"Letting you go" still is too harsh.
February 4, 2013 3:52 PM   Subscribe

What do I need to know about if I'm fired?

Despite being told that I'm fantastic at what I do and that I do flawless work, I've been put on a performance plan at work due to compliance. My objective deliverables I need to do to satisfy this plan is to do several sessions of re-training and to be more responsive on email.

It seems a little subjective to me - they want me responding to emails in real time essentially.

I feel like I can do this, and I've been given two weeks to resolve this.

However, if I end up being "let go" anyway despite all this, what do I need to know about my rights? What do I need to do? I feel the terms are unfair and misrepresenting me, but how do I prevent this from messing up future career opportunities?

I'm in MA and have documented everything including printed emails, etc.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You might want to peruse a few of these articles. Massachusetts is (more or less) an at-will state.

An employer can set any requirements it desires for a job, subjective or not.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:04 PM on February 4, 2013

In an "at will" state, your employer isn't even legally required to give you a reason for ending your employment. Your best bet is to go above and beyond what has been asked of you and do your best to salvage your job.
posted by raisingsand at 4:34 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

It seems a little subjective to me - they want me responding to emails in real time essentially.

Maybe I am feeling cranky today, but it sounds like in two weeks they are going to fire you because it's not possible to answer emails in real time. I mean, at some point you will be doing the thing they asked you for by email at 9:05 a.m. when the 9:15 a.m. email comes in. It doesn't always matter that you are doing great work; sometimes they need to fire you because they are over budget or because your specialty is widgets and the CEO wants to move in a grommet direction or because they don't like the color of your ties.

I would focus less of my time on working the performance plan and more of it on finding another job.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:43 PM on February 4, 2013 [16 favorites]

If there are any documents or data you want to take with you, get that taken care of ASAP. You could be let go and locked out of your computer/phone/network/whatever with no notice.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:49 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Is there some reason that you think you might be fired after this performance plan is completed? If you think that they are looking for a reason to fire you, then what you should be doing is looking for another job.

I don't know how much of your question involves nitpicking and/or exaggeration but I think, thinking ahead to future employment opportunities, you want to avoid language like "unfair" and emphasize that you were doing a good job, were told that you were doing a good job, did what was asked of you, and were terminated anyway.
posted by sm1tten at 4:53 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

In my previous coworkers, people who feel that they are "doing flawless work" and are "fantastic", but are still being put on a performance plan are only hearing what they want to hear about feedback from people who count.

While it may be the case you are unfairly being singled out for some reason, you may be not hearing the real feedback about your work. (e.g. listening but not hearing)

If you really don't understand, I
d I'd go back to my boss and ask for more explanation about why the plan is in place so that I don't get fired.

If you do get fired make sure you get unemployment.
Don't take anything from the company (electronic or physical) you will get in trouble for after you leave.
I'd start looking for a new job
posted by bottlebrushtree at 4:53 PM on February 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

In an at-will state, an employer can fire you for almost any reason or no reason at all --- the only reasons they CAN'T use are 'protected' catagories like race or religion, but even that can be gotten around by simply not giving a reason.

And please pardon me for saying this, but even if your work IS "fantastic" and "flawless", there must be some serious problems, or they wouldn't have brought up the performance plan and re-training. Perhaps you didn't mean to, but the phrasing in this post comes across as pretty obnoxious, as if you considered yourself superior and were being beset by pointless, petty considerations. I certainly don't mean to be insulting, but perhaps your attitude is giving that sort of vibe at work?
posted by easily confused at 5:00 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sometimes it's not really about you. Maybe they're giving you two weeks' notice, maybe they're not.

Do what you're supposed to do in these two weeks and be an excellent employee. Spend your time after work actively looking for another job.
posted by heyjude at 5:05 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Always remember that no matter how justified they think firing you is, they do not get to decide whether you get unemployment. Continue to save everything and go to your local unemployment office as soon as they fire you. Don't quit, no matter how close you think they are to firing you.
posted by Etrigan at 5:09 PM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

In my previous coworkers, people who feel that they are "doing flawless work" and are "fantastic", but are still being put on a performance plan

Since you mentioned that faster responses were part of the performance plan, what they might want is for you to do less-perfect work but do it faster. But yeah, clarification with the boss is a good idea.

You can always respond to an email with an acknowledgment immediately: let them know you got the message and will send the deliverable by X reasonable time. Then do that.
posted by ecsh at 5:09 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

People who are doing flawless work are not put on performance plans. The retraining comment is what makes me think you have a bigger problem than you seem to think. If you need to answer email more quickly that isn't a training issue (unless the training is on the email app).

I've had employees turn around problems on PIP and I don't believe that a PIP is always a precursor to firing. Are you sure you understand what the problem is? Were you given verbal warnings (even subtle ones)?

I think a check-in with your boss is in order.
posted by 26.2 at 5:14 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Bad News: As covered above, they can fire you for any reason or no reason, as long as it's not discriminatory (race, sex, maybe orientation) under law. I have never heard of a "performance plan" where the intent was to keep the employee. Because it's a slap in the face and a clear signal for the employee to start looking for a new job.

Good: There will be no need to bring up or think about this again. When the job comes up, say you resigned or were laid off, as applicable. Don't feel that the narrative they're using against you is some sort of gospel you're compelled to repeat for the rest of your life.

Also seconding what Etrigan said, because this comes up a lot: In every state I know of, general "poor performance" is emphatically not a reason you can be denied unemployment. Only clear misconduct like unexcused absence, stealing, assaulting the boss, etc. is usually grounds to consider someone fired "for cause."
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:15 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

2nding ecsh: Maybe you are being a perfectionist and doing what in your mind is a good job, but to others is unnecessary nitpickery that takes too long. I'd go back to your boss and try to get some more specific objective metrics for what's expected of you, aside from "be more responsive to email." If that's really it, then you should sit there with your Inbox open and respond to each and every email message the goddamn moment it comes in, even if it's to say basically "yep, got your message, I'm working on it, I'll let you know in [time interval] when I have more information".

But I doubt that's really it. You need to dig deeper about what's really being asked of you. If you can't get more specific information, then I'd assume that a performance case is being built against you in preparation for being fired, and in that case I'd spend most of my energy looking for a new job.

In general you should under no circumstances quit. However there is one exception: if you get a job offer that feels entirely solid before you get fired, quitting (in order to immediately start the new job), in exchange for a guaranteed good recommendation from the current job, might be worthwhile.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:18 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

They want me responding to emails in real time essentially.

Not sure of your industry or if you're in a client-facing position, but in my past two jobs in financial services this was more or less a job expectation. In a culture where information is fast and abundant, not responding quickly is not keeping up.

I kept my Outlook inbox open on one of my monitors at all times.
posted by charlemangy at 5:24 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

In my job as a manager I have had multiple people on performance improvement plans with NO intent to fire them.

The problem though is it's usually people who don't get the hint(and explicit feedback) that their work is not satisfactory for some reason and don't understand why their boss has a problem with their work.

In general if your boss tells you to do something, you do it (unless it's obviously unethical or illegal) if you expect to stay in their good graces.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 6:07 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

If there were specific achievable goals, then this might be a legit probation.

If the goals seem vague and impossible, then for whatever reason, they're trying to get rid of you and the company has a policy of not firing people without a warning. In this case it would be better to stress less about the performance goals and more about finding a different job.
posted by the jam at 6:30 PM on February 4, 2013

Start looking for a job now. Two week performance plans are generally used to show the employer "tried" to work with the employee, but the employee couldn't complete their side of the agreement, whether the goals are reachable or not. In two weeks my money is on you being let go.

First thing after being let go is to find another job. Leave your anger for later. So contact any friends you have in your industry to try and jump ship before they let you go.

Good luck!
posted by zombieApoc at 7:23 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

As you go through re-training and afterwards, I'd make a point of re-capping ways you've improved to your director on a regular basis so there's a paper trail of your good faith efforts to improve.

In my workplace, it is pretty much expected that people respond quickly to e-mails unless they are in a meeting. I always send a quick reply, even if it is to say I'll be able to reply later by X o'clock.

I truly love it when I e-mail a message requiring action and they let me know they've received my request. That way I know my request is being received and not overlooked. A simple "got it, will do, "can't do it" or "it will be done by X" message makes me so happy. I don't need a full reply but I appreciate an acknowledgement of my message requiring their action.
posted by dottiechang at 7:27 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

If responding to emails quickly is what they want you should be staring at your inbox for the next two weeks even if it means you do your other work in a half assed manner. A decent answer or even an educated guess right now is sometimes better than a perfect answer 2 days from now depending on the circumstances. Show them you are capable of doing this one thing that is clearly their deal breaker. They know you can do the other stuff and might give you more of a pass if its subpar for the next 2 weeks. I would be responding to all emails within 5 minutes and most quicker. If it absolutely requires more than 5 minutes then respond saying you're on it and will get back to them ASAP.
posted by whoaali at 8:43 PM on February 4, 2013

Yeah, I would assume that they are going to can you at the end of two weeks, and plan accordingly. Not too many people make it off performance plan status. Kiss ass and do the best you can for 2 weeks, but don't expect miracles and start the job hunt now.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:47 PM on February 4, 2013

Each time I have put someone on corrective action, their job was in serious jeopardy and I wasn't just trying to "get their attention" or "give them a wake up call". Maybe things are different where you work?

So in my experience I would treat corrective action as being one foot out the door. I would bring home most (but not all) personal items, copy my contacts, secure all documentation (if you do have a case), and tidy up any weird stuff. In the meantime, I'd be squatting on the inbox waiting to fire out replies.

You could've let your fingers do the walking to find a specialized attorney in the time it took you to type out this question. So...maybe your question was a vent? Getting nudged out the door does suck and it is not necessarily your fault at all. Regardless, even best case scenario a corrective action torches your future promotions within that workspace so it is best to move on.

Good luck!
posted by 99percentfake at 8:58 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have put a number of people on performance improvement plans with no intent to fire the person. I wanted them to improve so we could keep them.
posted by fifilaru at 9:05 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you have to make bricks without straw, do so while laughing because such bricks will crumble far too soon. Look for a job where you aren't told how good you are up to the time they decide to put you on 2-weeks probation.
posted by Goofyy at 6:10 AM on February 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just to put forth an alternative possibility, sometimes if a company wants to downsize a little bit, and they are playing games to avoid having to pay unemployment compensation, they'll make it look like "for cause" firings.
posted by jgreco at 9:42 AM on February 5, 2013

I've been put on performance plans with 3 and 6-month durations. Is there a specific end-date to your plan? More importantly, are there quantifiable goals that you need to reach? Realistically, start looking for another job. In my experience, a performance plan is an employer's legal, un-sue-able way to fire you. Also, even if it gets miserable, wait for them to fire you. That way you can probably collect unemployment.
posted by bendy at 10:50 PM on February 8, 2013

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