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Hostile Work Environment Definition

10 Steps of Walking the Plank Toward Termination: Step 1 Your Industry Is Sputtering

Many people have written about “Signs You’re Getting Terminated,” but all those articles miss the natural progression that usually occurs.  These signs don’t appear scatter shot around you like the pellets of a shotgun blast.  No, it’s more ordered than that.  There are a series of steps that occur before you are terminated.  One leads to the next, like the steps of “walking the plank” toward termination and falling into the cold ocean of unemployment.

Through my decade of practicing employment law and through my previous years in human resources, I came to recognize a pattern that almost always occurs, with only slight variations, anytime an employee is fired.

Due to these rough economic times, I’ve added a step at the beginning which is not always there, but certainly increases the likelihood you’ll be terminated if that step is present in your case.  Today we’ll cover that first step, and then in the next 9 days we’ll cover the remaining steps.  Be sure to see if you recognize any of the following elements in your company right now:

1. Your Industry Is Suffering

Is the government bailing out your company?  This is a hard sign to miss.  There’s no way around it.  Terminations and layoffs are coming.  But there are less dramatic, similar signs that you should heed.  Such as:

  • Your company or your industry is on the news
  • Your company’s competitors are merging
  • Top executives are leaving the company “to spend more time with family”
  • The Company increases use of outsourcing
  • Your Company is being investigated by the government
  • All employee perks are suddenly eliminated: no off-site Christmas party this year; approval for travel requires extra steps; or, normal business maintenance is being delayed

Two competing companies will often consider merging when both are suffering financially.  Both companies hope they will have double the customers with less staff.  In other words, half the staff is going be laid off.  I saw this pattern first hand in my pre-lawschool life, when I worked in Human Resources for a big box retailer.

Our company acquired 3 smaller companies while I was working in H.R.; each time we would go in and lay off the corporate staffs of the smaller company we acquired, then add all of their work to our own (already full) work schedule.  This is what Corporate America calls saving money through efficiences of scale, or synergies.

Eventually I began seeing some more of the signs above in our own company.  One top executive left to go to work for a competitor.  There was a rumor that a former female VP was suing the company for gender discrimination.  The traditional blow-out Christmas Party that was held at a posh hotel with spouses invited was toned down to a on-site punch and cake reception the last hour of the work day with no family joining us.  It was obvious the company was hurting.

Then the big news came.  Our company was aquired by an even bigger “big-box” retailer.  H.R. representatives from the bigger company started visiting our corporate headquarters and talking about “efficiencies” and “learning from each other”.  That’s when I left for graduate school.

Only a couple of the many people I knew successfully made the jump to position with the company that acquired us.  Most people scattered to other companies in our area; some started their own business; some moved away in pursuit of jobs with competitors that were located in other states; some people jumped at the chance to take a “early retirement” package the new company offerred.  Most of the people, however, were simply told one day to box up the personal items at their desks and not come back.

I always wondered why those folks didn’t leave sooner.  Why didn’t they make plans to work elsewhere or start something of their own?  Maybe they were intensely loyal people who felt obligated by duty to “go down with the ship”.  But not even the Executives did that.

I think those folks who stayed until the bitter end with no plan for their future could not see the signs.  Maybe loyalty blinded them, sure.  Or even optimism could have dulled their perception of the tell-tale indicators that the company was on its last gasps.

What those folks missed, however, you should be keen to observe.

Today we covered Step One of the “10 Steps Toward Termination”, which is highly relevant to today’s economy, but not required.  Tomorrow we will start exploring the signs of impending termination that are more focused on your relationship with the company and your boss.

Please join me and the other readers of this blog over the next ten days as we explore and discuss the next 9 Steps over the next 9 days.

But before you go, have you seen any of the signs discussed above?  Do you think I’ve left out a sign that other people need to know about?  In the comments section tell me what you think, or about your experiences, and read about the experiences and views of other readers like you.

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