13 Signs You Are Being Set Up To Fail At Work (What Should You Do, Next?)

Last updated on August 12th, 2022 at 07:35 pm

Perhaps you feel someone is setting you up at work due to your incompetence for this job or recent conflicts with ‘that someone’- your superior or employer. 

It’s possible that they’ll fire you, but right now there’s no reason. So, they set that up anyhow.

You should plan for this.

First, find out if there are evident signs that you are being set up to fail by your boss.

So that, you have your plan in place before things happen that can harm your career, reputation, and work motivation.


But, Why Are You Being Set Up At Work?

In general, employers or managers want their employees to maximize their skills and expertise. 

So why are they doing things to set you up for failure? 

Are they jealous? Probably, yes. Are they intimidated, possible? 

But, there are more reasons why they would set up such situations that make your job difficult. And doing so, they aim to make you fail, in the end. 

These are a few possible reasons why.

  • Due to your increasing roles, your manager sees you as a threat.
  • There are some personal issues between you and your manager. 
  • You are not considered a team player by your manager. 
  • Your contribution to the business isn’t good enough or below average. 
  • You behave unprofessionally at work all the time. 
  • You have a really hard time adjusting to the work environment. 
  • You do not connect well with the work and the company goals. 
  • Your employer or manager does not need your skills or position. 
  • The position or role you hold is outdated and adds no value.
  • Your employer doesn’t want to see you in the office anymore.  
  • Your boss and you have an ego clash. So, someone has to go; they’re the boss. That means it’s you who need to leave. 

It cannot be just one reason.

But there must be at least two reasons that your boss wants you gone, and one of them is proving that you are failing at work. 


13 Signs You’re Being Set Up To Fail At Work

Not all terminations are unexpected. Almost always, there’s a reason. 

And, when there isn’t a valid reason, it’s common practice for bosses and employers to set you up for failure to fire you.

So, you should be on the lookout for such signs as early as possible, so that you have a backup plan rather than quit on a whim.

1. Your boss starts to complain a lot about you.

The truth is, you have no idea why, but recently your boss has been picking on the smallest details of your behavior and work. 

Maybe your work quality has degraded as well. And if so, you need to correct that as well. 

But, if each communication with your boss is only argumentative or if it seems like they are extremely dissatisfied, it could be that your boss set you up to be fired.

2. You are completely excluded from team discussions.

Evidently, you are not being treated as a team player by your manager. 

You may not be invited to important meetings or not asked to participate in social events, all signs that your boss is ignoring you with a purpose.

Perhaps they don’t see you as a team player or they don’t want to work with you.

3. You’ve been downgraded from your position.

When they plan to fire you, they begin to lessen their dependence on you.

They no longer rely on you for important decisions or any accountability that matters to their business.

Probably, because your boss or manager sets plan to terminate you. 

The decrease in work, responsibility, or duties is a bad sign, as it shows that you are at risk of losing your job.

Check other: Signs Your Boss Is In Trouble (Maybe He’ll Be Fired)

4. You have to directly report to the employer or management.

Suddenly, you are no longer reporting to the team leader, but a higher authority.

Maybe your performance is not satisfactory. And as you report directly to them, they want to check your performance closely.

It could be for your improvement or to pressure you to fail.

Well, this is your chance to follow their guide and improve your impression. But if you don’t, they already have a reason to fire you.

5. You’re assigned work that doesn’t match your expertise.

There is no purpose and value to doing the work, they assign you.

The employer is more likely to put you in a position where you feel your role has no value to the organization, especially when you are set up to fail.

This pressure makes you feel unworthy of yourself, leading you to give up.

Despite knowing that you aren’t the right fit for a particular role when your boss set you for one role that’s a sign that you’re being set up to fail at work. 

6. Your boss and your peers have a negative attitude toward you.

There is a lot of hate and criticism from your boss and his followers.

Possible that they’re gossipping behind your back about your weak performance or they’re literally feeling intimidated by you at work

You are seeing that they are teaming up and openly targeting you with criticism and negative comments in order for you to fail at your job.

7. Your boss is trying to show that your position is not important.

The boss or employer who has already decided to fire you becomes manipulative.

By doing that, they make you feel unworthy of their team or company. 

They may keep you involved in something unrelated to your job so you can have less time to do your regular job and complete your responsibilities.

Don’t waste your time on unnecessary work, it’s a sign that someone is trying to set you up at work

Check other: Signs You’re Working for A Poorly Managed Company

8. Your boss is more interested in finding your mistakes than praising you.

Your boss appears to be watching everything you do, you’re being micromanaged. 

A good boss challenges you so that you can improve.

Whereas the bad boss puts you under pressure by such challenges that are only to set you up for failure.

Apart from your co-workers, your boss keeps a close watch on your performance, ordering you to report to him every single day what you did.  

And particularly about what mistakes you made.

9. Your boss expects unreasonable work demands that no one can meet.

Your boss has assigned you a new assignment that is seemingly impossible not just for you, but for anyone in the company to complete. 

Their expectations of work are much higher than the time and conditions they offer.

This makes it impossible to work, thereby putting you under pressure at all times. 

Essentially, these are the clear signs that you are being set up to fail at work, and it’s how they gather evidence against you to prove your incompetence.  

10. Your boss forces you to work alone without any help.

Along with the unrealistic work demands, your boss has also refused to support you. 

You’re totally isolated by your team, both for group activities and work support.

By forcing you to get everything done, by yourself, your boss is setting you up for failure. 

They never show any supportive nature nor give any guidance, as they provide to others. 

Check other: Signs Your Job Is Slowly Killing You (With, Ways To Fix That)

11. Your boss takes credit for your work. But, blame you for any mistakes.

A blame-shifting is the most common sign that your employer is setting you up. 

They never give you enough motivation and encouragement to do great work.

But, they never hesitate to take credit for any great work that you do.

Such unfair treatment from bad bosses is their way of showing that they are more concerned about their role in the company than with yours.

And to keep their position, they may push you to any limit. 

12. You are assigned to a crucial and risky project.

Your boss trusts your abilities when you are prompted to do work with extra value. 

Well, it looks like an increment. On the other hand, some managers use it as a weapon to lower someone’s reputation and morale. 

By giving the work that is very much crucial when you’re not ready for that, the boss or manager set you up for failure at this project.

Thus if you fail at it, they can successfully kick you out of the company or damage your reputation at work. 

13. You simply feel that in your gut that you’re being set up at work.

You feel something fishy is happening as you notice odd behavior around you. 

Your boss or manager, the way they treat and look at you, is no longer positive or supportive.

There is some jealousy and toxic attitudes toward you. 

It feels uneasy about them, and you get to sense those negative vibes in your gut.

You better believe this is a sign that someone is setting you up to be fired from this job.


What To Do When You’re Being Set Up To Fail By Your Boss or Employer

Based on the above signs, you might have already suspected that your employer or boss wants you gone. 

However, waiting for it to happen does nothing to save you. In the long run, it’s about your career and work ethic. 

So, what should you do when you feel that way.

First of all, relax and follow these steps to prepare your backup. 

1. Make sure the proof of your performance is clear.

Yes, you need to document everything.

Don’t ever be so vulnerable and keep all your proof of performance by yourself.

It will keep you safe from fake proofs or set-up plans. 

Check other: Signs You Are Not Respected At Work

2. Ask your boss for some suggestions and the reasons.

If that’s your boss or employer who sets you up for failure, simply ask them what’s the issue.

Tell them you’re willing to change and are trying to improve.

It is important that you both share each other’s expectations and needs openly to prevent negativity like termination. 

3. If that’s your fault, work hard to be more effective.

In the end, they are your manager and they are supposed to provide guidance, especially when it’s hard for you to fulfill your responsibilities.

When you ask for suggestions, you are presenting yourself as a responsible employee who cares about his contribution.

It’s truly good reason to say no to the extra work or something that clearly seems to plan against you. 

Let them know you’re well aware of what they’re up to.

4. Never let toxic office culture damage your reputation.

You are of course going to be angry when such unfair treatment is extended to you.

Being professional and managing situations calmly can give you a chance to win.

You have done a great job in this company and already have a reputation. But, don’t let it go to waste, following your emotions alone.

When you do that, you make your manipulative boss a success. 

Check other: Signs Your Employees Are Unhappy

5. It’s time to start looking for a new job.

You should always be prepared with backup, and you should never sit around waiting to be fired.

When you notice any signs that you are being set up to fail at work, especially by your employer… Better start looking for another job.

As long as you are still working, it is a good idea to look for another one. 


There is no need to be dependent on anyone. The boss or manager is there to support and guide you in your work.

However, when you feel that you’re being set up for failure by your superior, you should do something about it.

Not correct them, but ensure your enthusiasm and passion for this work. Take your stand when someone is trying to bring you down.

Be confident and show them you are capable of protecting your work motivation and career goals.

Since you built your reputation through your work, you will never let anyone destroy it ever.