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Lessons From the Gangplank


© andrewgenn –

When someone is removed from a position, hindsight usually reveals issues in the weeks or even months before the decision. What are the signs you’re walking the gangplank, and what can you do to avoid being fired?

  1. Your boss limits their time with you, e.g., you used to meet weekly, now only once a month.

  2. The boss becomes visibly irritated with you – your ideas, or just you in general. You sense they’re not comfortable with you. Some bosses act that way around everybody, but you notice a marked change. When you first started you were treated one way, now you’re getting the vibe that she’s irritated with you.

  3. Work gets taken away from you. Bosses sometimes make this mistake when someone isn’t performing. They lessen the person’s responsibilities so the person can perform, instead of holding them accountable for doing 100% of their job. This isn’t about rebalancing the load when the whole team is overwhelmed, rather something you’ve been given is swiftly taken away, and for no good reason.

  4. You sense that co-workers are avoiding you.

How to get off the gangplank and back on track

Schedule an appointment with your manager to talk about your performance – be proactive. When you get in the room be ready to summarize your accomplishments against your goals.

Start with something like, “I called this meeting because I want to check in regarding my performance. How do you think I’m doing?” And then be quiet and listen. Don’t be defensive, just listen. Take notes, and ask questions if there’s something you don’t understand. Ask for clarification; ask for evidence. Ask for concrete examples of what they want you to do.

Your boss may have trouble telling you you’re in trouble. Perhaps they’re a conflict avoider and don’t like to deliver bad news. They may have thought they’d given you enough detail about how to conduct a project. When they saw you go off track they didn’t tell you, and you had no idea you were off on a tangent. That’s why it’s so important to be proactive as soon as you sense they’re avoiding you, or any of the other signs.

Don’t assume biases. Many people assume things like, “My boss doesn’t like me because she’s a woman and I’m a man,” or because they’re from different cultural backgrounds, or different generations. These biases indeed may be happening, but don’t rationalize any discomfort and say that it’s due to the bias. Get the facts.

If you’re already on the gangplank, you may need to come to terms with eventual dismissal. So what can you do about that?

Obviously, update your resume and tap into your network immediately. Be very honest with yourself about what you like and don’t like about your current job. Maybe this company culture was hierarchical, and you need a more flat environment.

What can you learn from this to better select your next position?

Proactively design your next best job. Take time now to write down what’s important to you, what are your values, and what you want in the next job. Document right then what’s important to you, e.g., more responsibility, work/life balance, owning projects – whatever issues affect your current job.

This way, if you’re kicked off the gangplank and are swimming towards your next job, you will be paddling towards the best fit and not just hopping into the same negative boss situation or bad (ill-fitting) culture you just left.

Can you look back at rocky times in your career and see signs you’ve missed?

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