The workplace can be a frustrating place, especially if you notice signs of your boss or manager treating you in ways that may hint at getting you replaced (i.e. a "nice" way of getting fired).
Your organization is looking to get value out of you.
That means they are not your friends, even if you like your job.
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It's nice to think that bosses and managers may have your best interests at heart but, in reality, they have the business' best interests in mind. And that has to do with people as well.
So don't get discouraged if you feel weird about showing signs of getting you replaced… Instead, learn to understand why with the 7 most common reasons this happens.
Sign #1: You are constantly being scrutinized
This is one of the most common signs the decision to get you replaced has already been made or about to be made. When everything you do is cherry-picked, you're in trouble.
The signal isn't a one-day thing… It happens over time, more and more, until it gets to the point where your managers are visibly "on" you—day in day out.
Heavy manager scrutiny will slowly creep in. It's often hard to notice but, when you do, it becomes clear that you're not being treated fairly.
It's an uncomfortable situation to be in, but there are things you can do about it. The first one is to overcommunicate your best intentions and how you're going to address the issues at hand.
Closing yourself because of all the pressure is the typical reaction here, but it won't serve much of a purpose other than accelerating the fact that your boss may be replacing you.
Instead, do the following:
- Address the point of discussion directly, and then give priority to showing you've addressed the issue. Do this fast or you'll keep stacking up scrutiny.
- If managers don't deem your efforts enough, ask where you may have gone wrong and how you can improve the process quickly so that everything gets back to normal.
- If you're expected to be knowledgeable in the process and managers think you're slacking for whatever reason, communicate your commitment to getting back on track.
- Whereas, if you can't find a possible reason why so much scrutiny is being laid upon you, express your concerns vocally as to how you feel and where that may lead.
It's best to know if the decision to replace you has already been made to give you both the mental and physical space to prepare for a new job without having to rush the process.
Sign #2: Communication feels awkward and disconnected
You're in your Slack channel, you try to talk with managers the way you've always done, but you notice that something is "off." They just don't reply to you the way they used to.
Managers are busy, so it could be that they have other priorities, but their primary concern should be to interact with employees. If they don't, this is a sign for concern.
The reason why this happens is that managers have internal meetings and, you guessed it, they make names based on the performance data that they see during these meetings.
While keeping things anchored in business is good, this approach is not the type of leadership-style you're looking for in an organization…
It's the "I'm the boss and you better give me value or I'll [enter whatever your boss wants to do with you]" type of scenario. If you feel like this in your company, consider leaving ASAP.
Sign #3: You aren't given as many tasks as in the past
When you're first starting out, everyone gives you stuff to do: your managers, your coworkers, even the CEO may interact with you to get some insights into your daily operations.
This only gets more cemented into your work as you grow your role and people start relying on you to get certain things done. But when they don't give you any task, it means they don't see the value in what you do anymore, and this is a really bad sign for your job security.
There are a billion reasons why this may happen, but consider this:
- When did this start? And was there a specific occurrence that made people more wary of sending work your way, or did it seemingly come out of nowhere?
- What did you do in the past that you're not asked to do anymore? Are roles changing within the company, or are you sure this task still needs to be completed?
- When talking with managers, how do they react to the task being mentioned? Do they shrug it off or are they concerned about you not getting this work anymore?
If negative connotations of these points are combined with disconnected communication (sign #2 in this list), don't expect this work to come back anytime soon…
Instead, expect a replacement to be on its way to the workplace. This will probably hit harder than any other reason for getting replaced at work, but you can't let it become personal.
Your skills are valuable, and there are 1000s of companies out there who know that. It's just that this company, at this time, and in this environment, has decided you can't work with them anymore. The way you fix that is by finding a better job at a better company.
Sign #4: There are open job listings for your position
This is the clearest sign of your boss or manager getting you replaced, and it's a poor job done from the HR department. You're not stupid, so it's easy to spot this type of thing.
If your managers are being extra nasty in pushing you out of your job without telling you, they will try to mask the listing as a bit different than what you do—but not really.
You can actually monitor for this sort of thing using a tool like LoopCV which allows you to track listings for a specific role without necessarily sending out an application.
Here's how to do it:
- Open a forever-free account
- Create your first "loop"
- Enter your job title
- Add keywords
The latter are important to find listings that are relevant to the type of job experience you have. For example, if a major task of your role is to use Java, then you can type in Java.
(HR will be forced to use it in the job listing)
Obviously, a quick way to do it is also checking the company's website manually, but the job listing may not be published everywhere. It may only be released on LinkedIn, for example.
Tools like LoopCV eliminate the need to scour the web, saving you time and potentially landing you a better job in case your boss does end up finding a replacement in the end.
Sign #5: Managers have a lax attitude towards you
The opposite of constantly scrutinizing you, managers may also have a lax attitude towards you. This is also not a good sign as they have an obligation to pay attention to employees.
While less common but certainly possible, managers who were previously responsive but who aren't anymore may signal an internal meeting with you as the subject.
This doesn't necessarily mean you are getting replaced, but something is happening and your managers are in the midst of figuring out what to do about it…
In these cases:
- Don't panic, you don't know why they are treating you this way
- Don't make assumptions as it'll make it harder to understand what's going on
- Be open to talking with your managers and letting them know that you're available
- Keep focusing on the job and, if you don't have any tasks, go above and beyond
Managers often critique you based not only on business performance but also on whether you truly demonstrate that you care about the organization's success.
This isn't something that happens overnight, so don't go changing your habits just because you've noticed managers being wary of you. Be genuine in your value proposition.
If that doesn't seem to work, and you still don't know what's going on, preparing for the worst is better than getting surprised out of nowhere. Get your CV out there as quickly as possible!
Sign #6: Quality complaints fill your inbox
Another clear sign of your job security being at stake is when your inbox is filled with complaints on the quality of your work, whether you think you've done well or not…
Complaints will start pouring in, day after day.
No, not just one random day and that's it…
This is a continuous flow of bad feedback that's likely to make you feel like you're just doing things wrong, or that you don't know how to do them in the first place.
That feeling is exactly what the managers want to achieve with this tactic, and let me tell you that you don't deserve a job at a company that treats you like this—full stop.
Whether the work is good or not, a company should root its culture in elevating one another, not shaming an employee. When this happens, start looking for other opportunities.
Sign #7: Your boss needs to "talk"
The most stereotypical sign is the boss wanting to "talk" or "chat." This happened recently with an employee over at GitHub expressing concerns over a political issue.
While the scenario was completely different, the tactic was the same. A public or private request to talk is certainly scary, and it should be. Managers don't usually communicate that way.
That's because they know that generic calls are a waste of time, whereas specific instructions get you results. Managers usually focus on the latter and leave generalizations aside.
Apart from when they want to talk, that is. Note that this is in the later stages of your boss trying to get you replaced, so they might just tell you that you are indeed getting replaced.
At this point, it's a bit late to prepare. That's why it's so important to learn how to interpret the previous 6 signs so that you don't end up scrambling to update your CV.
If you're able to spot signs of your boss trying to replace you prior to them doing so, you can also prepare for: 1) a better work environment, and; 2) a better overall job.
Don't let the feeling that something might happen go untreated. Be prepared to find a job where your superiors have better appreciation of the value you can provide to the organization.