Jedi Office Hours: What does it take to get fired around here?

From a reader:


Dear LetSdeG:

I’m convinced there’s nothing I can do to get fired from my current company.

With the exception of overt theft or fraud, people are getting away with all kinds of misbehavior and nothing ever seems to be done to correct it.

Case in point: our receptionist. She walks in late. She is rude to clients. She takes 90-minute lunches. She is insubordinate. Her work has to be checked and re-checked. She is just an overall nightmare to deal with. On top of everything, I have now absorbed part of her workload (I work in customer service) because clients have complained about her.

To add further insult to injury, we all had to sign memos for our files regarding attendance, proper conduct with clients, and how we interact with each other. Now it feels like my file has been “labeled” as a troublemaker when that could not be further from the truth.

At this point, I am convinced there is nothing I can’t get away with and actually don’t like it. I want to say something to my boss but what would be the point?

What do you suggest I do? Quitting is not an option.

A Reader

Dear Reader,

Having to step in for a co-worker who is not performing as expected can be frustrating. But your concern should not be focused on how (or even “whether”) your co-worker is being disciplined.

Your concern should be whether you are able to do your job effectively.

That is, removing your concerns regarding this co-worker from the equation, the only variables that should be discussed are those that impact your work.

For example:

Does the additional workload mean you are not meeting other obligations?

Is the quality of your work suffering?

Has your normal work schedule been affected?

Before you schedule that meeting with your supervisor keep this in mind:

A) Purge your mind of your personal opinions regarding your co-worker. This is not about them. It’s about how a management decision is affecting you.

B) Any conversation with your supervisor should be approached objectively. By that I mean, you need data regarding how these decisions impact your work.

If it is taking you 30 minutes to complete a task you previously completed in 10, make a note of those results for a period of time. Changes to your work schedule, quality of work, productivity, etc. is the type of information you should present for discussion.

But remember, you are documenting facts about your job and yourself, not your co-worker.

C) The company may have already initiated the process to deal with this situation. The fact that you were asked to sign a memo may seem like management is taking a kid-glove approach to the problem, but those memos serve a dual purpose.

Company-wide or “blanket” department memos remind employees of their responsibilities and also serve as a stepping stone for supervisors to begin conversations with employees that are in breach of certain policies. They should not be used retroactively, but if the employee fails to follow a guideline again after having signed the document, the paper trial begins.

and D) This may just be an opportunity for you to be a rock star for your boss given a developing situation. Instead of focusing on the negatives and what is not happening, focus on the possibilities.

Perhaps this is a good way to show your boss just how adaptable, reliable and productive you are. Can you introduce efficiencies into the process you’ve taken over? What can you do to show leadership in this situation?

Most importantly, my suggestion is that if leaving your role is not an option, that you continue to do your job, following the policies that the company has set forth. Meanwhile, when you have the data you need and the timing is right, have a transparent conversation with your supervisor about any new expectations they may have regarding your job. In particular, express your concerns regarding how those expectations are met given the data you will present. You may be surprised at how easy it will be for things to change after that.


(Have an HR story to share or question you would like answered on Jedi Office Hours? Send it my way: I protect the innocent and not so innocent. No real names are used.)

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