Singing the Job Stress Blues
March 20, 2013 7:04 AM   Subscribe

My job uses write ups for everything—for typos, for bad customer service, for being late, for heavy stuff, for silly stuff that doesn’t matter. Literally everything. How do I either learn to deal with this or figure out how to professionally approach it with the higher-ups in my company?

Like most people, I associate a write-up with doing a very bad job—and getting closer to being canned. I’ve been told that this write ups mean nothing other than that they talked to me about the issue and wanted to document it, but the write ups, no matter how many times someone tells me this, seem quite serious. Especially since their options range from ‘verbal warning’ to termination. I thought maybe there was some method to the madness, only today I received a written ‘final’ warning for something I’d never done before. No one bothered to speak to me about this write up, it was literally thrown at my desk. I should say I’ve gotten 20 minute conversations with a write up about something as silly as a typo, but then I get a serious ‘final’ warning without as much as a word about it.

How do I approach this? I can’t give much more identifying information. I'm asking this question in general as well as in this particular situation. I know more write-ups will come, but most times when I receive them, it either pushes my buttons and makes me angry or I end up getting tearful about it. Is this normal? I've never seen this kind of documentation in a work place.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Who gave you this "final" written warning? Go to that person and talk to them about it. Is "final" a final step towards termination?

Write-ups, if they are indeed used in the way you're describing, would be a decent way to track issues, since having a paper trail protects employees as much as employers. However, that doesn't jibe with a "final" warning being "thrown" on your desk.
posted by xingcat at 7:15 AM on March 20, 2013

It sounds as if the culture of your workplace does not comport with your personality. Perhaps you ought to consider finding a different job for which management practices better accord with what kind of work environment you want to work in.
posted by dfriedman at 7:23 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

One way to deal with this may be to talk with your coworkers. If everyone is getting written up frequently, at least you know that you don't necessarily have a target on your back. But it's natural to feel anxious about these write-ups, even if they happen to everyone. It sounds like overkill and an absolute morale destroyer. Not to mention time-sink: unless typos are a serious offense in your job (are you a copy editor or social media person, or are these typos in internal emails or something similarly unimportant?), a 20-minute conversation about them is ridiculous.

Your company wants a paper trail, so respond to the "final warning" in writing. Address a memo or email to the person who issued it, cc your boss if it's not the same person, and make clear that you never got a first warning about the problem and would like to schedule a time to talk about the warning to make sure you understand what happened and what next steps to take.
posted by payoto at 7:26 AM on March 20, 2013

If I had to guess, it's done so they have the option of firing whomever they want. If they like you, they don't. The just let the "write ups" pile up. But if they don't like you, they don't have to look for an excuse.

Even if this isn't true, the best way to deal with a work place like this is to find another.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:32 AM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

When your workplace has this kind of insanity in place, there's a clear temptation to push it as far as you can just to see what happens.
posted by flabdablet at 8:05 AM on March 20, 2013

Ugh. Get out when and if you can. The paper trail makes sense; the frequency doesn't. I've heard of people getting "written up" in some jobs but it was not a common occurrence.

payoto: It sounds like overkill and an absolute morale destroyer. Exactly.
posted by Currer Belfry at 8:09 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

In a mature organization write ups are used as a mechanism to document poor performance within a performance improvement plan along the way to releasing an employee with cause.

In my experience, generally speaking, they aren't used outside of that process because they have little value outside of being heavy handed and providing very little corrective guidance for a persons performance in aggregate when they are used continuously with no level set for the seriousness of one write up vs another.
posted by iamabot at 8:12 AM on March 20, 2013

Sounds like a jerky company to me.

I'd be looking for a job elsewhere.

You can be passive aggressive about this by asking your manager for a performance plan so that you have milestones to address all the things you've been written up for.

"It's been my experience that following a write up, that there's a remediation for the behavior so that there's a follow up indicating improvement. Can we do that for all of these write ups I have? I'd hate to be behind the 8-ball on this when evaluation time comes around."

But I'm a real smart ass, and I'm kind of evil.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:08 AM on March 20, 2013

The company likes to have lots of control. So demand more. For every task, ask for the documentation, ask for the standards, get it in writing. It's like the military; there's a manual for everything, and if it's not in a manual, you can't do it, and if it's in the manual you must do it. Put everything in bland, neutral, business-y writing/e-mail. Boss, I got your assignment to set up the display of the dowhatsits that just got delivered. Can you advise me on the type of display and standards for display that DumbCo recommends?

Try to meet with boss, and ask for positive feedback, and information on how to do stuff.

Over time, I would not find this company to be a place I'd want to stay.
posted by theora55 at 12:07 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had a job like this once, in the trough of the recession, in a part of the country with high unemployment. As far as we could tell, the idea was that every employee knew that they had a file of "disciplinary" actions sufficient to fire them with cause. Since we were in a state with at-will employment, I assume it was done for the psychological effect.
posted by pullayup at 6:31 PM on March 20, 2013

posted by destructive cactus at 10:17 PM on March 20, 2013

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