How to get through a stressful long-term discharge or termination from work?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total)
I have a non-tenure-track faculty position at a state university. A couple months ago, I was told told they wanted me to "make other plans" by the end of the semester or that they could "reduce my job security" (I interpreted this to mean quit-or-get-fired). She said that should would "Like to help me make other plans in that time," but said, "If not, we're prepared to take steps to reduce your job security." [The "or else" was more specific than that, but I'm redacting identifying information]. There is quite a lot of job security given my classification, so it would be quite a pain to get rid of me, administratively and bureaucratically. The Vice Director that delivered the news (my best friend in the office, but higher ranked than me) (by phone, ahem), apologizing. The main thing I kept saying during the phone call were, "Why didn't you TELL me?" (meaning about any concerns). I volunteered to do anything to improve (even though in perspective bizarre minor complaints seem pretextual), volunteering to work with other faculty or take classes to improve in any areas of concern. These pleas were met with, "The decision has already been made." The complaints were vague and strange and minor. Ultimately, she just kept repeating that I'm "not a good long-term fit." I did ask (more gently) if they thought they'd be able to get someone better than me in the position. She said, "Yes, she has more of a long-term interest in XXX work..." That sort of seemed to indicate that they already had my replacement picked out. The Vice Director says would check back in in a couple weeks to "find out my plans."
Seven weeks go by. She does not say "good morning" to or look me in the eyes (even though we work next to one another), much lest initiate a conversation with me about my plans. No one mentions the termination-ish-conversation.
In the meanwhile, I hire an employment lawyer (namely because the termination-ish-conversation came out of nowhere). When the Vice Director and the department HR person realize the lawyer's requested my personnel file, I get a Friday-morning email asking if I could meet in a few hours with the Director, the Vice Director, and the HR person for an "informational meeting" It wasn't a good day for me so I declined and suggested the following Wednesday. I got a long and detailed response from the HR person sort of outlining a version of what the Vice Director told her she said to me about two months ago, and saying I'm getting my position changed from a permanent one to a renewable contract based on unspecified "ongoing performance issues." They still haven't really articulated anything that looks like ongoing performance issues -- just small, strange allusions that amount to people not liking me. I'm not sure who doesn't like me. I think I'm generally likeable, and I've never argued with anyone. My performance reviews have all been good. My personnel file is all good except a memo to file from the day the Vice Director quasi-threatened-to-fire me.
Then, first thing Monday they demand a meeting. I say, "Ok, I'd rather get more notice for a personnel meeting, but sure." Then they cancel the meeting and reschedule it for Thursday.
So I ended up meeting with the HR person and Vice Director, and they wanted to make a single point: They are not terminating me, they are replacing my position with another position that does not have the job security that my current position has. It is not a termination, or dismissal. Why didn't they do all the things they are supposed to do under the policies before they dismiss someone for performance issues (you know, telling the person there is a problem, trying to work with the person, etc. etc.)? Oh, because they aren't terminating me. They are simply "reducing my job security."
The lawyer is supposed to write some sort of letter, something akin to proposing a separation? Of course, he's not as quick and responsive and in touch as I'd prefer, but he's doing ok, this is just a really slow process it seems.
My question is less legal (although if you've got something to contribute, I'd love to hear it) or sociological (again, any insight into this welcome, as I'm boggled).
MOST IMPORTANTLY I more so want to know how to handle the ongoing stress and uncertainty of the situation. I do not know if I'm getting fired, they want me to continue working there after having "reduced my job security," my lawyer is supposed to be getting something together now, and it's extremely uncomfortable at work especially with the Vice Director icing me all the time. I am consumed with the situation, and do not want to be. I don't want to overburden my partner with repetitive/redundant analyses.
I would like to know what I need to do to get through between three months and two years of real awkwardness at my place of employment. Are there mental tricks I should be using? Practices that I should be engaging in? Things I should be recording?
I do exercise and eat healthy, and have a strong mind, generally, so I am surprised this is taking the emotional toll on me that it is. I do have a therapist who I keep updated, and I do have some Lorazepam if it gets bad. I have a supportive and loving partner but hate to dominate conversations with this. Please advise on how I might get through this in the most mentally healthy way possible.
Thank you for your MeFite wisdom. This one is a bit of a doozy for me.