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Liz Ryan Contributor

I write about bringing life to work and bringing work to life. full bio →

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

I was a Fortune 500 HR SVP for ten million years, but I was an opera singer before I ever heard the term HR. The higher I got in the corporate world, the more operatic the action became. I started writing about the workplace for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1997, but it took me ages to find my own voice. Now I write for the Huffington Post, Business Week, LinkedIn, the Harvard Business Review, the Denver Post and Forbes.com and lead the worldwide Human Workplace movement to reinvent work for people. Stop by and join us: http://www.humanworkplace.com

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Leadership 2,864 views

Are These Signs That I'm About To Get Fired?

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Dear Jim,

Only a couple of hundred years separates us from the time before factories and offices. Back then we knew how to read the weather patterns. We knew what the different cloud formations and other weather signals meant. Now we pretend that stuff doesn’t matter.

You’ve got to get out of there, Jim. You could launch a job search tomorrow. You have a great story to tell prospective employers, and it doesn’t even require you to bash your current company. You can say “They hired me to get new customer locations up and running, but the job is more tactical than I expected it to be, and they really need someone a little different from me.”

Your job is so tactical that it involves leaving multiple voice mail messages for people who sat across a table or desk from you just four months ago and subsequently brought you onto the team! This company is out of control.

I predict a downward spiral that, like most downward spirals, accelerates its rate of collapse over time. These guys don’t know what they’re doing, so they’re in frantic-motion mode, like molecules in a pot of water that is just about to boil.

You don’t need them. Get out of there, Jim. Take a little time to decide what you want next, so that you don’t jump from the frying pan into the fire. Get into an organization that knows where it’s going and has a clear plan to get there. Ask a lot of questions at your job interviews.

Ask “pain” questions like “Where on the company priority list does this initiative rank?” If they say “Well, we have a lot of priorities,” stay away. People who have too many projects will throw yours (and you) straight into the fire at the first hint of trouble. You need to work among adults, not panicky children — that is the most important thing!

If you get terminated before you get your new job, you can collect unemployment because you didn’t do anything wrong that caused you to get fired. All of life is learning, and this time you’re learning about taking nothing for granted.

If it walks like a duck, quacks and swims, it’s a duck, and your job now is to duck out of this dysfunctional and chaotic environment and use your talents in a place where they’ll be appreciated.

All the best,



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