“I was fired today, and I didn’t even see it coming,” Tabitha said, behind both feelings of helplessness and of anger. Her friend, Sara, lent her a friendly shoulder, but wondered if there were early warning signs that Tabitha simply missed.

It starts with an unsettled feeling: Your supervisor stops offering suggestions or feedback. You’re being left out of group meetings that you used to attend. Once-friendly coworkers turn cool to your presence. You’re not invited to brainstorming sessions where the newest projects get discussed.

“I thought I was doing a great job. I even got solid performance reviews in my first few years. I achieved strong results and prided myself on being dedicated and committed,” she says. “No one ever complained directly to me about poor performance!”

Tabitha admitted that sometimes she had disagreements with her boss, and her boss would occasionally cancel their scheduled meetings, but she never thought too much about it, until it was too late.

So what could Tabitha have done differently? How can you avoid being blindsided at work?

• DO find out, early on in a new role, how your boss will evaluate your performance. What is measured and what is valued?
• DO regularly ask questions about how you’re doing. Is there something that your boss wants you to do better or differently?
• DO ask for constructive criticism from peers and coworkers who will tell you the truth. How can I improve my value and contributions to the team and the organization?
• DO compare your performance to high achievers in the organization. What are they doing or achieving that is highly valued by the enterprise? Are you getting similar results?
• DO maintain good relationships with bosses, peers and subordinates. Business is never just about business … it’s personal, driven by activities that are decided and led by people.

• DON’T get defensive during performance reviews. Listen carefully to what is being said, what performance is expected of you, and how you can behave or improve to achieve those goals.
• DON’T surround yourself with people who won’t give you honest criticism.
• DON’T let yourself become isolated.
• DON’T ignore neglectful or dismissive behavior from your boss.
• DON’T assume excellent core job skills make up for sub-par relationship skills.

Just know that being ‘on thin ice’ isn’t necessarily permanent. Getting off of the ice and getting back on solid ground is entirely in your control — but you need to go ‘above and beyond’ in everything you do. Establishing clear, candid and early communications and expectations are key to succeeding in every role.

(written by: wc)

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