Does It Sound Like My Job Is In Jeopardy?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about demeanor: I was told that staff had said I had been abrupt and nervous acting lately.

I had an appointment with my Director of Nursing for a work appraisal. Instead I was told that staff had said I had been abrupt and nervous acting lately. I’ve had recent work stress so I admitted I’ve been nervous but denied being abrupt. She also raised that I was reportedly abrupt at handover(a year ago).I feel more stress, picked on and humiliated. I am not abrupt to colleagues. I have a recent injury but still maintain normal duties. Are they trying to get rid of me?


Worried and Stressed

Dear Worried and Stressed:

Your essential question is whether or not you are being targeted for firing. There is no way to know that for sure. It doesn’t sound as though you were being told you have X days to improve, or else–or warned that you could lose your job. Nevertheless, the fact that you were counseled about an issue would indicate a cause for concern.

So, even though this goes past your basic question, let me provide some thoughts that might be helpful to you and will make it more likely you can keep your job if it is in jeopardy.

1. I get the impression you think your work appraisal should not have included conversation about how you are viewed by coworkers. However, part of any appraisal is to talk to employees about perceived problems. It was correct for her to bring up the issue of you being considered nervous acting and abrupt. It sounds as though she gave you a chance to explain your viewpoint, which was that you don’t think it is true.It would seem, based on the rest of your statements that you may not be interacting in a positive way with coworkers and your Director of Nursing. I don’t know if that is caused in part by unfairness and bad treatment by your coworkers and supervisors or if they are mostly responding to what they view as unpleasantness on your part. Probably it is a bit of both! I think you are correct to be concerned about your future there if things don’t improve.

2. Good work involves both behavior (how you act and react to others) and performance (how you get your assigned and self-initiated work done). Just getting a job done is only half of the picture. Just being easy to work with is also only half. Both aspects are necessary.I don’t know what kind of nursing you do, but if you are around patients at all, they may be feeling the same thing your coworkers are feeling and that is certainly not good! You may not intend to be abrupt, but if you have felt picked on at work you may have reacted in that way as a defensive mechanism and didn’t realize how it sounded. That could carry over into other communications as well. The key point here is that being courteous, communicating fully, making good eye contact and actively engaging with others, is part of good work, not separate from it.

3. You say you had an injury but are still coming to work. That’s commendable, but may be contributing to your negative feelings about work and your ability to be as positive and pleasant as you should be or normally would be.Is it possible some aspect of your treatment has caused your nervousness and feelings of anxiety and unhappiness? Or, did you come back to work too soon and you need more time to heal?

4. You mention feeling bullied, picked on and humiliated. You didn’t give examples of that so I don’t know what has happened. If you can point to specific things that have interfered with your ability to be effective, perhaps you can talk about those things to your supervisor and ask for help. If your reasons for feeling that way are because your Director talked to you about complaints, you will probably have to just accept that she is doing her job by letting you know. It isn’t bullying to tell someone about a work problem, even if the person thinks the accusations are incorrect.

5. Consider asking for another meeting with your Director. This time have the tone of wanting to solve problems and look for solutions for the future. I often suggest that employees ask four questions: 1.) What am I doing that you want me to keep doing exactly as I do now? 2.) What should I do less of? 3.) What should I do more of? 4.) What should I never do again?Those are tough questions to ask, but at least you will find out where you stand. You may also want to ask about your future. Say that you value your work and want to improve but are concerned about how you are viewed. If you think your coworkers have done unfair things, have specific examples to give. If you think you are actually being a pleasant person in trying circumstances, have examples of that as well.

6. I realize it will be awkward to make changes in your communications with those you’re not dealing so well with right now; especially if they haven’t been nice to you in the past. However, if you are already acting the right way you won’t have much to change. If you have to redo much of your communications methods and style that will be an indicator that perhaps your director was correct, as much as you had not wanted it to be.Start by making eye contact occasionally, smiling appropriately, talking personally instead of only about the basics of work, and relaxing and enjoying your profession and your workplace.If there are some coworkers you like better than others, reach out to them in a professional way and engage them in conversations about work improvement, solving problems, how things have been going and what is coming up and similar professional topics.Be at least courteous to everyone.Being described as abrupt probably means you say the absolute minimum, with a tone that is not encouraging or friendly. Focus on expanding your responses a bit and using a tone that indicates your openness to others.

7. It isn’t normal or healthy to feel nervous and stressed all the time. That’s bound to have an effect on your work and your life away from work. Whatever the cause of those feelings, I hope you will seek the assistance you need to help you regain your more comfortable, positive outlook. All of that goes past your question about whether or not your employer is looking for reasons to fire you. However, some of it may help you get to a place where you won’t have to worry about that at all! Best wishes to you as you move forward in your life and career.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.