So, my boss hates me and wants me to quit.
March 13, 2008 6:46 PM   Subscribe

I think my boss is trying to get me to quit.

I've been getting this feeling over the past couple weeks that my boss doesn't like me: continually dumping tasks with no explanation and then chastising me for not prioritizing tasks to her liking.

I've not said anything negative to her or anyone in HR and have been mainly keeping to myself to refrain from "excess socializing" which I had been yelled at for in the past.

Today, after arriving into work between 5 and 10 minutes late, I get called into an HR meeting with my boss and our director of HR. I get a written warning for arriving late and for bouncing a bouncy-ball with a coworker the afternoon before after just about everyone in the office had left.

Said coworker was also late today, arriving more than 20 minutes after I came through the door. He received a verbal warning only.

On top of all of this, I was lectured for lack of productivity. My boss has done little more than put paperwork on my desk, not talk to me and walk away for 2 weeks or more. My lack productivity could not have been charted in any way.

3 months back, I told my boss that I didn't think I could get everything done that she wanted me to. She told me that "it would be fine" and did the "psh" lax hand wave. Now I'm not productive enough.

I've also taken on a project which was up for grabs, which I have not been trained on yet. I also updated vital information for my department which had gone out of date and filled in information gaps since the company expanded.

Due to my supposed lack of productivity, I now have to chart all of my acitivities through out the day and then meet with either the Director of HR or my direct boss once a week for a month to see how I can become more productive.

All of this talk of productivity came out of *nowhere* for me and the warning has nothing on it about the amount of work I do in a day.

I'm currently job hunting to begin with since coming to the conclusion that my boss doesn't like me. In the meantime, I have *no idea* what to do as a sort of triage for the situation. Do I talk to HR about how I feel I'm being unfairly treated and the complete lack of any idea about my productivity (or any way to really know if my productivity is bad)? Do I just take it and get out ASAP and hope I don't get fired before then? Should I just quit and hope I find a job before I have to move back home with Mom and Dad?

I'm completely clueless.
posted by Gular to Work & Money (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It doesn't sound like the talk of productivity came out of nowhere - by your own admission, you arrived for work late, and were spending time "bouncing a bouncy-ball" when you were supposed to be working. If I'm your boss, and I see that kind of behaviour, I'm going to think "slacker", whether it's justified or not. The fact that your coworker arrived later than you has no bearing on the fact that YOU were late, and they chose to read YOU the riot act.

You may think that your boss has no idea about your level of productivity, but clearly there are some things that she has noticed. Debating the manager about whether you're productive or not isn't going to help your situation. Neither is talking to HR and complaining about "unfair treatment" (it'll just make you look like a whiner).

It's easy to think that your boss hates you or wants you to quit, but the reality is that if your boss doesn't want you there they can easily get rid of you. If they haven't fired you, they probably want to keep you around for a while at least. Best to make the best of it and avoid giving them ammunition that would make it easier to justify your termination.

Decide whether you like your job and want to stay. If yes, then focus your energies on being super productive and do your best to be professional with your boss. Arrive for work early, avoid ball-bouncing on company time, and do your best to demonstrate that you're a valuable asset to the employer.
posted by gwenzel at 7:02 PM on March 13, 2008

I've had bosses inexplicably turn on me, can't offer much more then my empathy.

It doesn't like a workplace culture where you can pull boss aside and ask "whats the deal?" but that's what I'd want to do. Three months is a short enough time that she/he is probably conscious of the reason for her/his attitude change.

I'd be pretty frustrated at having to meet with HR every week ( such frequent meetings sound,,,,unproductive.) But that might be an opportunity, HR works for YOU as much as your boss, be honest in those meetings and maybe you can make an ally?
posted by oblio_one at 7:06 PM on March 13, 2008

I feel for you; speaking as (simultaneously) an employee, a boss, and an HR sounds as though you want to do well and to an extent are not being given the tools necessary to help you succeed.

A few thoughts in no particular order:

3 months back, I told my boss that I didn't think I could get everything done that she wanted me to...I've also taken on a project which was up for grabs...

It must be frustrating to take on a special project and receive no training. But I'm wondering why you volunteered for it- when you had already told your boss that you did not have time to get your work done?

Maybe you need to hand that project off to someone else, allowing yourself to focus on your regular workload?

Some non-judgmental insight to share: to a supervisor, "I didn't have time" is an excuse that never goes over well. Yes, we've all used it- and it's often true. But nobody wants to hear it. We might wave it off -- but inside we're questioning your time-management, your initiative, and yes, your productivity. (That doesn't stop me from using it as an excuse as needed of course!)

If your boss is continually dumping tasks with no explanation and then chastising me for not prioritizing tasks to her liking... then your supervisor is failing to communicate her expectations to you in an effecitve manner. No wonder you're unhappy.

You shouldn't have to try to read your supervisor's mind. In order to meet her expectations and presumably make her happy, you need to know what her priorities are- it's her job to make this clear to you.

Since you are required to turn in activity / productivity reports, why not take this as an opportunity to ASK her to set a more structured timeline for you?

When you meet with HR to discuss your activity chart, it will be a good time to request clarification of your responsibilities and corresponding time limits. Once these are more clearly established for you, the rest will be up to you. You'll have a great opportunity to turn this around, win them over, and show them what you can do!

Hopefully, this will help you repair your working relationship with your boss, which sounds unpleasant and strained at the moment.

Finally, I hate to say it but if you've been disciplined for 'socializing' and playing with toys in the office, you may need to take an honest look at whether this is the right work environment for you. Not everyone is a good fit for every job. If this is something that you truly want to do, then I hope that conditions improve for you. If not, then good luck with your job search!
posted by GuffProof at 7:20 PM on March 13, 2008

Talking to HR might be good, but you might want to think of it as *asking* HR what they think your best course is, with the understanding that they might need more information from you. Don't make a big production of it, i.e., don't make it seem like you're focusing on talking to HR instead of doing whatever it is you're supposed to be productive at.

That is, IF you do talk to HR, be open and receptive rather than persecuted and complaining. I'm not saying you are in the wrong or in the right, just be careful -- it's really hard to know what's really going on when you're (as one always is) trapped in your own perspective.
posted by amtho at 7:22 PM on March 13, 2008

If my boss hated me and wanted me to quit he would just fire me. Is there any real benefits for him firing you over your quiting? Seems like they are willing to spend good deal of "upper management" time with you. Sure does seem like a lot of money waisted on trying to make you feel uncomfortable enough to quit. But I guess I don't fully understand the circumstance. Your boss might just get off on playing head games with her employees. Some people are just wacko, and it is best to stay away. Do you really like your job? Are you not looking for another job for any particular reason?
posted by nickerbocker at 7:28 PM on March 13, 2008

My feeling (and experience has proven it true)... when they take you to HR, give you written warnings, and especially ask you to "chart all of your activites", you are going to be fired. No matter how hard you try or who you talk to, the writing is on the wall. The are laying the groundwork to fire you per what ever rules are in the company handbook. And don't expect to be given a month "work on your productivity". The very next infraction will get you canned. I've seen this happen with three different people at two different organizations. Are you at a non-profit by any chance? Because this is the kind of stuff they do to try to retain their touchy-feely image instead of just firing people outright. I wouldn't quit, because it's easier to find a job when you have a job... but I would start looking for another job ASAP.
posted by kimdog at 7:31 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yes, look for another job ASAP. There is no way to change someone's negative view of your performance, even if it is unjustified. I learned this the hard way, just get out of there! I know it sucks.
posted by sweetkid at 7:39 PM on March 13, 2008

You may also affect your eligibility for unemployment benefits if you quit instead of getting terminated. Tough it out, communicate as much as possible with your supervisors, and look for a new job.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:44 PM on March 13, 2008

Due to my supposed lack of productivity, I now have to chart all of my acitivities through out the day and then meet with either the Director of HR or my direct boss once a week for a month to see how I can become more productive.

At one of my previous employer, this one-month-to-show-improvement thing was the last step before firing someone. Whenever this process started, the person either quit or was fired after one month. Even people who worked very hard and got positive feedback over that month from their manager were fired at the end.

Ironically, if you waited until the end you were fired with cause, and couldn't get unemployment. However, if you quit, sometimes you could get unemployment(!), although you had to do some fancy explaining to the unemployment people.

I'm not saying that this is what is happening to you. Your situation is probably completely different. But I really hope you aren't working for that previous employer of mine, because I saw some good friends strung along with that month-to-show-improvement thing, and regardless of how productive they were, they were fired. And it was always due to personality conflicts with management, never for any reasons involving work quality or productivity.
posted by rajbot at 8:17 PM on March 13, 2008

I had world's most evil boss ever for my first job. He suggested many times that I should just "take the day off" when I knew I couldn't (I worked as a spa assistant, and if I went home early for any reason I knew the aestheticians wouldn't survive the saturday schedules).

Since it was my first job, I cried over it... A LOT. but then I decided to tough it out. I worked extra hard, making sure the aestheticians were happy with me so that any negative feedback would come directly from the boss' hatred of me and NOT because I was doing a bad job. When I left, I left feeling satisfied.

Basically, while I don't really know every part of your situation, I suggest sticking to your guns. Keep looking for your job, but give in a full 2 weeks (or longer) notice rather than quit. And don't give your boss ANY reason to hate you more than for purely personal reasons. You can't generally change a person's oppinion of you, but you CAN walk away knowing it was nothing you DID.

good luck, I know how shitty bad bosses can make you feel. I hope you get to a better situation soon :)
posted by Planet F at 8:31 PM on March 13, 2008

They're establishing a paper trail, which means the writing's on the wall. If you hang on, they'll continue to make an issue of things, and you'll be miserable. So be proactive: find a way to get out gracefully, maybe even with a buyou so you can have a soft landing, and a promise of a good recommendation so you can move on to something better.
posted by drmarcj at 8:31 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Stuff nobody here knows or can know:

1. Whether your boss wants to fire you or simply wants to see an improvement in your performance.

2. Whether your performance needs to improve.

All you're going to get on the what's going on side is anecdotes. Yes, this sort of thing can be setting down the paper trail in preparation for a firing. Yes, this sort of thing can be a sincere effort to raise your performance to what is considered an acceptable level. One thing is very likely - they are ready for you to be gone if it comes to that, which makes your situation inherently more precarious.

H.R. isn't on your side, they are on your company's side, and so more on your boss' side than yours. You could make some sort of paper trail in preparation for fighting for unemployment if you are fired, or to legally fight the firing, but both of these are very slim chances, and it will make your situation with your boss worse and accelerate reprisal, if that's what's coming.

In your position (heck, I've been in your position) I would do my best to play the good little servant, assume I'd be canned in a month at the most (and so save as much money as I could etc.), and focus very hard on job hunting. It doesn't sound like you want the job much, honestly, so quitting is an option if you can swing it financially. It's always been my preferred approach, but then I like taking chances.
posted by nanojath at 8:42 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Something like this:

"3 months back, I told my boss that I didn't think I could get everything done that she wanted me to. She told me that "it would be fine" and did the "psh" lax hand wave. Now I'm not productive enough"

has happened to me more than once. I am not sure how to circumvent this the next time. I know it is a warning sign though. You can't trust those hand waves.
posted by sweetkid at 10:06 PM on March 13, 2008

I don't know where you are, so I don't know what protections you might have under the law. In the UK, your boss would be skirting the shoals of constructive dismissal, and HR would get involved to protect the company from the employment tribunal. If you're in California, on the other hand, you don't have those protections.

No matter where you are, it's a pain in the ass to fire someone - documentation, etc, to prove she did it for all the legally sanctioned reasons. It is a helluva lot easier to make you quit.

Regardless of your actual level of performance or not, your boss does sound like she's being random. She just can't dump work on someone's desk without explanation. After all, if you have no idea what to do with it, you might really screw things up. You may be slacking, but she isn't doing her bit, either. Her job is to supervise you, give guidance & training when necessary, and resolve issues that you simply can't for a whole host of other reasons. If she is part of the problem, you need to make that clear. She sounds overwhelmed, stressed, and inexperienced herself.

You may not want to keep working for this person. Even so, you need to think beyond the personal dislike and get what you need in this situation. That's training, a possible reference, and valuable life & work experience. I'd call a meeting with HR, your boss, and a third party, if available, for as soon as possible. Say that the last meeting you had made it clear to you how serious this potential problem was. If you didn't get a chance to say your bit in the last meeting about the lack of direction, stacks of paper, additional projects, etc, say it now. Ask for their guidance in getting this sorted out. This is their chance to tell you what they expect of you and to draw up those clear, quantifiable objectives. If you need to give up that extra project, do so. Explain why you took it on in the first place. (boredom? opportunity? saw it was needed and no one else was taking it up?) Ask for training, regardless of you keeping the project. If the next project comes around, you want to be able to do it. If you decide to bail out of this company, you have an extra skillset to take with you.

Talk about your confusion with this whole "misplaced priorities" thing. Ask for her help in prioritising tasks. If it means you spending ten minutes with her each Monday morning to have her go over your list of tasks for the week and both of you agreeing what needs to get done when, so be it. You may actually learn something out of that exercise. If she's one of those bosses who gives you extra work all the time that needs to be done immediately, all of it, send her an email with your To Do list for the day and the rest of the week and ask her to email you back with what she wants you to bump out of the way. Don't be sarcastic, be sincere. Maybe she's stressed herself and forgets exactly what you do each week.

If you're a slacker, you'll learn how to not be. If you're not a slacker, you'll learn how your boss thinks and she'll be reminded of just how much you actually do. If HR is involved, you've given a window to someone outside of your dept what happens within it. If she acts like this with everyone, her dept will see employee churn, which may or may not affect your performance.

Truth is, there are a lot of crap employees out there, but there are also a number of crap bosses. In my world, someone coming in a habitual 5 mins late who also works late and works hard isn't going to blip. I'm not your boss, though. She is.
posted by Grrlscout at 10:19 PM on March 13, 2008

"I think my boss is trying to get me to quit." ... "I get a written warning..."

Yup. Wants you to quit and is starting the paper trail to fire you for cause if you don't. Find another job.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:14 PM on March 13, 2008

I've been in your position and more recently in your boss's. Well, I'd like to think that I provided adequate explanation and prioritizing, but I had an assistant who wasn't a good fit -- we both tried, but communication was never optimal and we weren't happy with each other. I was relieved when he quit and honestly wished him well.

Lots of good advice in this thread. I'd also advise you to think of these issues in more professional terms, because your post is full of over-personalizing that is distracting from the legit issues. "Dumping tasks on you"...isn't it your job to do the tasks that you're assigned? If you need more guidance, you need to ask for it. That's part of any job. You've been chastised for socializing and playing with toys. Dude. Can you see how this looks?

On top of all of this, I was lectured for lack of productivity. My boss has done little more than put paperwork on my desk, not talk to me and walk away for 2 weeks or more. My lack productivity could not have been charted in any way.

How'd you do on that paperwork? Was it all correct? Double-checked? Done on time? Did you report to the boss on your progress? I'm projecting a little here, but when my last assistant moaned and groaned over simple tasks that he then dragged his feet on completing AND made a ton of errors, requiring me to double check every single detail...uh, yeah, that's a lack of productivity, and I certainly did document it.

/end "bad cop" routine
posted by desuetude at 8:02 AM on March 14, 2008

Nthing previous replies: they are not trying to get you to improve your work. They are trying to get you to quit, or building a paper trail for firing you. Update your resume and start looking for a new job.

Maybe you really were slacking, maybe they sucked at training and managing you, maybe you just didn't fit in with the culture, but they decided they want you gone. So, start job-hunting, and try to think about what you might want to do differently at the next job. It can be as simple as "don't work for assholes who get annoyed at harmless socializing after all the work is done."

If there is anyone in the company you trust, ask them if you can use them as a reference.
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 8:07 AM on March 14, 2008

thanks for all the advice; I think I should clarify a little bit.

I have had 3 projects. The one I did on my own with updating. A separate time consuming project that I was only recently told to back-burner and a third project for which I have no yet been trained.

As of today, I've started charting everything I do, down to breaks I take and the amount of time I spend on the customer service line, which is an essential part of my job. I figure, if I just chart everything down, I, at the very least, can show how much work I'm actually doing in a day.

So far, the numbers have shocked even me with the amount of stuff I actually do, just in the first half of the day.

I've also been searching for new jobs for a couple months.

I'm outside Boston, MA for those of you who were curious about where I am.

(I'm home on lunch break and about to run out the door.)
posted by Gular at 9:50 AM on March 14, 2008

Good managers try to help employees achieve maximum productivity. Under qualified supervisors call HR on their employees and try to get them fired.

Guess which one you have.
posted by ewkpates at 11:18 AM on March 14, 2008

I really wish you luck with this. I hope you find something new soon. I know how hard this is; I wish they taught this stuff in school. In school, an improvement plan is only for your benefit. In the working world, it's the opposite.
posted by sweetkid at 8:00 PM on March 15, 2008

This sucks so much for you. It happened to me, too. I wish I had taken the step you took of charting everything I've been doing. Make sure to go back in your emails and whatever other logs you have to document previous work you've done, training you did/didn't receive, etc. I don't imagine you will be able to sue them for anything (employment is "at will," for the most part), but you will have a case to make for unemployment compensation. The state has an interest in getting your company to pay up for their share of your unemployment. With any luck, the company will find some way to lay you off instead of firing you outright.

The other thing I wish I had done is to limit the damage it did to my career. Now you have someone on your list of "Previous Experience" who will definitely not give you a good reference for your next job. Make sure you touch base with any and all potential references while you're still employed -- clients, coworkers, etc. You don't have to tell them why you're calling; just find some excuse to remind them that you're alive, and doing a good job. Good luck.
posted by Jane Austen at 4:14 AM on March 16, 2008

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