On the job, times will come when your performance doesn’t fit as well into your team’s mold as it used to, or when the team wants to find someone with a different and fresh perspective. Signs that you’re about to be replaced will be obvious if you know to look for them. And if you’ve been on the opposite end where a teammate was being replaced, you’ll be able to recognize them immediately.
Feeling like you’re about to be replaced can be a big hit to your motivation and productivity, but catching the signs early will enable you to get a big head start on your job search while you’re still employed. And it will also help you recognize that you need to perform to the best of your ability, keep calm, and remain professional so that you can leave the job without burning bridges or black marks on your record.
Here are five major signs you’re about to be replaced, and how you should respond to them.
Time between projects
When’s the last time you were given a meaningful project to work on? Typically, when a team is planning to replace an employee, they don’t want to get them started on meaningful or impactful work. This is both out of fear of having to replace them mid-project, and because they don’t want any reason to have to change their minds.
It’s normal for a lull after a big project concludes, but if that lull continues far longer than you’re comfortable with and you’re stuck doing menial work (or no work at all) during the day, signs are pointing towards replacement.
Don’t immediately jump to conclusions and start panicking, though. Instead, take some time to speak with your manager to ask for an update on when you should start on your next big project. If you get a solid answer from them, chances are there’s just a bit more of a time between tasks than normal, or that you overreacted. If you get a meandering and uncertain reply, however, you might want to start looking at options for your next career destination.
Have you suddenly stopped communicating with everyone on your team? Maybe you had a good working relationship with your colleagues, or maybe you regularly checked in with your manager, but suddenly the lines of communication have closed. This is a strong sign that something’s gone wrong. It’s a typical part of group mentality - once the plan to replace you comes around, you become the outcast that no one wants to communicate with.
If you want to get to the root of why you’re being ignored, try to sit down with members of your team in individual, one-on-one meetings. Voice your concerns patiently, listen to their side of the story, and decide if what’s happening is a sign of your soon-to-be firing, or a misunderstanding. These meetings might even get someone to spill the beans on your situation, especially if you’re particularly close with them.
Out of the loop
Are you no longer being included on email chains? Have you heard the “you don’t need to be at this meeting” line one too many times? Your team may be steadily and systematically removing you from the inner circle as part of their attempt to decrease your level of involvement and responsibility. It’s a common way to avoid what they see as awkward questions about what you’ll be doing on the next big project, or why you’re not getting any major assignments.
Unfortunately, in this case, there’s not much you can do other than go to your boss and ask what’s going on. Barging into meetings you’re told not to attend isn’t going to win you any points, so instead go to your manager on their free time to ask about what you missed in discussions. How they reply will tell you enough about what’s actually going on. Meanwhile, use the extra out-of-meeting time to finish up your work for the day and stay productive.
A highly telling sign that you’re about to be replaced is that your company or team just hired someone with your exact skillset. It might even come with the request that you onboard and train them, with instructions that seem very familiar to your day job. If it’s the first sign you see of a replacement, consider your work environment and look for other signals. If they’re present, you might want to start looking for a new job.
Remember, however, that being replaced and being promoted can often feel like two sides of the same coin. The uncertainty of both can make a promotion feel like a replacement process when a person with your skillset is brought onto the team. If you’re doing a great job and getting praise from your team, and if the other signs aren’t present, chances are you’re about to hear some good news.
But if the replacement candidate comes at a time when things aren’t at their best, it might be a sign that you’re about to be let go. Remain professional, do your work, and onboard the new colleague to the best of your abilities, but spend all your free time conducting a job search. And go to your boss to ask about how you’ll be splitting responsibility with the new hire now that they’re onboarded and ready to join the team. You might end up hearing good news from the chat.
Out of nowhere complaints
Another big sign that you’re about to be replaced is a deluge of complaints from all sides. Whether it’s your colleagues complaining about your work, your manager giving you grief over your performance, or meetings where you have to explain why some person on your team has problems with you, you’ll start to feel swamped and overwhelmed by grievances. They might feel completely out of character and out of nowhere, and that’s a pretty clear sign of bad things to come.
When a team is about to replace one of its members, they need to justify it, both to themselves and in writing, as the right course of action.Your team and boss are making the case for why they need to get rid of you and building a paper trail that can prove you needed to go. In this case, it’s your best bet to stay calm and level-headed when facing accusations, state your case, and get everything in writing for yourself.
If you start feeling like you’re about to be replaced, the signs will be there in plain sight. Typically, it’ll follow a stretch of poor performance, or at a time when the company is going through downsizing. In these situations, it’s always better to be employed and looking for your next career move than to wait to lose your current one and be an unemployed job seeker. So if you’re sure that your pink slip is on its way, your best bet is to start a new job search immediately.