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Hostile Work Environment Definition

10 Steps of Walking the Plank Toward Termination: STEP 4 Your Boss Switches From Harassing You In-Person to Harassing You In Writing

When your boss goes to Human Resources and asks “Can I fire this employee right now?”, do you know what the H.R. Rep always answers?  H.R. says, “What documentation do you have that shows your employee is not doing their job?”

You know what happens next?  Your boss looks down at his or her own feet, and their face starts turning red.  Then they look back up at the H.R. Person and say something like “Goddamnit, don’t we have at-will employment in this state?!  It used to be if someone didn’t do their job they got fired!  Plain and simple.  How come all you ever say is ‘no’?  Why don’t you ever help us get things done around here, instead of just putting up road blocks all the time?!”

The H.R. Rep responds to this tirade with something like, “I take it you have done no documentation of this employee’s performance? You know, like I taught all the managers to do in that little half day seminar last month?”

“I prefer verbal feedback and coaching.  The more informal type,” your boss says.  He’s referring to the last time he yelled at you.

“Well,” says the H.R. Rep, “did you document in your performance log the date and time of each of these verbal feedback and coaching sessions you had with your employee?”  The H.R. Rep says this with a slight grin, because they know what the answer is.

This is where your boss blurts out something like “F*ck! I’ll get your f*cking documentation,” and then stomps back to your department to start writing an email to you about your performance.  And the H.R. Rep?  This is when they cooly open a notebook and jot down the date and time your boss swore at them and admitted to not doing proper documentation.

Then the H.R. Rep calls a friend who is a H.R. Rep at another company.  They meet at a nearby Starbucks and sip lattes and complain about how everybody at their company hates H.R people.

Really, this is not an exaggeration.  Not at all.  This what happens between managers and H.R. Rep’s every single day, especially know that managers are under pressure to start cutting payrolls and reduce labor costs.

Watch for meetings between your boss and someone from H.R.  If you can see into the office, does your boss appear agitated?  Does the boss leave the meeting and immediately start writing?  And most important, does your boss send you a terse, or even angry letter about your performance soon after your boss met with H.R.?

These are all signs that your boss wants to let you go, and is trying to get it approved by H.R. first.

If you are not in a position to observe what meetings your boss has, and with whom, never fear.  There are other ways to tell.

  • Does your boss send you emails, particularly about some aspect of you doing your job, with increased frequency?
  • Does your boss send you a written memo about a deadline you missed (probably for good reason) instead of chatting with you and letting you explain?
  • Does your boss ask you to sign or initial any memo that has anything to do with your performance, or any project you’ve been working on?
The correlation to increased communication with your boss in writing is that your boss communicates with you face to face less and less.  Or, if he or she does talk to you in person, they immediately send you a “confirming” letter or email that summarizes their version of the conversation you just had.

Now you know what happens between H.R. and your supervisor in those closed door meetings.  You know what to watch for… a sharp increase in written communication from your boss… so you can identify step number 4 of the ten steps of walking the plank toward termination.

Have you seen this occur to yourself or a co-worker at your workplace?  Have you ever been privy to what HR and your boss were talking about?  Let us know in the comments section to this post!

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  1. […] 10 Steps of Walking the Plank Toward Termination: Step 4 Your Boss Switches from Harassing You in Pe… 10 Steps of Walking the Plank Toward Termination: STEP 4 Your Boss Switches From Harassing You In-Person to Harassing You In Writing October 23, 2008

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