Can I Be Fired For Refusing To Attend A Meeting?

Question:

So far I have received two emails from my manager and the HR manager to meet in the HR office for a discussion. When I received the first email, I asked both of them what is the meeting about. I have had meetings in the past with HR and a manager and what I thought the meeting would be about was something completely different and I was put on the spot and forced to comply with something that I was not expecting. The Manager responded to my email that since I did not attend the first meeting then it is rescheduled and the meeting is about my performance and it’s important that I attend. I didn’t feel comfortable going. I refused again. This same Manager has tried to intimidate me in another past meeting. I asked if I could get a detailed outline of what will be discussed then I will review and respond. I just do not want to be in a closed room with HR or my manager while they rattle off everything that I am doing wrong. I feel HR sticks up for management. I have no advocate to address how I am treated. Can they fire me if I refuse to attend this meeting? I feel stressed and anxious over this. I’m not sure what is in store for me when I go in on Monday. What are my options and how do I get across in an appropriate way that I do not like how I have been treated?

Signed,

Refusing to Meet


Answer:

Dear Refusing to Meet:

I don’t think you have many options. You were hired to do a job and your superiors were hired to monitor whether your work conforms and contributes. In short, are you doing what is assigned and doing it effectively? Your superiors requested a meeting to review your performance. From here, it seems to me to be within their authority to do that. You are obligated to attend alone, unless you have a contract that specifies that you can have a representative with you, providing you are a member of a union, or should the issue be a matter of discrimination. Possibly you can request that a co-worker or a clergyman accompany you, but I’m uncertain whether that would be in your favor in their eyes. What do you really want? I assume you want your work to be seen as adding value to your employing organization. You don’t want what you do to discounted and/or misunderstood. You already appear to have sent a negative uncooperative message by failing to meet and emailing your manager and HR that you should know the agenda of the meeting. Now you must decide whether to add refusal to attend a meeting, a refusal that can be interpreted as an order is insubordination, to whatever else might be against you. So get your ducks in a row. Agree to meet. When meeting with your manager and HR, learn precisely what is their concern. If you see their criticism of your performance as unfounded, request a thorough investigation. Be cooperative even if you think their concern is unreasonable. Don’t be defensive, especially over small matters. Don’t allow anger to overcome your good judgment. Think in terms of problem solving, both on your part and on what might improve the quality of your work group. Bring with you a list of your accomplishments and previous positive evaluations if you have them. As preparation for such a meeting, you might pretend you were the manager/owner of your workplace. With that mindset what would you propose to cut wasted supplies, duplication, energy, time, and money? What would you like to happen if you owned your firm? Thinking and talking with that mindset will be much more to your advantage that thinking like an adversary, one wary of management. It might be hard to see this coming confrontation as an opportunity to think WEGO in light of a past meeting. Nevertheless, at the risk of you thinking my advice is pie in the sky, I will conclude with my signature: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Isn’t that what might make your job and working life better; to find ways to work through conflict and find ways that make all concerned more satisfied at your workplace?

William Gorden