SOME PEOPLE NEED no indication as to the precarious nature of their job status. For instance, the team in Washington could face multiple reasons for a sacking - the war in Iraq, a sliding economy, rambunctious congressmen and second-in-commands who shoot their 'friends' during gated hunting trips. However, in the real world it is a little more subtle and extremely important to know if you are living on borrowed time. Not all employment situations work according to expectation, and the ability to sense approaching waves on the horizon can ensure you control the situation, should your days be numbered. By staying ahead of this curve you can take action to correct the situation, or hunt for another job. Have you achieved your Peter Principle? Are you a case study for Laurence Peter's theory, which states that staff are eventually promoted to their highest level of competence, after which further promotion raises them to a level at which they may become incompetent and where they have little or no chance of being promoted any further? Perhaps you are under-performing in a position at which you were once good? Have you received a disapproving appraisal from your boss, or missed out on your bonus? How about you and your manager? Have relations broken down? Are you now omitted from the usual Friday memo? The reasons for the above are many: from unhappiness with responsibilities to your individual principles colliding with those of the organisation; from changes in the firm's business objectives that have reduced your skills value to the organisation to a merger or buyout. Perhaps you have character traits that affect your ability to get on with colleagues. If staying is an option - and you want to stay - talk to your manager. Secure clarification on expectation and what is necessary to get the wheels back on the road. You should be aware you may have to take a demotion as a condition of continued employment. On the upside, this could be the chance you need to turn the situation around or, at a minimum, allow you time to conduct a job search and leave on your terms. If faced with this scenario, stay positive and remember your previous accomplishments. If you see your own reflection in the mirror of termination, you may wish to resign before being sacked. As such, the decision will have been yours, and most employers will speak well of you when questioned about your reason for leaving. With regard to your reasons for leaving, distance yourself from 'left to follow other interests' or 'take a break from working', as they both scream of 'termination'. Reasons such as 'lack of challenge', 'taking a new direction' and 'having achieved as much as you could in the organisation' are considerably more positive. If your choice is resignation, ensure your resume is updated and your networking list ready as you may be asked to leave immediately.