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3 phrases bosses use when they want to fire you

CNBC logo CNBC 7/11/2018 Courtney Connley

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"Getting fired" may conjure dramatic scenes of tears, shouting and phones being slammed down.

But according to bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch, most real-life terminations look nothing like the ones on TV.

"There's rarely boardroom drama or a public display," Welch tells CNBC Make It. "And there's never tense music. Nope, in real life, being 'let go' tends to be a rather quiet affair. In fact, sometimes the warning signs are so subtle that many people don't even realize they're in imminent danger."

But if you pay attention, and listen closely, you can often see the writing on the wall. If your manager uses one of the following three phrases, Welch warns you might be about to get fired.

1. Could you put that in writing?

Being asked to put something in writing could be a red flag that your boss is gathering all of the materials they need to justify firing you.

"The minute a boss asks you to document anything," Welch says, "they are stuffing your folder to facilitate your termination process."

2. I think we should bring HR into this.

If the presence of a human resources representative is ever requested to deal with a situation, Welch says you should be "very afraid" about your standing within the company.

"The minute you have trained professionals in the middle of conversations with your boss or colleagues, think 'divorce attorney,'" she says. "Understand that HR is in the room to start the negotiation towards a 'conscious uncoupling.'"

3. You're not a good fit.

Companies today are looking for more than just talented workers who can get the job done. They're also looking for employees who can mesh well with an organization's mission, culture and values. That's why, Welch says, any conversation you have about your fit within a company should be treated as a warning sign that your boss may not like you.

In fact, she explains that "lack of fit" could be another way of saying, "you're causing too much friction here," or more plainly, "people just don't like working with you."

"A lot of managers use 'lack of fit' as the magical potion for dismissal, since it can't really be disputed," she says. "It's all in the eye of the beholder, and if that beholder is your boss, you're out of luck."

Welch says if it sounds like she's encouraging you to be paranoid about your job, well, in the words of Intel founder and former CEO Andy Grove: "Only the paranoid survive."

"The truth is getting fired in real life isn't the same as it is on TV," she warns. "It's quieter. You have to listen for it."

Suzy Welch is a co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator and public speaker. Think you need Suzy to fix your career? Email her at gettowork@cnbc.com.


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