Studies suggest as much as 50 percent of our workforce will be contract workers by 2020. The pressure for companies to be profitable and stay competitive is forcing them to rethink the concept of full-time employment and who to keep on their teams. Today, every job is temporary. If you want to stay employable, you need to think like a business-of-one and become a specialist at what you do. Most important, you need to stay alert and make sure you're never the weakest link. Even if you do a good job, companies are focused on hiring and retaining only the best workers. Everyone is graded. If your best is everyone else's worst, you're in trouble.
There are warnings that you're seen as weaker than your teammates. I've coached thousands of professionals who unexpectedly lost their jobs. As we review what happened leading up to the firing or layoff, there are always telltale signs they failed to see. Usually, they're tied to misguided work ethic. In fact, we're specifically seeing Millennials and Baby Boomers viewed as the weakest links due to this.
Concerned this could be you? See if these sound familiar:
1. Your boss acts more serious around you than other teammates.
Does your boss smile and joke with co-workers, but act all-business with you? Translation: He or she isn't comfortable with you. This usually stems from you not performing to your boss' standards.
2. Teammates don't ask for your advice or help.
Teammates must partner to deliver results. If nobody is asking for you to pitch in, they're trying to demonstrate you aren't needed.
3. Impromptu meetings are happening when you aren't around.
Are mini-meetings happening where key decisions are made in your absence? That's intentional. The team is purposely not seeking your input and letting you know they don't want your ideas.
4. You haven't been new assignments.
Getting new work implies you'll be sticking around. If you aren't getting any new work, it's because they don't want to add to the workload of someone who could not be here next week.
5. Your manager is increasingly micromanaging you.
Is your boss checking in on you daily? Does he or she want constant updates? That's a sign you're not trusted to get work done in a timely fashion. The more your boss checks, the more frustrated he or she becomes that you need babysitting.
6. Co-workers who started after you are getting promoted over you.
When people who've been there less time are getting moved up, you're being sent a message that your performance isn't valued as much.
7. New employees are getting projects that would normally go to you.
When the interesting new projects start going to more recent hires, you're being told you don't deserve them.
8. Your boss asks you for a list of your responsibilities and the step-by-step process you use to do each one.
Usually, this is a sign that your boss either A) thinks you don't have enough to do and wonders how you stay busy all day, or B) wants a breakdown of your job so that when you get fired, there's something to give your replacement.
9. Procedures are put in place to have your work checked.
If others have to check up on your work, it's a sign you're no longer trusted to do your job. This creates redundancy and team frustration over the added time and expense of checking up on you.
The above signs indicate you don't have the trust and respect of your manager and teammates. Eventually, if they get frustrated enough, you could lose your job.
Don’t give up -- own up.
If you now think you're the weakest link, please don't throw in the towel and assume your days are numbered. You can turn this around. First, you'll need to own up to the situation. I'd suggest setting a meeting with your boss and sharing your concerns about how much value you are adding, and express sincerely you want to increase your contributions. This can open up the conversation so you can get a clear list of things you need to be contributing in order to up your worth to the team and keep your job. Next, focus on better serving your teammates. Whatever you can do to make your co-workers' jobs easier will help them see you in a new light. Finally, crank up the activity level -- both in energy and time on the job. You need to show some hustle around your desire to improve. A visible effort to improve your game is what's needed. Don't wallow in self-pity. Focus on the fact you still have a job, and seize this as your chance to make a comeback!
P.S. the best defense is a good offense.
If you want to makes sure this doesn't happen to you, you need to learn to be a better business-of-one. Most of us were trained to be employees and act like we have golden handcuffs. We work "or" the employer and feel helpless. Instead, we need to see ourselves as working "with" employers and build up our skills so we can partner with them and have relationships built on mutual respect. This is a very new career concept and requires a shift to your mindset and approach. But when you do it, you'll be more empowered and confident in your ability to stay employable in today's competitive workplace.