What to Do If Your Boss Is Threatening to Terminate You

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If your boss says she intends to fire you, it’s natural to panic. Don’t act rashly and quit to avoid a possible termination, however, unless you already have something lined up elsewhere. Don’t keep as quiet as possible and hope the situation goes away. Instead, be proactive to give yourself the best chance of surviving this threat.

Being threatened with a pink slip requires quick action to save your job.
(Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Get as much information as you can from your manager to figure out why you’re in danger of losing your job and what options you have. If the problem is performance related, your boss might suggest how you might improve enough to stay on. If it’s a clash of personalities, you may be better off talking to someone from human resources, a trusted friend or a colleague from another department. Talking to a manager more senior than your boss is risky unless you have a strong relationship with such a person or you have a strong case that you’re being targeted unfairly.

Workers have legal protections that guard against termination for certain causes, though some states provide more leeway to employees than others. You may enjoy legal protection if the threatened firing is the result of being a whistleblower, for example, assuming you’re acting in good faith when reporting the alleged wrongdoing. Each state handles workers' rights differently, but once your employer threatens termination, study the statutes that are relevant where you work.

If your boss is threatening to terminate you for poor performance and you think the decision to let you go isn’t set in stone, prove that you’re making the corrections needed to keep your job. If your boss cites declining sales figures, work to boost those numbers. If he doesn’t think you’re assertive enough with subordinates, start managing with a firmer hand. Ask for help developing a performance improvement plan, and make sure you follow it carefully.

It may be embarrassing to find yourself in a precarious position, but don’t react by keeping your head down and becoming invisible. This is the time to make sure everyone knows the good work you’re doing. Make sure management has ample evidence of your most successful work projects, and make sure any external clients have good things to say about you. It might help to spend more time at the office. Particularly if your boss’s boss works nearby and is likely to see you, that dedication may sway management when the time comes to make a decision on your status.

Work is never pleasant when termination is a possibility, but treat it as a sign that it’s time to update your resume and discreetly begin a search for new opportunities. If you’ve been conducting a passive job search, be more active. Don’t use work time or resources to look for a new job, however. In addition to being unprofessional and unethical, it tells your boss you’ve already got a foot out the door and validates her decision to let you go.

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