Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a verbal warning: I feel he has a vendetta against me personally, as others are not performing as well as me but nothing is said to them.
I was given a verbal warning regarding my work performance last week and I am shattered! I have been with the company six years and never had a problem with any manager before. We have had five managers in five years and this is the first time we have had a male manager. I feel he has a vendetta against me personally, as others are not performing as well as me but nothing is said to them.Why was he allowed to bring in a Team Leader to this meeting but I was not allowed anyone in to bear witness for me? He has this thing about being perfomance-managed, which I and other staff have had to undertake since January. The T/Leader said I was performing better, but she then denied it in front of him.He is making me a nervous wreck. After the verbal warning he sent me an email confirming the warning ( a copy of which he sent to HR at head office) using the hypocritical words of please and thank you, come and discuss etc.
But, when I tried to discuss things at the meeting he cut me off and I felt so shocked and flustered I cried all the way home in the car.I am thinking of seeking legal advice, which I cannot afford as I am the mother of twins and helping to pay our mortgage. I work 3 days a week due to my babies needing me. I just feel so traumatized am unable to sleep. My poor mum is worried sick about me and for that I feel guilty as she looks after my twin babies.I would look for another job but I really like my workmates and work locally so I am able to get home quickly to my children. Also, part-time local jobs are not easy to come by. What advice do you suggest?
Dear Worried Sick:
I’m very sorry things have been so tough at work and that you’re so emotionally upset by it. It appears you want to keep your job and that it is a good one for you, from the viewpoint of hours, pay, and the people with whom you work. You’ve done OK so far, through four other managers. It’s only since this current manager started that you’ve had problems.Given all of that, let me make some suggestions that might help you get through this and back to better feelings on and off the job. Some of these thoughts may be easier to accept and apply than others, but all have potential for improving things down the line.
1. This is a question for you to ask yourself, since it is essential to how you want to proceed: Can you improve your performance? If it is not humanly possible for you to do it, no matter how much you try, you may as well accept that fact and start looking for other work, while holding on there as long as possible. Then, quit before you are dismissed, so you don’t have to explain that when you apply for future work.If you CAN improve your performance, you will need to decide what that will require of you in the way of effort or sacrifice and simply do it. Your manager may not be there longer than the others and you can revert back when he leaves. He may lower his expectations over time. Or, you may find it easier to keep your work at the higher level as time goes on. But, at least you will have your job.
2. You say you have had five managers in five years. It may be that this manager has been told what has to be accomplished if he wants to stay. Or, he may want to make his mark before he goes. Such career goals may make his own managers happy with him, but they may end up making him very unpopular with employees.On the other hand, what is his ultimate job? It is to get the most productivity possible out of every employee, as long as it can be done legally. What he is doing at this stage is legal: He assigned performance goals and has given a verbal warning to you about your failure to meet those goals.The problem in this case seems to be that you thought you WERE meeting them. Your Team Leader is to blame for that it seems.
She apparently told you one thing and the manager something else. You can’t help that now, but at least now you know. I hope the one good thing that came out of the warning interview was a clear understanding of what you need to do more of or less of to be at an acceptable level. If not, you need to ask your T/L about it and make sure you’re clear on it.
3. You mentioned the fact that the T/L was in the verbal warning meeting. It’s appropriate that she would be, because she’s between you and your manager in your chain of command. He may have counseled with her too, telling her that if you don’t improve she will be written up as well. The truth is, it was her job all along to keep you informed about what the manager wanted and where you stood with that.It’s also her job to ensure that you are treated fairly in relation to others. But, even if you are not, you still can be held to a performance requirement. Mostly, it’s her job to help you fulfill the requirements through training, encouragement, support, compliments for good work and correction when work isn’t done so well.In many jobs when there is a new manager things change. The T/L is the one who can help employees adjust to those changes. It’s not easy, but that is a big part of the job and the extra salary.
4. This next thought is not meant harshly at all, but it will go a long way toward improving things for you: Promise yourself to not vent your unhappiness to your mother when you get home; or on the way home, on your cell phone! Allow yourself five minutes to say that you’re frustrated or irritated, but end on a statement that assures her you are going to find a way to handle it. She can’t help and she probably doesn’t understand all of the issues. Of course she sympathizes with you and thinks the manager is all wrong—but that doesn’t help you. In fact, it can make you even more unhappy as you feel wronged and hurt about it.Instead, go home, shower, change into something comfortable, have dinner with your family and play with the babies, then do something more fun with your mother. Watch TV, play a card game, go for a walk, do something active. But, don’t put onto her shoulders the fear and sadness you are feeling, since you know already that it bothers her and you feel guilty about that.One way to approach it is this way. End a complaint with, “Here’s what I’m thinking about doing when I get to work tomorrow. What do you think?”
That way she is part of problem solving instead of merely being a way to unburden. You probably won’t be able to use that line often, because usually venting at home is focused on getting understanding and sympathy not on solving the problem.One of the consistent bits of advice we give here on the Workplace Doctor site is to avoid talking at work about how bad work is and to avoid talking about work unhappiness home, at least past one or two sentences about it. We hear from many people who tell us that advice was a big help to them, because it let their minds relax for a few hours and it also helped them feel less like hopeless victims and more like adults who could deal with adversity. I expect you’re a fairly young adult and the pressures of motherhood and assisting your mother are considerable. Let go of the other pressures when you are at home, unless you can honestly say that thinking about them at home will help you find a solution.
5. You’re clearly worried about what will happen next, since you have received a verbal warning. Such warnings are given to prod an employee to improve so that the employee can keep his or her job. At least it won’t hurt to assume that in this case.Unless you have been told otherwise, you should assume your manager wants to keep you as an employee, but wants you to increase or improve performance. It could be that your part time status is viewed as creating problems. Even if you are more productive on the days you work than others are, you are there less days. Or, if you have taken much time off, there may be a feeling that your time for productivity is being shortened too much.
Consider thinking of this as a brand new job. You want it, you like the location, the people and the full-time, part-time status. The pay is enough to help you assist your family and move you forward with your life. Then, during the interview they tell you the performance standards, which are exactly as your manager has set. Would you have to decline the job? Or, could you make it happen as a trade-off for getting the job you want?If you would take it and give it a hearty try, do that in this job. Starting now, treat it as a new job in which you are trying to show that you deserve the work. Look your best, as though it’s a new job. Ask your supervisor for help if you need to find better ways to get work done. Observe others and see how they are working. Freshen up your work area if you have one. Don’t gossip or complain to others, but be the one who is encouraging and supportive.You may even find it helpful to ask coworkers for ideas everyone can use to increase the quality and quantity of work. Help everyone succeed and help yourself at the same time.If you talk to your manager, use the time to show that you have taken the warning to heart. It might gall you to do it, but that effort will be worth it. It impresses any manager or supervisor to realize that someone has learned from a counseling session. It could also be that your manager will come to realize he was unjust, if he has a chance to see you in a better situation.Keep in mind too, that most managers consider discussion about work to be about how the employee can and wants to improve. Most employees consider it a discussion if they argue about what the manager has told them needs to be improved. Keep your discussion about how to do good work and you won’t be so likely to be cut off in the middle of your conversation. That’s a reality, even though it’s a harsh one!
6. Finally, keep track of your own work as a way to document your improvement if that is needed for HR purposes some day. If your company has a performance evaluation form, get a copy and use it to document the ways in which you fulfill each element. Be able to compare your work now and later. Or, if you have previous performance evaluations, compare your work in the past with now. You may find that helpful if you ever need to go to HR to complain about how things are being handled.You may need to adapt all of this to your circumstances, but all of it can be helpful. You may not want to stay there with this manager in charge. Or, you may stay now but find something better down the line. However, as long as you intend to stay, you might as well do it in a way that makes you feel stronger in your mind and emotions. Best wishes with all of this. If you wish to do so, let us know how things are developing.
Tina Lewis Rowe