Rules in the Workplace

By: Tim Bryce

The following is an excerpt from my new book, "MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD - A Handbook for Entering the Work Force" which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life. The book offers considerable advice regarding how to manage our personal and professional lives. As a part of this, I found it necessary to discuss the legal ramifications of employment.

Over the last two weeks we discussed such things as terms of employment, working hours, Moonlighting, Salaries, Job Titles, and Employment Contracts. This week we will consider performance reviews, reprimands and firings, and handling stress.

Do's and Don'ts in the Workpace (Part III)

PERFORMANCE REVIEWS, REPRIMANDS & FIRINGS

Reviews


An Employee Performance Evaluation (or "Review") is quite normal and routine, particularly for new employees in the first 90 days of their employment. The evaluation is normally prepared using a standard form and denotes their strengths and weaknesses. If there is a problem, the manager should warn the employee accordingly and give him/her sufficient time to correct the problem, such as 30 days. This also gives the boss an opportunity to offer advice to the employee on how to better him/herself. Do not be offended by the review, listen carefully, and take heed to what the reviewer is telling you. Whether the review is accurate or not, it represents how you are perceived for which you should take corrective action.

As part of the review you will be asked to sign it, thereby testifying you understand what was said. The review will then be filed in your employment jacket for future reference.

If you are struggling with a job, you may be put "on notice" (either improve or face termination), which should be written into the review as well. Now is the time to do some soul-searching; either improve yourself or start looking for a new job.

Firings

There is a big difference between firing a person and letting a person go. Whereas the latter could be the result of work stoppages, the former is due to the performance of the individual. As such, this tutorial is primarily concerned with firings. From the outset understand this, keeping a poor performer employed is a disservice to the company, the coworkers, as well as the individual. A poor performer causes coworkers and/or the boss to work overtime to cover for the employee. Consider this though, it hurts the individual who is either unskilled for the job or has risen above his level of competency. This type of person has hit a "dead-end" in his career and it is unfair to keep him in a position where you know he will undoubtedly fail. He should be allowed to get on with his life in another capacity where he might succeed.

If you are being fired, you may be inclined to get upset as you may not have seen it coming, but if you were warned during your last review, and made no effort to improve, do not be surprised and take it professionally.

More people are fired on late Friday afternoons than any other time or day of the week. Why? Simple; it is the end of the workweek and people are more interested in going home than listening to someone being fired. Psychologists might suggest Monday mornings are a better time for terminations as opposed to Fridays, simply because the employee won't have time to think about it over the weekend and become despondent or irrational. Regardless, a firing can occur at any time and can be performed either badly of professionally.

A professional firing will be conducted rather calmly and privately. You will be told you are being let go, and maybe you will be told the reason and maybe you will not. Nonetheless, keep calm and collected and pay attention to what is being told you. Endeavor to find out the cause of your firing but do not be surprised if it is not explained to you. You may be given the option to resign as opposed to being fired. If you resign, it will look better on your resume; but if you accept the firing, you will probably be entitled to unemployment compensation from the government (it is your call on this).

A witness may be present during the meeting who is there to monitor the proceedings, not to referee. If possible, take plenty of notes, particularly afterwards when you should write a report to yourself describing what transpired and what was said. You will be asked to surrender any company keys, badges, or other materials in your possession. You may also be asked to sign paperwork relating to your termination; be sure to read it carefully before signing it if you are so inclined (and get a copy of it). Do not try to access your computer as the passwords have probably already been changed. You will likely be asked to clean out your desk promptly and be escorted off the premises. Avoid the temptation to openly complain to your coworkers as it may put their jobs in jeopardy and possibly be used against you in a court of law. Go out with your dignity intact, and do not look like a sore loser.

Handling Stress

There are several different variables for developing stress on the job, such as pressure to accomplish a specific task, frustration resulting from failure, job insecurities, or simply the tedium of the job itself. Further, personal problems may compound stress, such as debt, a pending divorce, a death of a loved one, etc. People handle stress differently, some just cope with it, others turn to food, alcohol or drugs to relieve it. But perhaps the best two ways are to either talk about it, or through physical exercise. If you need to talk to someone, obviously it must be someone you can trust, such as a family member or a close personal friend. I do not recommend you confide in a coworker as this may be misinterpreted and open you up to rumors and ridicule. Quite often, some basic physical exercise can distract you from your problems, be it a workout in the gym, jogging or walking, or perhaps a game of softball, golf or tennis. Group activities are probably better as it allows you to socialize on non-work related matters, thus allowing you to clear your head. However, if stress becomes too unbearable for you, seek professional advice. Perhaps it will be necessary for you to take a vacation or sabbatical from your work, or maybe a change in job altogether.

NEXT WEEK: I'll wrap up my "Do's and Don'ts" with discussions on Air Travel, Moving/Transfers, and Office Romances.

If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail.

Careers and Job Hunting
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