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Help! I think my boss is going to try to fire me tomorrow!
December 4, 2007 5:17 PM   Subscribe

After a short encounter with my boss today I have reason to believe that I will be fired tomorrow. In this particular situation, would it be better to quit or be fired? (sorry, kids - semi-lengthy post!)

I have been at my job for five months total – two months as a temp and three months as an employee. My supervisor has been a difficult person with passive aggressive and dismissive tendencies since I started. In fact, I was initially only supposed to temp there for one month and after being told s/he would hire me if I did a good job, s/he decided to have me temp another month to see if was I “a right fit”. The agency literally had to twist my supervisor's arm to try to figure out why s/he had not made a decision by the end of the second month, which s/he finally did moments before going on a month long vacation.

I have fulfilled my job responsibilities and then some, yet my supervisor has continuously been horrible to work with. I know it is not just me s/he is this way with, but I have reason to believe that s/he is particularly unfair in his/her supervision of me. I know that s/he was good friends with the person who held my position previously (I will call her “Jane”) and believes that that person left because of political reasons brought on by my supervisor’s new supervisor who s/he consequently openly loathes. My supervisor continually implicitly and explicitly reminds me that “I am no Jane” in how I perform my job. S/he has openly declared this in front of other coworkers on at least one occasion known to me, much to my embarrassment. I have met with my supervisor’s supervisor to express my concerns from the time I was temping, and it seems like that person's hands are tied for now.

Because of a restructuring at my place of work, the majority of my job responsibilities have shifted to a different department and though my supervisor has told me from the beginning that my position would not be eliminated, there is a very likely chance that my position indeed will be eliminated. I do not mind this as my favorite responsibilities were those that I no longer have and I have been actively sending out resumes for the past month. I have adapted the stance with these prospective employers that “my job is being eliminated due to internal restructuring.”

I received two days of training for this position which was insufficient and I am the first to acknowledge that most of my early mistakes made were likely a result of this. I have gone out of my way to communicate clearly the information that I need to do my job and to avoid having to ask questions of how to do anything more than once. However, even now there are always new things to learn. When I ask my supervisor for clarification, the standard procedure is to email my boss for clarification, check in a few days later, email the question again and finally corner him/her to get an answer. I maintain professionalism in this though I think it is completely ridiculous. This can take anywhere from three days to 3 weeks and has resulted in some crisis mode acting to get the job done.

I thought perhaps this was an accident until the past two weeks where this has happened in situations that upset other coworkers (and the responsibility ultimately came back to me) and situations that made me look completely unprofessional (such as showing up fifteen minutes late to a meeting that I was supposed to be at but was never informed about/invited to). I now believe my supervisor is trying to get me to quit my position and I am pretty sure s/he is going to try to fire me if that does not work. I have communicated my frustrations to the staffing firm who will put me at the top of their list to temp again if I am fired, just in case.

I have a meeting with my supervisor tomorrow to discuss “a whole list of things brought to her attention about my work that are of concern”. I asked if s/he could give me a heads up as to what might be discussed so I could think about it to which I was told that “there will be no thinking necessary”. S/he refused to discuss it further with me at work today.

I know I need to leave. I also know how difficult it can be to find a job when one is unemployed.

What do I do now? Please help!
posted by lolalivia to Work & Money (24 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, being fired usually qualifies you for unemployment whereas quitting generally doesn't.
posted by edgeways at 5:21 PM on December 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


Let them fire you. It is a very old employer tactic to essentially force someone to sign a letter of resignation under threat of being fired if they don't. If you do this, you forfeit unemployment benefits and a number of other legal protections.

Just sit tight in the meeting - my father's advice for meetings like this was to imagine your boss is naked, it sort of defuses the tension. Say nothing, don't agree to resign, and if they fire you, ask for it in writing, including the reason for termination and the date to expect your last paycheck.

Otherwise, you're circulating your resume and have talked to your old temp firm, you've done everything that makes sense. This is a slow time of year to try to get hired what with the holidays coming up, so don't expect too much before January.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:26 PM on December 4, 2007


Remain as professional as possible. Say as little as possible.

If they fire you, don't be surprised if they dispute your unemployment claim on the basis that you were fired for cause.

Don't make a scene. Don't bother arguing your case. Don't resign.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 5:48 PM on December 4, 2007


It doesn't sound like there is much you can do at this point. If it were me I'd get fired over quiting for the unemployment just for the security. You can try to put someone else on your resume that isn't your supervisor, another manager that's seen your situation. For the meeting tomorrow just keep your cool and let them say that crap, it's all lies and doesn't mean anything. S/he wants to see you squirm, so be comfortable and unaffected by what they say. When it starts getting serious just think about not having to deal with them any more! Good luck, I've been in that situation and it's not fair and really makes life suck. I hope your next gig rocks, it's gonna be better than this one, for sure! You've got some serious good job karma comin' your way.
posted by Craig at 5:54 PM on December 4, 2007


Until you know, it's better to wait. You don't know what they're going to talk to you about. Should they decide to fire you, let them. Don't quit, you'll lose out on unemployment.
posted by Kioki-Silver at 6:13 PM on December 4, 2007


Is this a company and department that can justify the cash outlay? Presumably, they just paid your temp agency a big sum to hire you. They may be reluctant to fire you so quickly, if only for budgetary reasons-- it certainly can happen, but it's a deterrent.

However, if they can get you to quit within some stipulated period, the agency will forfeit their fee and you can count on no temp work from any agency in a wide radius. If you decide to quit, look into how it will affect the agency that placed you if might need to go back to them for work.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:21 PM on December 4, 2007


Let them fire you. While quitting might feel cathartic, don't let them screw you out of potential unemployment. It can also screw you if you're married and need to switch to your spouse's benefits (quitting isn't a life-altering event, being fired is).

Honestly, from what you say, it sounds like if you do get fired, it's probably for the best. Good luck tomorrow.
posted by tastybrains at 6:23 PM on December 4, 2007


No one wants the stress that comes with unemployment, but given that the temping firm will put you at the top of the list, once you are unemployed AND given the general stress you are now experiencing, the peace of mind that you will have, once clear of this toxic environment may be worth it.

I suspect you will not be fired tommorrow. Rather, it will be a long process to see who will outlast the other. Is it worth it?

Only you can decide. Good luck.
posted by cmh0150 at 6:38 PM on December 4, 2007


I have met with my supervisor’s supervisor to express my concerns from the time I was temping, and it seems like that person's hands are tied for now.

Meet with PHB's boss again, express your concerns that PHB intends to fire you, and ask them if they will be willing to attend this meeting "because I've heard that I'm to be let go in a restructuring, which is fair enough, but PHB has some serious personal issues with me due to the Jane matter, and I am worried about his/her ability to do this professionally.". Make PHB fire you in front of the boss he/she "openly loathes".

If PHB is good at office politics, s/he will just say "The position's being restructured, we're letting you go. Thanks, and goodbye." In which case, thank him/her and shake hands, thank PHB's boss for coming along, and leave quietly.

However, if they're the kind of ass they seem to be, they won't be able to restrain themselves from making the whole procedure personal. In which case, too bad, there's nothing you can really do, so forget about your financial troubles and have some fun with it. Tell yourself that PHB is insane. Whatever stupid things PHB says, ask "What does that mean exactly, in terms of my work?" and glance at PHB's boss as PHB starts to answer. Any comparisons with Jane? How long did Jane work with PHB? "Would you consider your relationship with Jane professional?" "What date was that on, that you asked me to do that, please?" Again, glance at the overboss. PHB needs to be made to suspect that PHB's boss is using this interview with you to gather reasons to fire PHB.

If there's anything PHB says that you can quickly and easily refute, do so. "You did not inform me that I was required in that meeting until 15 minutes after it had started." Etc. "Bill from accounts will be able to verify that the invoice was received a month ago, as he gave it to me. It was on your desk for signature two days after it arrived. Bill tells me that he didn't receive it back from you for three weeks."

Here's a good line, if it's even partially true, to say in front of PHB and PHB's boss: "I have spent a great deal of my time catching up on various things that Jane left unfinished/undocumented." Bringing up the question of Jane in front of the two of them, especially if PHB has been wound up a little and is a bit red in the face.

At those sort of meetings, somebody is in control, somebody's going to be shouting or bursting into tears, and somebody's there to referee. Your role is the first, then the third; the overboss's role is the third, then the first; PHB thinks his/her role is the first, but actually, it's the second. Visualize the encounter proceeding like that.

And next time you get a job, join your union.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:48 PM on December 4, 2007 [14 favorites]


Concur with much said above: wait it out, they have invested in you (paying the temp agency to release you) so whoever is not valuing this "investment" will not be looked upon well.

Breathe. Let them swing at you (if they are going to) or not. Answer questions politely, accurately, concisely. State facts as emotion free as you possibly can.

If they want to fire you, let them. Tomorrow, go immediately to the unemployment office and file (assuming this all goes down). After filing, go have brunch. Sharpen the resume. Call contacts. Prepare for interviews.

You will be OK.
posted by zerobyproxy at 6:53 PM on December 4, 2007


Only downside here if you get fired is that you might have to fudge information on future employment apps ("have you ever been fired from a job?") or you might have to tell the truth and that might mean getting disqualified in the future. What's worth more? The unemployment now or the *I was fired* explanation you might have to give in the future? Just make sure to factor that in. That being said, I agree with what other people are saying here.
posted by Happydaz at 7:27 PM on December 4, 2007


The unemployment benefits situation will depend on what country/jurisdiction you live in.

If I were you I would get fired. But I actually kind of hope one way or another you leave there effective tomorrow, because that sounds like a completely toxic environment. You sound very conscientious and articulate and I'm sure you can do a lot better.
posted by loiseau at 8:12 PM on December 4, 2007


Boy. If you don't get fired ... well, good on you for already being in the search.
posted by eritain at 8:49 PM on December 4, 2007


Don't quit. Apart from all the other excellent reasons here, when you apply for future jobs, those employers may call your present company for a reference. "She quit" is actually worse to hear, reflects more questionably on you, than "Her position was terminated."
posted by Miko at 9:13 PM on December 4, 2007


Ask for severance pay. If they are already giving you severance pay, ask for more. (Claim the stress of being let go so close to the holidays, or whatever sounds good.) When I was "let go," I asked for more and they doubled their severance pay amount without hesitation. Good luck.
posted by egret at 1:09 AM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you are a member of a union, get a union rep to come along with you to the meeting.
posted by Jabberwocky at 2:57 AM on December 5, 2007


So... how did the meeting go?
posted by Doohickie at 7:17 AM on December 5, 2007


Don't quit. I'm pretty sure you get no severance if you leave of your own accord.
posted by chunking express at 7:40 AM on December 5, 2007


Nthing "don't quit." If you get fired, you will be eligible for unemployment benefits whereas you won't if you quit.

And don't sweat the "bad reference" thing too much. These days most companies are reluctant to give out much information beyond position, title, dates of work, because of fear of lawsuits. Badmouthing a former employee (unless she did something like embezzle) leaves a company open to suits, so most won't do it. However, if you can line someone up to be a good reference for you that would be great.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:46 AM on December 5, 2007


Yes--any closure on this?
posted by zerobyproxy at 12:30 PM on December 5, 2007


I met with my boss, as planned, and was told (in no particular order) that I am on probation (without any documentation or a witness in the room to confirm this) and that my job responsibilities from when I started are gone and that my position will be transitioned to taking over responsibilities as a receptionist and giving group tours of our space. It is, essentially, a demotion. My blackberry will be taken away (which I only wish had happened sooner) and I will no longer answer to my boss but to one of two of my peers. S/he also berated me for contacting his/her supervisor requesting that the supervisor mediate the meeting. My boss yelled at me that s/he "is aware that I've told So-and-So and So-and-So that I am looking for another job which is fine if this isn't where you need to be and so your little secret is out."

I'm considering filing a harassment claim though I don't know if HR here will be helpful and I'm trying to find out how I might be eligible for unemployment if I am indeed demoted.

You've done great with the advice thus far, any more ideas?
posted by lolalivia at 8:39 AM on December 6, 2007


Yikes! That doesn't sound like a fun meeting - but the outcome pretty much rocks - it's given you exactly what you needed, time. Just keep working on finding another gig. Good luck!
posted by Craig at 8:53 AM on December 6, 2007


S/he also berated me for contacting his/her supervisor requesting that the supervisor mediate the meeting

Well, not to take her side, but this is a fair criticism: that was out of line. You should have asked your boss to include the supervisor in the meeting first, and then if she refused, told her you would be contacting the supervisor or HR yourself to request their presence. Always, always use the chain of command - not only is it good work hygeine and a good CYA move, but in cases where you already have an antagonistic boss, you want to avoid giving them one more count against you. They will always see you 'going over their head' as a sign of disrespect and insubordination and include that in future criticisms of you.

I'm considering filing a harassment claim

I'm not sure you have grounds for a claim unless there is something you haven't told us. Bosses can be mean and bad and nasty without being harassers.

I don't know if HR here will be helpful

That depends. Consult your employee manual and see what it says about grievance resolution. And whether or not you have written policies, you can certainly go have a conversation with someone in HR and describe the situation from your point of view. Be sure to listen to the response. You may or may not learn something interesting.

I'm trying to find out how I might be eligible for unemployment if I am indeed demoted.

In the US at least, you are definitely not eligible for unemployment if you are demoted. You still have a job! There are plenty of resources on unemployment offices on the web, if you do lose your job. So read up, and if you get pinkslipped, give your state's office a call ASAP.

Ultimately, I doubt this job is ever going to be a good fit for you. Chalk it up to lessons learned and move on from there. Don't waste a lot of time trying to 'show them' or go the extra mile in this present job. Warm up your resume and start scheduling interviews. Find a better place to work.
posted by Miko at 9:21 AM on December 6, 2007


Agreeing with Miko re: harassment claim.

While your company may have grievance procedures designed to direct and assist employees who feel treated unfairly or unprofessionally by a superior- and if so, please avail yourself of them fully- "harassment" is a whole 'nother kettle of fish.

Human Resources will define harassment as discriminatory or offensive conduct based on someone's legally-protected characteristic- race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

It's a distinction to which most HR reps (myself included) will cling vigorously- if only because actual discriminatory harassment complaints against the company have such enormous potential for legal action.

If your supervisor has not based any of her behavior on a characteristic you have (or may be perceived to have) which is protected by law, then avoid the "H" word at all costs. It will only hurt your chances of receiving any real help in this situation.
posted by GuffProof at 8:10 AM on December 9, 2007


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