When The Leaves Fall At The Job, or, It’s Over, Bubbie!


My class was a disaster and I knew my job at one school was over the day my shiny new “classroom assistant” sauntered into my classroom to “help”. The Administration never informed me about what was happening. The third performance review was horrific and I knew in my bones and from overheard conversations from my students that I was actually training my replacement. “All the leaves were brown and the sky was grey”, as the Mamas and the Papas song would put it. The HR “chipper” called me in soon after that. I guess they were also the ones who came up with the idea that I pack up my tools while the class was away on the Halloween pumpkin picking field trip. It would look like I disappeared one afternoon; vacuumed up, as it were.

The reality is that careers and jobs have life cycles just like people and software do. There are distinct ways of knowing that it is definitely autumn in your job. Know the mulch maker is near when you see:
1. Drop in the environmental temperature of relationships with supervisor and coworkers – Suddenly, you are paying for your own coffee and nobody chooses to sit with you at break or lunch.

2. Withering looks/overexposed to the sun – Being micromanaged – You are watched more closely and criticized more frequently and/or publicly for mistakes.

3. Becoming “Pot bound”/feeling “cramped” –No growth in raises or increases for you, but coworkers start bragging about their “new buds”– responsibilities that carry new titles with corresponding higher pay– and flashing the bags from shopping in upscale stores after lunch.

4. Being reclassified as a “weed” – Assigned to major in minors –   Teams wait until your day off to vote on your getting the project nobody else wants.

5. Relocated to a sunless, windowless space in the office – Suddenly, your desk is the one off the regular office traffic path– like the table next to the restroom in a restaurant– “in the booth, in the back, in the corner, in the dark”, as Flip Wilson used to say.

6. Falling “out of favor” – Being “forgotten” or left off email distributions – Given the wrong or no fertilizer–going unnoticed–or, the office becomes the “wrong soil” for optimum productivity. Certain information needed to do a job never gets to you anymore. Coworkers are always talking about something commonly known to everyone except you.

7. Not invited to “Flower Show” meetings – Since you never get the emails anymore you’re the only one not in the conference room at certain times, so opportunities dry up to be seen or acknowledged by the team for excellence at work. You are not dreaming. It IS unusually quiet at the same times of the week.

8. Asked to cultivate a new plant you suspect is your replacement – You are assigned to “show the ropes” to a new person who asks suspicious questions about your present job. This is not a mentoring relationship.

Just as the show of fall is turning leaves, certain signs at work is the “show” that means career winter is definitely approaching. It’s time to start planning to sow in another plot. Book a few discreet networking coffees–start searching the seed catalogue–because the marker is up to be the next “plowed under” in the present garden.