Elliott* emailed a coworker about a report the new boss wanted and remarked on her unrealistic, demanding ways. The coworker sent the final report attached to a long chain of emails, which mistakenly included his comment, copied to the boss.
Elliott knew that his coworker didn’t intend to send this (his coworker had sent him similar remarks about her via email), but accident or not, the damage had been done, and his supervisor immediately reprimanded him for his poor attitude and “not being a team player.”
Although Elliott was apologetic, staff meetings seemed stressful after that, and he felt that in her eyes, he either couldn’t do anything right, or was just barely tolerated. A couple of months later, his annual review reflected that feeling as well.
Elliott didn’t believe that his manager had been on board long enough (less than half a year) to give him an annual review, but he reported to her, and that was company policy. He got “average” or “below average” in each category – a far cry below his previous year’s review.
Shortly after that, the company fell on difficult times, and when layoffs came around, he was in the round of people let go. While most of the staff affected were those employed with the company less than two years, Elliott had nearly five years with the company, but was told that his position would be “redundant with the restructuring planned.”
In addition to regular job searching techniques that I provide clients, I worked with Elliott on how we could Fix It! at his new position, to help him avoid making the same mistakes again, or getting caught in a similar trap. In the end, the quality of his work mattered very little, once he had been viewed negatively by his manager.
The first thing I advised Elliott to do was to upgrade his phone to a smart phone, so that he could entirely separate his personal communications from his work communications – phone calls and emails. With a smart phone, there would be no reason for him ever to make any personal calls or emails using company equipment (which can be – and often is – monitored). I also advised him to limit the amount of time spent during work hours on any personal communications, including social media channels, such as Facebook.
Second, I googled Elliott via several different searches, including combinations of his name, nickname(s), past employers, clubs, schools, associations, emails, etc. and showed him what results I got. He was surprised at the results when I included the photo sites as well. This was an eye opener to Elliott about the power of the web and social media in general, and the need for discretion online. When I explained that many employers ask for permission to check credit sites and other protected information, so they will learn much more than I was able to find, this became even more of a wake-up call.
Obviously, Elliott didn’t need to be told not to put any disparaging comments in writing in the future. Not only did he recently suffer the consequences, but there have been several examples in the press of foolish postings online. However, I did mention the need for good etiquette in the workplace and how far networking can help down the line. A recent study showed that basic courtesy appears to be sadly lacking, in most people’s opinions, which makes it that much more appreciated when displayed.
It took Elliott much longer to find his next position, due to his not having a strong reference from his previous job, as well as being let go, but once he got hired, he made a point to display a positive outlook and demeanor, and keep his private life – and communications – separate from his work life as much as possible.
He has been complimented for his professionalism on more than one occasion, and plans on keeping it that way.
Faye* had been in her position for nearly a year, when she felt blindsided with the news that she was being let go from her position. The reasons that she was given were all totally unfounded, she felt. She even considered consulting an attorney, but decided to start with her direct supervisor, since the news came from top management.
For example, she was told that she failed to reach her stated goals, and this was completely untrue. She hoped that her director would advocate for her, since he knew her work better than upper management.
It would take a couple of days for Faye to pull together all of her necessary figures and have everything completely and accurately prepared. She asked for a meeting with the necessary parties at the end of the week, which would give her enough time to have an adequate rebuttal, she believed.
The day before her meeting, Faye learned that not only had upper management decided to remove her, but her director had been given a termination notice as well. Apparently, the nonprofit organization’s budget was suffering so terribly, the board had decided to make drastic reductions.
Faye heard talk of a possible audit, as well as chatter of how she wasn’t the first person in her position to be removed in under a year for an ambiguous “failure to perform,” reason, and she felt betrayed . . . and a bit naïve. She also wondered about the overall health of the organization.
Rather than consult an attorney and try to fight for a job with an organization that might not even be able to pay her if she won, Faye decided to consult me on how to seek a job with a healthier organization overall.
I coached her that certainly part of due diligence is to search a nonprofit’s 990, but that is only the beginning. More research must be done. Particularly with the news that many nonprofits may have fraudulently filed their paperwork in order to meet recent deadlines.
Faye and I spent time reviewing certain warning signs about certain types of organizations and/or job listings that will indicate she should Forget It! and not bother applying, because they may well be a very transient organization. This included questions to include during interviews for organizations, to ensure that they plan on being around several years from now. (Are they preparing for the future, or are they scarcely catching up to yesterday in a desperate attempt?)
She also found useful the LinkedIn organizational listings of employees, which showed their longevity with the organizations, indicating their general health. Also, simply whether or not an organization bothered to have its own LinkedIn listing was an indicator of how seriously it took itself in the world of social media, for one thing.
While older, larger organizations tend to be viewed as more stable, Faye didn’t limit herself only to these, and she ended up working at a mid-sized nonprofit that was less than twenty years old. It has a well-rounded combination of new and veteran employees, and she feels more secure than she has in a while.
If you’ve been laid off, what signs of stability or other factors do you strive for with your next employer?
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
— Rita Mae Brown