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The situation:

I've read a few other similar topics here, but mine appears to be fairly unique. I've been at this company for 9 months, we've had the last 3 months working from home during COVID-19 times, and my line manager booked me in for a 'weekly one on one'. We used to have a monthly one on one, but haven't for the last 3 (possibly 4) months. During the first one (this week) she has verbally expressed my performance was not up to scratch, and has asked me to provide an 'action plan' to increase productivity.

This came pretty much out of the blue; to be honest I don't think my performance there has been great for a few reasons:

  1. It's not an industry sector I have worked in before, so new terms and workflows need to be learned by myself
  2. It's not exactly a direct match for my skillset, whilst I have been doing web development with PHP/MySQL/jQuery this role is in support for Python/Django/AWS
  3. The role is very varied and no two problems can be the same, from diagnosing and fixing the AWS database, to diagnosing and fixing the code for an errant XML file transversing through our system
  4. The pace is very fast, and I must admit there is no time to document what has happened, let alone absorb and contemplate what has happened and why. (their Wiki is in a poor state, old documentation, badly organized)

When they asked me how I thought I was doing, I replied I thought I was doing "ok", not great, not too bad, but their opnion was vastly different, citing some examples which were never mentioned along the way.

When I initially started this role, I had a 3 month probtion, which I passed but with no formal review, nor have I received a letter stating I've passed probation, I think I had 2 monthly "one on one's" after that time, but with no glaring negative reviews (there were some areas for improvement, but nothing that was repeated during the first weekly one on one).

This role is doing support for a small company (~30 employees) which works for a larger company, and I often work long hours, which seems to be expected, as the other support guy is constantly on Slack and we do an after hours support night each third day (with one of the developers). Sometimes these support nights go right through the night, and we are expected to put in a full day after that. Being on call also takes away from my family time, and often leaves me grumpy with the wife and kids, nor do I get time to play guitar (my main/only hobby). Overall the pay is good, but the hours and expectations seem to weigh far in their favour (as my wife is constantly reminding me I'm working too much), and the change in architecture was a bigger jump than I expected, especially at the fast pace where I don't have time to absorb the information.

Overall, the money is good, but my heart is not in it, however I can't afford (as the only breadwinner) to be unemployed, as I've recently been working in contracting, which has good money, but also had some periods of inactivity between the contracts.

The question:

Is a weekly 'one on one' and being requested to produce an action plan leading down the path to performance management and loss of employment (in Australia)? I'm kinda distraught at this prospect as I've worked for a long time, but never previously been in this situation.

Edit1

Thanks for the feedback, just to clarify some of the points:

You don’t tell us why you took this position with the unfamiliar tech stack

I had been out of work for a month or two, the contracts I had been working on had finished (although one keeps asking me to go back for short periods of time) and the lure was FTE over contracting. During my previous FT stints, they required us to take decent breaks and any extra time was noted and bosses would suggest to take time out ...

based on what you’ve told us about the history, it’s likely that you will bear most of the responsibility.

That statement turned out to be correct, we discussed 4 key points fir this week, which I've made inroads into.

Weekly one on ones: not an issue in itself. I regard weekly, or at worst fortnightly, one on ones as an essential part of good management.

As I stated, I've had 2 reviews in 9 months, both times I asked whether there was feedback and there was nothing noted, which is why it came as a bit of a surprise. Both those reviews were pre-Covid times (March 2020, for us in Australia), then nothing prior to these.

whether your employer's mind is made up and they're just going through the motions of an action plan

I think I know the answer to that, but I might just be being paranoid.

For the sake of your family, I'd suggest starting to look around for a new position

I'm already working on that part. I read back what I wrote, and tried to view it as a 3rd party. I'm not happy and struggling, and tomorrow I'll be starting at 3am, finishing no earlier that 2pm, and being on-call from 5pm. That I am not looking forward to.

Thank you for the answers and some clarity.

Edit2

Adding some online references I found:

https://www.business.gov.au/people/ending-employment

https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employee-entitlements/managing-performance-and-warnings

https://www.fairwork.gov.au/how-we-will-help/templates-and-guides/fact-sheets/minimum-workplace-entitlements/ending-employment

https://www.perthnow.com.au/business/workplace-matters/job-insecurity-and-anxiety-leading-some-bosses-to-create-cult-like-culture-to-exploit-fearful-employees-ng-b881603625z

Edit3

For anyone following this, I am no longer employed at the organization as of Friday just gone (28th Aug). They gave me a two weeks notice, just over two weeks ago, and I finished (officially) on Friday. Due to the fact that I had around 35 hours owed from time-in-lieu, I took off the majority of the Thursday and all of the Friday.

  • We cannot read minds, so there is no real "answer" here. But being managed more closely and being told your performance is not what they expect is certainly no good sign. If you don't see a real way to improve your performance, it might be a good idea to look for another job, "just in case". – nvoigt Jul 4 '20 at 7:58
  • But at the same time, if your manager is technical, or knows the industry jargon and workflows, a weekly one-on-one meeting may just be what you need to replace some of the learning opportunities you would have gotten from being in the same office with everyone else. – Stephan Branczyk Jul 4 '20 at 8:03
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    "Sometimes these support nights go right through the night, and we are expected to put in a full day after that." We can ignore the rest of the question. An expectation of 24/7 working is not acceptable in any company. For the sake of your family, I'd suggest starting to look around for a new position. – PeteCon Jul 5 '20 at 3:22
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    @PeteCon, agreed. It seems absurd to expect someone who has actually been up all night (not just asleep and on-call), to attend work at all the next day. Here in the UK, it would be downright unlawful. – Steve Aug 30 '20 at 11:50
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Is a weekly 'one on one' and being requested to produce an action plan leading down the path to performance management and loss of employment (in Australia)?

Weekly one on ones: not an issue in itself. I regard weekly, or at worst fortnightly, one on ones as an essential part of good management.

Being requested to produce an action plan: absolutely, definitely, completely the first step towards loss of employment. Nobody does that unless there are serious issues which need to be resolved.

What we can't tell you though is whether this is a genuine attempt to bring your performance up to scratch, or whether your employer's mind is made up and they're just going through the motions of an action plan to ensure that HR are happy / they can't be sued.

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A weekly one on one is just good management practise, especially while everyone is working remotely. The fact that you had so little contact with your manager up to this point is pretty poor, tbh.

The fact that you are being told your performance is poor, and asked for an action plan, is a step towards formal performance review. You need to identify the key areas holding you back, and identify ways that they can help you improve. This should certainly be a collaboration, but based on what you’ve told us about the history, it’s likely that you will bear most of the responsibility.

You don’t tell us why you took this position with the unfamiliar tech stack, or whether it was discussed that you would need assistance getting up to speed. I think that is probably on you, and that you should have been more proactive in asking for help early on. It also sounds like the company is under staffed, and that there are wider issues beyond your performance. It’s probably worth looking for something more suitable.

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You are definitely in the danger-zone. However I think the fact that your manager is going to spend some of her precious time with/on you on a weekly basis means she hasn't given hope on you yet. I think she genuinely wants you to improve.

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