Had A Final Warning, But Don’t Know Why!

Question:

My husband started working for a large company about six months ago. After he started, he was promoted to a different department where he is now the only employee. He has no formal supervisor, but takes direction from two different people. He has recently received a “final warning” from the senior of these two people for coming in “late” at 8:30 am (she claims he should be in by 7). However, my husband has an e-mail from the other supervisor stating he can be in between 8 and 8:30!!

His first “warning” was about a week ago, and they said he should be in by 8. The final warning came today, after he’s been arriving at 6:30 every morning. Furthermore, when has was hired, the company promised to support his educational goals, and now they are saying that they no longer want to support him because it requires “too much time off” (two days a semester for campus visits). It’s clear that they want him out, but we can’t figure out why — he has no official job description, so they can’t say he isn’t doing his job. He has no supervisor, so the person who did his review has no day-to-day interaction with him. What is his legal recourse in this situation? To whom should he complain about this level of harassment, and would it do him any good? Thanks

Signed,

Between A Rock And A Hard Place


Answer:

Dear Between A Rock And A Hard Place:

This is certainly an unfortunate situation, but it would not constitute harassment in a legal sense, nor violate any laws. I agree that apparently your husband’s company feels that he is not the employee they wanted when they hired him. I wonder if that is why he is working with two people who seem to be keeping a very close eye on him?

That alone seems unusual. Rarely does someone get promoted right away, into a situation like that, followed by warnings about punctuality and re-negotiation about educational time-off. Instead, that sounds more like a reassignment to provide closer guidance and reassessment of the privileges the employee will have.

Clearly, something has gone wrong, either in the company, in the difference between your husband’s understanding and the reality of the job, or in some other area.

Now, it’s up to your husband to find out why he is not being successful there. If this is a large company, he will be able to find that out–at some level. Let me say this as an issue of honesty with you: You are not in the workplace with your husband and his co-workers or senior employees or supervisors. So, there are many issues about which you are not aware. The reports you are getting will either unconsciously or purposely be filtered as a result of your husband’s concerns, fears, upset, anger, and worry about how you perceive the situation.

Having said that, it may be that your husband is getting the brunt of two people who are warring with each other, and using him as way to show the other to be a problem. Or, it may be that your husband’s supervisors are being given different guidelines by THEIR supervisors.

However, those two employees DO have supervisors, so, they are not acting on their own. That’s why I suspect there are issues that either your husband is confused about, or that you’re not hearing about.

The first thing your husband should do is to compile all the written information he has that provides him with work guidance, then, ask to meet with both of the people who supervise him. If he wants to keep this job he should say so emphatically: “I wanted to meet with both of you to make sure you know that I absolutely want to do well and keep this job. Apparently I am not working in the way the company wants, but I hope you can explain to me fully what it is I need to be doing differently.” Then, he can show them the written directions and guidelines he has, and discuss what he has been told verbally, and ask to have it explained to him, what he should be doing differently. If that doesn’t get him some clear explanations, he should go to the person over those people, and then up every level until he finds someone who will be honest with him about the issues. He has nothing to lose, because apparently he will not keep his job anyway if this continues.

He may want to start first with the HR section, instead of talking to his supervisors. They would have approved the warnings, so they may have a clearer picture for him.

He could explain the situation he is in and ask them to meet with him and those to whom he reports. Or, he could ask them what their view is of what he needs to be doing differently.

HR is there to protect the organization, but they also usually want to ensure that employees are being treated fairly, according to company policies. But he needs to do all of this in the next few days. Final warnings don’t allow leeway! It could be as simple as saying to the person who gave him a warning, “Jan, I’m losing sleep over this situation, and would appreciate it if you would tell me clearly what I did wrong and what I should do in the future. I want to keep this job, and I will work to do what that takes. But right now I’m really confused.”

As I look at your description of the situation,from the view of an outsider, it makes me wonder if your husband has fully understood the concerns and processes of this company. If not, he needs to ask. If he does know and simply doesn’t want to keep the job, but doesn’t want to admit that to you, the two of you need to talk honestly about it.

Almost certainly there IS more to it than you know. And you will never know all of the details, because you aren’t in the workplace to get those facts. But hopefully your husband will take the initiative to find out and report them to you without any censoring of the details.

Honestly, it may be too late for him to repair the problems. But if he could, he might be able to not only keep his job, but could show his employers that he handled a difficult situation very well.

Best wishes to you on this. If you have the time and wish to do so, please let us know what happens.

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.