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I am an IT Technician working for a company in the UK. Last year, a project over ran by 3 weeks and the Project Manager was sacked as a result. I was also involved, but as a pawn I only had my knuckles rapped as the issues resulting in a delay were out of my control. Fast forward 3 months we are repeating the project. Our service delivery manager (not my direct boss or a HR member) spoke with me, he told me my job was at risk if this doesn't go well.

Are they allowed to say this to me? It was definitely more a threat than 'friendly advice' as we have had a sour relationship up to date (they are a hot head). I told a friend of mine working in HR for another company who said only my boss or HR should be allowed to tell me such things or I could take them to the cleaners via tribunal.

Should I inform HR/ my boss this was said to me?Or carry on as usual, hoping for the best I can prove myself capable in the repeat project.

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  • Something to ask your friend would be: "if they wanted to, what steps could they take to fire me?". The UK has relatively good employment protections and evidence is required to sack someone lawfully. Understanding how that evidence is built will help you to figure out whether or not the threat is plausible and how you should respond. – P. Hopkinson Feb 11 at 16:32
  • " I told a friend of mine working in HR for another company who said only my boss or HR should be allowed to tell me such things" Actually nobody is allowed to say such things.... – wes85melis Feb 11 at 17:55
  • If your work is unsatisfactory, they're allowed to give you written warnings and/or put you on a performance management program. Threatening you with the sack if you miss a deadline is not acceptable under any circumstances, and would count heavily against them if it came to a tribunal. – Matthew Barber Feb 12 at 2:38
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You should talk to your boss about this, but don't approach it as reporting the service delivery manager (SDM). Instead approach it as asking for advice. This way you can get a feel for whose side your boss is on while not starting trouble by making an official complaint.

Hey Boss, I was talking with SDM, and he said that if this project doesn't go well I could get fired. I know that we really need to succeed since we're repeating the project, but I didn't realize it was this dire. Are things really this bad? Do you have any advice on how to make sure my role in this project is successful?

If your boss thinks the SDM is out of line, then hopefully they will reassure you that your job is not on the line and that it's their decision , not the SDM's. That should give you the ability to relax a bit so you can hunker down and make this project a success.

If your boss doesn't give you a straight answer and instead tells you how important this project is and that a second failure is really not acceptable, then you know that complaining is not going to get you anywhere. If this is the case I would work extra hard on that project, but also brush up on your CV just in case things don't go as well as they want.

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Someone other than you line manager has just threatened your job. This is not acceptable.

However, you have claimed that they said this. Any complaint to HR will result in a he said/she said situation (unless they're a bit dim) and will reflect poorly on both of you.

My advice would be to push back. Have a chat with your boss, make sure you explain that you're not making it formal right now, but will if it continues. Loop your boss in (cc) on anything that comes from this person, and save every email relating to the the delivery performance.

It genuinely sounds like they are setting up a scapegoat, so cover your proverbial arse.

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It seems to me the best approach you can do is to update your CV and start looking.

If the delivery manager has the power to replace people because the project was not delivered on time, and this has happened in the past, it is very hard to justify why it will not happen in the future.

What is more, you mentioned that you were just a 'pawn' which implies that you have very limited power in the project to makke it go smoothly. If the project manager was sacked in the previous attempt, is very likely that the same process will be repeated.

Of course, this is only about what are your option from my point of view, and I am not addressing the issue that such behaviour from the manager is completely unprofessional, and in case you are not let go at the end of the project, maybe it would still worth to look elsewhere so you can get rid of such toxic managers.

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    This disregards the possibility the SDM is just mouthing off and stepping way out of line. Don't throw in the towel unless you understand what's going on. – Hilmar Feb 11 at 15:52
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That sounds like a toxic and unhealthy work environment.

I doubt that anything good will happen even if you report that to HR or your boss. They already have you linked to a failed project and are monitoring your performance. So even if you raise the issue, it will only look like self protecting and offers HR the opportunity to side with the managers.

So, I would just keep me head down, polish my CV and start looking for another job before the new project ends.

  • Agreed totally. Go work somewhere else. – Fattie Feb 11 at 17:00
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"my job was at risk if this doesn't go well" Are they allowed to say this to me?

Legally? I am not that familiar with UK employment laws. But in most countries in the world "If you don't perform well you will be fired" is a very common threat. The question is if it's a threat they can actually follow through with. That depends on how your company is organized and what kind of protection you have from wrongful dismissal.

According to company policy? We don't know your company policy, but considering that they fired the last project manager for not finishing a project on time implies that the company does have a "succeed or get fired" mentality.

Is it smart business practice to operate that way? Usually not. While fear can motivate people in the short term, it generates a high stress level in the long term which affects employment performance negatively. Industries which rely on low-skilled labor can afford a "hire and fire" mode of operation where they hire people, burn them out and then replace them. But it rarely works in IT where you have highly skilled employees where both acquision and onboarding are long and costly processes. It also creates a culture where people hide their mistakes or try to blame others for them instead of one where people admit their mistakes and cooperate on finding solutions. This culture negatively affects the quality of the companies output and endangers the customers.

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