No one wants to be fired, but is there any way to prevent it? Richard Busse, an employment lawyer and partner at the firm of Busse &...

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No one wants to be fired, but is there any way to prevent it?

Richard Busse, an employment lawyer and partner at the firm of Busse & Hunt in Portland, says there is. “In most cases, there are things you can do,” said Busse, author of “Fired, Laid Off Or Forced Out: A Complete Guide to Severance, Benefits and Your Rights When You’re Starting Over” (Sphinx, $14.95).

He bases his optimistic outlook on the fact that he has been an employment lawyer for 30 years, in which time he’s come up with what he calls “survival skills” to help employees avoid the ax.

And a good place to start, according to the attorney, is to recognize the warning signs that your number may be up unless you do something about it.

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“When your boss begins to avoid you, when you become anonymous and feel you’re invisible, when the boss seems to work around you, when you’re no longer complimented on anything you do, when you have no support for your work, when you can’t seem to do anything right, when you get unrelenting criticism — all are signs you may be fired,” Busse said.

Another sure sign your job is in jeopardy: When your department “goes through a reorganization and you’re the only person negatively affected by it.”

And having an outstanding work record alone may not protect you.

The attorney added that he now gets many inquiries from people who have been “good performers for years and now find themselves on the street nonetheless.”

But there are ways to forestall termination, Busse said.

“Identify the problem and address it with your supervisor,” he said. “But never ask if you’re going to be fired because that only reminds them that they can. And it makes them think perhaps you think they should.”

The most frequent problem, according to the attorney, is the employee who doesn’t show the proper respect.

A simple acknowledgment of the boss’s authority, showing you know who is in charge, can turn things around.

“In most cases, the boss will relent and leave you alone,” Busse said.

Perhaps communication is your problem — or a problem for your boss.

“Ask exactly what’s expected of you and do a better job of documenting your performance,” the lawyer advised.

Busse says it’s possible your boss is threatened by you, so you have to show your complete loyalty.

“And if you hear rumblings of a merger, make yourself more valuable than your co-workers, so that they’re the ones laid off and not you,” he said.

But what if your efforts fail? What do you do then? First of all, don’t resign, Busse advised.

You want to keep your job as long as possible. You might want to talk to a lawyer.

Or you might want to “engage in a political war and take on the boss by having a petition signed, or going to human resources. However, you may only hasten your demise if you lose. And you usually do.”

And above all, when faced with a firing, “be the very best employee you can be until the last day,” Busse said.

He knows firsthand how it feels to lose a job.

“I was hired as an apartment manager when I was a senior in college,” he said.

“I was getting married and was to start the job after the honeymoon. But when I showed up, I was told the building had been sold and since there was nothing in writing, there was no job.

“And that’s what made me want to become a lawyer.”

E-mail questions to Carol Kleiman at Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.