A reader writes:
I’d been having problems at work. It was a job I loved at first, but then things changed so much it no longer felt like the job I’d accepted. I’d come to resent my micromanaging boss and my coworkers were driving me nuts, but I tried to stick it out and put on a happy face until I could get a new job. But my resentment showed through and my manager put me on a performance plan to improve my attitude, although when I raised concerns about my job being in jeopardy, he assured me I wasn’t getting fired and I had a month to turn things around.
Nope. Two weeks into the performance plan, I got terminated. Part of me was relieved, even though I also feel horribly ashamed for screwing up so badly. But when I told my dad, he was pissed at the company. For one thing, he felt I should have been given a severance package and I should be paid a month’s worth of wages (he’s an employer too, and hiring and firing is part of his job). He also feels that my boss lied about my not being about to be fired, which was not okay, and that it was low of them to make me sign something but not give me a copy. But I don’t think I’m entitled to any of this — and I don’t want to act like a stereotypical Millenial and demand things I don’t deserve.
I know better than to call them and fight this. It’s not going to do anything, it’ll only make me look bad, and despite having a degree in politial science I’m actually not a fan of gaming a system for financial gain. But he’ll call me a quitter if I don’t at least try. What should I tell him?
Tell him that you’re an adult now and that while you appreciate his input, you’d like him to trust that you know the situation best and that you’re going to make your own decisions about how to handle it, and that you plan to move on and focus on what’s next. If he calls you a quitter, say, “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
But for your own background, here are some thoughts on your situation, in no particular order:
Regarding severance, some companies give it and some don’t. You can’t make them do it, especially if you don’t have any leverage that would make them want to — i.e., if they were concerned you were thinking of suing for a legitimate issue, such as harassment or discrimination, they’d have an incentive to give you severance in exchange for you signing a release of claims. But you acknowledge that you were clearly fired for performance, so I don’t see a justification for pushing for severance here unless there are relevant details not in your letter.
As for telling you that you had a month to improve before getting fired, but then firing you after two weeks — I don’t know the specifics of what happened, but if your performance wasn’t showing improvement during those two weeks, or was even getting worse, or if there was a major mistake made during that time, there are certainly cases where it would have been legitimate for them to short-circuit the improvement plan and end things early.
And last thing: Even though it might have felt differently in the moment, it’s important to remember that no one can “make you” sign something. You could have refused, or you could have insisted on a copy before signing. That’s not always something you realize when you’re new to the work world, but it’s something to remember for the future — and it’s something you might point out to your father if he continues raising this.
More importantly, though, your dad doesn’t know all the details, and he seems to be judging this situation as your dad not as an employer — which is natural, but you need to be firm about being an adult and handling this yourself.