Losing or Leaving a Job
I've just received a warning from my employer, and I suspect I will be fired soon. What should I do?

If you find yourself on the receiving end of a disciplinary notice you consider to be unfair, there are several steps you should take to avoid losing your job.

First, be sure you understand exactly what work behavior is being challenged. Check your company handbook to see if there is a clear policy against the behavior. If you are unclear, ask for a meeting with your supervisor or human resources staff to discuss the issue more thoroughly.

If you disagree with allegations that your work performance or behavior is poor, you may want to ask for the assessment in writing, so you add a written clarification to be inserted in your personnel file. But you should do this only if you feel your employer's assessment is clearly inaccurate; otherwise, you may risk escalating a minor verbal reprimand into a more major incident that will be permanently recorded in your file. Take some time to reflect and perhaps discuss your situation with friends before you sit down to write.

Especially if you feel you are likely to be fired, see if any policy in the employee handbook will buy you time -- for example, the right to file an appeal -- so the controversy can die down and, if necessary, you can change your work habits.