakes they found are worrying you, in the context of other people being let go, and that you want to be sure that you are doing your job correctly. Basically, ask for a mini performance review, and if there are concerns, ask for training/suggestions on how you can do your role better. And/or make some suggestions about how you can improve. This will show your manager that you care about your role and want to do a good job. Then, work on implementing whatever recommendations you have been given.

  15. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    IMO, in a small company that doesn’t seem to value private correction, or formal improvement plans, the short answer is anyone or everyone could be next. One minute they might be willing to let mistakes slide, and then suddenly decide not to.

    “After the fact, we’re usually told what happened and I can see where upper management is coming from because so far I think they each of the people who were let go did deserve it based on their performance.” The company is the one controlling the message so I would take their evaluation that it was based on performance with at least a pinch of salt. Every place I’ve ever worked in my career has JOKED that we automatically blame the last guy for any mistakes that are unearthed after their departure, but there are places that seriously do that.

  16. CoveredinBees*

    Start working on your resume and cover letters. Even if you’re not getting fired any time soon, this does not sound like a good place to work.

  17. urguncle*

    I worked for a company like this. They hired fast and fired just as fast.

    Honestly, there were people who really enjoyed the company culture, managed to stay above the fray for one reason or another and completely thrived. Then there was everyone else. PIPs with no clear end date, or PIPs that required impossible tasks or improvements that were outside of the job description. Firing notices that would be your proximity card not working one morning or your email deactivated. Constant “restructures” or secret firings where people would disappear and the company would pretend they’d put in their two weeks notice but refused to tell anyone.
    It was incredibly toxic for me and when I was let go, ultimately it was the best thing that happened to me. I’m now wary of super fast hiring processes or ones where I see a lot of empty desks even though they don’t do remote work.

  18. Kate*

    ‘Things like “hey guys, just letting you know I’ll be out on Tuesday” on a Friday afternoon and then hours later the “she no longer works with us” announcement’.
    I don’t really understand what the alternative to this would be? Never sending a normal work message in case today’s the day she gets fired? As long as you still work there, you can generally know you might be at risk of firing AND still have to let colleagues know you’re not coming to the meeting on Tuesday. That part doesn’t seem weird at all.

  19. Zap R.*

    There are several red flags here:

    1) “Multiple firings in a three-month period.” High turnover would be concerning enough on its own but it doesn’t sound like these people are leaving voluntarily. It suggests that upper management is firing people capriciously and that the interval between raising concerns about someone’s performance and outright firing is alarmingly brief.

    2) Hiring for “fit” is often used to perpetuate biases and gatekeep certain industries. Your management sounds like they’re looking for something extremely specific but are unable to articulate what that is. At best, that’s unfair to employees and applicants. At worst, it can actually be discriminatory. My workplace doesn’t use the term “fit” anymore and we’re not alone:


  20. Essentially Cheesy*

    This can be really tricky to navigate because publicly, the company can say whatever they want or give no reason for the cuts. There is always, always behind the scenes trickery though. At one of my employers, in 2008 there were three positions being cut – two of them were genuine redundancy eliminations at the time. One of them – the boss had to choose between two employees and he went with loyalty instead of skill. But in the end the company would still say it’s budget cuts. People knew what was going on – so it was not a shock. I’m still kind of mad about it but the third person went on to better things.

    In all of the firings or dismissals that I have seen, I would say that 99% of the people saw them coming. Several even said “oh here I go to get fired” when called up to the VP’s office for a surprise meeting. So they’ve been generally aware of the office environment and how it could impact them.

    I’ve only known of one person, in my working experience, that was totally in denial that they could ever get fired. I even brought up the subject with them before it happened. I seriously said directly, hey a lot of people lose jobs because they just aren’t a good fit or they don’t mesh with management. Here, if management doesn’t see any potential for you – they are not afraid to make a change. The person was completely in denial and would not listen to me until they were walked out a month later. Total shocker for them.

    So I think that we all need to have a healthy attitude of “this could possibly happen at any time” about getting let go. No job is 100% secure anymore. Not to say that one should be paranoid or live in fear – but generally if you pay attention – you will be able to get clues about the culture and what is going on. So be careful.

  21. Quixotic AF*

    I worked in a small organization that lost a large number of people in the time I was there – and they did a few of the same things:
    1. Firing people in a very short time over fit (which usually meant a disagreement with how the family in charge was managing things or someone expressing that it wasn’t acceptable to be treated/talked to the way we often were)
    2. Blaming the quit/fired employees for terrible work after the fact, whether or not it was true – in detail, unkindly
    3. Company-wide emails berating people for small mistakes or anything that caused displeasure (one memorable quote was regarding whether the marketing team needed hearing aids)

    Maybe OP’s company isn’t as mean, but to me, firing multiple people in a short time is a red flag and sign of bad leadership – as someone else said: either they’re not hiring the right people, or they’re dysfunctional in another way.

  22. superduperhoopla*

    I worked at a company that laid off a chunk of staff after being bought by a bigger company. It was a complete shock to many, but management made a huge show of reassuring everyone that it wouldn’t happen again.
    One dude with a new baby decided to go ahead with house buying plans after this reassurance. The Friday he was off to sign papers etc he noticed his paycheck hit the bank, only much larger than expected.
    Turned out they were laying him off and his severance/vacation payout got there before they could meet with him.
    He was so freakin mad, because he would not have bought a house knowing about the layoff.
    It was definitely a way for management to clean house too. Layoffs were based on managers’ like/dislike over competence or seniority. Pretty ugly and my benchmark for trusting any employers.

  23. PB Bunny Watson*

    Being a rational person, I have occasionally sent out warnings about things that were done incorrectly because multiple people were guilty–which meant we needed to clarify things and retrain everyone. So normally, I’d say it might just be that you’re making mistakes others are also making… but the fact that your work is consistently being used as an example is concerning. It can’t hurt to talk to your supervisor directly for feedback. It may be that you ARE simply making mistakes that many others are making… but better safe than sorry.

  24. MeepMeep02*

    I’d start looking for a new job ASAP. My very first job out of college, I went through a really ugly layoff process – every Tuesday, someone would be gone and no one knew who was next or how many people would be let go in total. Once a company is doing that, it’s basically a signal for everyone to run for the hills. I got off easy – I was in my twenties with no family responsibilities, so it wasn’t as big of a deal for me. But among my older coworkers, there were two heart attacks and one suicide following this torture.

    Eventually the company just closed down its regional office and laid off any remaining survivors. Had I been smart, I would have started looking for a new job the moment the first layoff happened rather than waiting for my own layoff. Would have saved me some time and emotional energy.

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