Sometimes, a termination comes “out of the blue”. But not always. Often, there are signs that an employee might get fired. In this blog article, we will first summarize the three most important signs that a termination could be imminent. In the second section of our article, we will give you five tips on what you could do in this case. Our partner lawyers estimate that around 40% of employees who think they could be fired are (unfortunately) correct within 6 months.
Three signs that a termination might be imminent
First, we want to summarize the most important signs that a termination could be imminent. In addition to a mere “bad feeling”, there are at least three indications that a termination could really be imminent, which we would like to present in the following – with a “descending level of confidence”:
Poor financial performance of your employer
First of all, there are often signs related to the “performance” of your employer that layoffs may be imminent. Sudden sales slumps or the loss of an important customer, as well as long-term weak performance can be indications that your employer will react to market changes with personnel measures. Especially listed companies might also react by reducing personnel costs if they operate „below plan“ for an extended period of time. Branches and divisions in which things are going bad are often particularly affected.
Furthermore, if necessary investments are not made anymore or delayed payments are the “new normal”, the situation of your company may be quite serious. Further indications of imminent redundancies can be failed financing for young companies, or, in the case of international companies, measures in other countries that have already been announced. It might be worthwhile to listen to the “office grapevine” for once – as well as to put Google alerts on your employer.
Persistent negative feedback
In addition to the “performance” of your employer, your own “performance” may also give some hints regarding a potential termination. Many companies conduct annual or semi-annual appraisals. If you “get counted” for a second time in your appraisal, termination may not be far away. And if your manager starts criticizing you on a regular basis outside the regular feedback loop, that could mean just the same. If the negative feedback accumulates or you experience massive criticism even for trifles, you could be threatened with termination.
Please be aware that behind any non-constructive criticism, there can be a tactic of attrition – or to create conditions for a legal warning or a termination (without notice). On the one hand, an effective conduct-related termination requires serious breaches. On the other hand, that does not mean that unwelcome employees are not ever fired with allegedly low performance – according to the motto „it may be worth a try“. And if the employee resists and there is a lawsuit before the labor court, the lack of reasons for dismissal can often be replaced by a higher severance payment as part of a court agreement. Rare but clear indications are also the issuance of a „formal“ warning or a threat of termination by your superior in your appraisal/feedback meeting.
Unexpected changes in your job
A small disclaimer first: Changes in responsibilities do occur on a frequent basis. They do not have to be indications of impending termination and are probably the weakest indicator on our list. However, they can be an indication, especially in combination with other indicators mentioned above, e.g. negative feedback. If, in addition, the changes in your responsibilities make no sense to you and your colleagues, your employer may be up to something, for example, when:
- Colleagues get your tasks, e.g. important customers that you have previously looked after are suddenly transferred to colleagues. You and your colleagues will now take care of your most important clients together, and your team might have to prepare to take on your projects. Perhaps you are also training a new colleague who has almost exactly your job profile? When your core responsibilities are devolved to the point where you get sidelined, it may be “boredom bullying.” In the „simplest“ case, as a victim of bullying, you might resign yourself and save the company the costs and the severance pay.
- You are being overwhelmed with work: Other colleagues are working 9-5 and you are being overwhelmed with work for no reason? This can also be a tactic and lead to you making more mistakes, then being warned and fired. Or you might resign yourself and save your employer costs and severance pay.
- Lack of respect: You are disrespected by your manager in meetings, your opinion is no longer relevant, or your manager suddenly takes an interest in every detail of your work, often even in larger meetings.
- Does important information suddenly flow past you? Can be a simple communication problem, but could also be a sign of purposeful isolation
- Even if you are suddenly supposed to share all contacts, customers, and project data with colleagues and others are not asked to do so, it can be a matter of depriving you of “hegemonic knowledge” before a planned termination
Five steps you should take if a termination seems imminent
As often, the most important advice if your termination might be imminent is: Don’t panic! If you have recognized the warning signs described above, this will give you an advantage. Now it’s time to stay cool and consider and prioritize your options. This includes in particular the following five areas:
Get clarity about your own goals
Are you really super-attached to your current job? For example, because your work tasks are exciting and your job is extremely well paid? Are the working hours ideal and tailored “just for you” – or is the office conveniently located “around the corner” from your home? And are your colleagues all your best friends? Then maybe it’s worth fighting for your job. By making an effort, realizing and communicating success (according to the motto “do good and talk about it”). If necessary, seek a conversation with your manager, talk openly about any problems, and signal your willingness to perform even better and your willingness to find a solution for whatever problems there may be.
However, if your current job is not quite as attractive as the dream job described above, you can of course always take a “two-pronged approach” in such a situation. On the one hand, by fighting for your job (above). On the other hand, by testing your alternatives – which may be even better paid and more exciting than your current job. And you might try to „sweeten“ a possible job change with a substantial severance payment. To do this, consider the following tips:
Testing the waters for a new job
First step: update your profile on LinkedIn (or Xing). Then start searching actively on these and other channels, updating your documents, and writing targeted applications. In many positions, it is advisable to proactively contact headhunters and reactivate old contacts. If you are reading out to new headhunters, it is important that they are specialized in your area/industry. If headhunters approach you regularly, you probably know who to talk to anyway.
Take out legal protection insurance
This is the simplest and most obvious thing: If you want to defend yourself against termination or want to get a higher severance payment, you will need to hire a lawyer. Lawyers cost money – and in the first instance in Germany, you bear the costs of your lawyer and the labor court yourself. And that’s where legal protection insurance comes in handy. However, there are of course “waiting periods” to consider. Typically, insurance excludes legal support for terminations within the first 3-6 months. But that depends on your tariff – and it’s worth reading the fine print carefully.
A few insurance companies provide employment legal protection insurance without a “waiting period”. But again, please check the terms and conditions carefully to avoid nasty surprises.
If you’re at risk of losing your job, you might want to do a cash check as well. Do you absolutely need to buy that expensive vacation, the new fancy car or other major purchases – now? If you find that your financial cushion is insufficient and you cannot sensibly limit expenses, you should definitely try to maximize your severance pay if you are about to receive a termination.
Secure your claims
After a dismissal, you are nowadays often released immediately. And accordingly no longer has access to your professional systems and data – which could come in handy, especially after the termination. Because you might have additional claims that you want to prove in labor court. You should therefore, for instance, print out your overtime documentation. Calculations, lists, and proof of overtime, especially if this has never been paid, can be very helpful. You should also print out the bases for bonuses, commissions, and other variable compensation. If you haven’t already done so, you should also request your “Bonus Agreement” (and document this request as well). These are all very important pieces of evidence in any later labor court proceedings; with these, you may be able to double the total settlement amount in court. Also, make your lawyer aware of these documents!
Last but not least
Finally, some advertising on your own behalf: Of course, you could also save the number and homepage of AbfindungsHero. Put a link on our homepage and save our phone number (030 23255307) on your mobile phone. If you actually need a lawyer, you can find one even faster with the AbfindungsHero. Of course, you can also check your claims right here and now:
Bottom line: where there’s smoke, there’s fire (sometimes)
If in doubt, we would advise you to simply take our five measures – just to be on the safe side. We don’t want to scare you, but in our experience, „bad feelings“ about a pending termination is (unfortunately) often right. According to our partner lawyers, around 40% of employees who think they will get fired actually do – and within the next 3-6 months. And if this is the case, you only have three weeks to fight back. The German Dismissal Protection Act allows employees to have the dismissal reviewed by the labor court. However, there is not much time for this. If you miss the 3-week period to take legal action, the termination will be deemed to be valid, even if it was not actually based on legal grounds. And to take legal action, you will need legal advice. In theory, employees can take legal action on their own. In the first instance of German labor courts, there is no mandatory lawyer. But we would advise against that. Your chances of getting a larger settlement are significantly higher if an expert prepares and argues your lawsuit and takes over the negotiations. You can find a good lawyer here, for example, on AbfindungsHero while checking your claims – just in case – here: