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At my job I have been there for almost a year. My manager gave me a final written warning because people complained that I compare my workload to others in the fact that I do more than other people I work with and that I speak negatively about others.

I can only recall discussing workload one time with someone because they asked what I had completed.

There are people I work with who compare their workload to others as well and actually do speak negatively about others, but I am consistently the only one who ever is spoken to by management about it.

I feel like there are double standards in my workplace and my managers have told me this is it and after this I will be terminated.

Is it ok to discuss my concerns and feelings with my managers? I can’t risk losing my job but I constantly feel like I have a target on my back to the point where I’m afraid if I breathe wrong someone will run to management.

Any ideas on what I could say to my managers without it sounding like “oh but everyone does it too”?

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  • 8
    start looking for another job, just in case, and say nothing about other employees :-(
    – Pete W
    May 11 at 17:13
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    If that is the final written warning. Where the others warnings about the same issue?
    – Helena
    May 11 at 19:02
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    @KelseyT - So you have been warned about the behavior multiple times but are suggesting you have not actually participated in that behavior except that one time you describe? Something isn’t adding up
    – Donald
    May 12 at 0:46
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    This is the 3rd time I have been spoken to about it. I ask for specifics as to what I said and am always told we don’t have specifics. And I have requested feedback be given in as close to real time as possible and it’s always at least 1.5 weeks later.
    – KelseyT
    May 12 at 1:20
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    @KelseyT - So these three talks are all about that single instance of you described, or are we talking about three different instances that have brought a discussion about those instances?
    – Donald
    May 12 at 3:59
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You perhaps can't risk losing your job, but you're about to lose it anyway. That's what 'final warning' means. You might have a chance to save it, by talking to your manager, but it's important what you're going to talk to your manager about.

You should NOT mention anyone else, or what they do or don't do, or how anything is unfair. Perhaps it is all unfair, but to save your job, that's not what is important.

What you want to say is "I want this job, and I want to know what I need to do differently, in order to keep it. I will not compare my actions to co-workers, I will not speak badly about co-workers. But more importantly, I want to do good work, and I want you tell me what I need to do immediately, and how you want my work to look like down the road." And then, stop and listen. Don't try to defend yourself, or explain. Acknowledge what your manager says: "Ok, I understand."

If the job turns around, and your manager starts being pleased with your work, then this could turn out to be a good job.

However, you should also be actively looking for a new job. It might be too late to save this one, it might be that your manager just doesn't like you, it might be your manager is a bad manager and is unfair, it might be that your coworkers are undermining you. There might be things that YOU can't do to turn this around, and if so, you need to be already on the lookout for a replacement.

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  • "Fairness" is usually not objective. I've never heard of anyone turning down a raise because it wasn't fair to others that didn't get it. Managers hear everyone complaining about unfairness but it is always biased towards the complainer.
    – Nelson
    Jul 13 at 1:52
  • @Nelson - very good point! Jul 14 at 16:52
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So at least, you can agree that there is a kernel of truth to what they're saying.

I can only recall discussing workload one time with someone because they asked what I had completed.

Ok, fine. Someone else asked you.

Either way, it doesn't really matter. Your managers want you to stop doing it, even if you did it only once and even if you were asked that question.

See it from the perspective of your managers. They don't really care about the details. They only want the behavior to stop.

And that's what they meant when they issued you with a "final written warning", it means they don't want to discuss this issue with you anymore. So either you comply with that request, or you go find a new employer somewhere else. They don't want to discuss this.

And maybe that's the real underlying problem that they have with you. It's not the fact that you did this, it's the fact that when they give you negative feedback and try to correct your behavior, that you respond defensively. And that might be the real reason they issued you with that final written warning.

I feel like there are double standards in my workplace

I'm sorry, but that argument is bullshit.

Your managers may not have cared about this behavior in the past, but apparently, they've changed their minds. They do have that right.

And if they do want to change this behavior at work, they do have to start reprimanding somebody to begin with. Their goal is not to reprimand everybody, their goal is to just stop the behavior from happening again.

Besides, even if they did reprimand others for the same thing, they don't have to tell you a thing about it. That's none of your business. These people are not your parents. They don't have to explain themselves to you.

And if you work in an "at-will" state, they don't even have to justify themselves to you if they fire you.

And you know what, maybe you're right. Maybe they do have it out for you. And right now, it seems like they're looking to make an example out of someone. So right now is not a good time to argue about the details of what happened, especially if they do have it out for you.

And if you want to tell them something, tell them that you received their message, that you understood it, and that you're going to comply with it. That's it, do not say anything else. And if they do want to fire someone to make an example out of, hopefully, once you're no longer trying to challenge them on those details, then they'll move on to someone else.

And in the meantime, if someone else asks you how much work you did, now you know what to say to them. You don't discuss it. Just say "I don't know."

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You've had a shock, and you're trying to convince yourself that you did nothing wrong, by being overly nit-picky about the exact wording of the accusation. If you tried instead to convince yourself that you did something wrong, I'm willing to bet you could figure out what to change.

As far as the double standard goes, have you ever been surprised by a coworker suddenly getting fired? They went through the same process you are enduring, but you probably weren't aware of it, and there's no reason you should have been. There's a decent chance you've also had a coworker receive a final warning, but they managed to turn around their behavior. There's no reason you would have been aware of that, either.

Focusing on changing your own behavior is the only way you'll be able to salvage this job, if you still want to.

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There's no need to walk out, the company will do that for you. And leaving as your own decision will bring you disadvantages.

What you should do is start looking for a new job today. So that you have a new job ready lined up when they let you go, which they will.

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"Just walk out." You're toast.

And, here's what made you toast: "and that I speak(!) negatively(!!) about others(!!!)."

"Simply because you didn't know 'when to keep your mouth shut'" ... (sorry) ... you have now been "voted off the island." Therefore, grab an available boat instead of being stuck with a life preserver.

Meanwhile – why don't you ask for a "one-on-one" with your manager? Ask: "So, how did I screw-up so badly, and what could I have done to avoid this?"

Gosh ... maybe, if you will now (shut up and) listen, your manager just might have something to say. (And, he might be surprised that you are now curious.)

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  • Them saying I speak negatively about others is becuase i was asked what work I completed and it was more than what the others did. I’m not gonna sit there and be like I only did 1 thing when I did 6 or 7. If you aren’t going to be helpful than don’t comment
    – KelseyT
    May 11 at 20:17
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    @KelseyT When you were asked about what work you completed, did you say "I completed these 6 items", or something like "I completed these 6 items -- and Fred over there only completed one"? In any case, talking to your manager about this is your only hope. And when you do so, don't say anything about anyone else's performance. May 11 at 21:05
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Any ideas on what I could say to my managers without it sounding like “oh but everyone does it too”?

If you really, honestly don't know what the letter is referring to, it's OK to talk to your manager about it. Try something like "I'm 100% on board with making whatever change you need me to make, but I'm honestly a little confused about what this is about. My plan going forward is just to not discuss my workload with anyone other than you. Will that solve the problem? Is there anything more specific that you can tell me?"

That said, if you do have a pretty good idea what they're talking about, don't play dumb and act like you don't know. Just keep your mouth shut and do the best work you can.

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    My only advice to the author is that they have had a discussion with their manager three times, either about a single instance or multiple instances, of the behavior described. So indicating you are unaware of what they are talking about is going to make them give you a very puzzled look, as they look at their notes on their desk, about those previous discussions. They will then likely have the same discussion a fourth time, or that might be a indication, you actually were not taking the other discussions seriously (the time to question those instances were at the time of the discussion).
    – Donald
    May 13 at 23:42
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You are hired to increase the performance of your company.

Apparently you think your coworkers will work harder because you are constantly telling them that you work harder than they do. They won't. Perhaps they are already working harder than you know, as I doubt you really know the details of their full workloads.

In short, you're just busting their chops, and you are not their manager. Perhaps you should:

  • Stop bragplaining about all the work you do. It is superficial to complain only because you want to show off. If you're really doing that much work, the boss would fire the rest of the team and retain only you.

  • Don't compare yourself against your coworkers. True or not, it degrades the team's morale. Eventually the team will resent you for saying it to a degree that they will call for your dismissal, and by then your boss will be happy to comply.

  • Again don't compare yourself to others. If other team members are comparing their workloads to yours, it doesn't make you comparing your work load to theirs right. Instead call them out with "I could compare my work load with others, but that wouldn't do me, you, or the team any good." Make such statements loudly enough that they are clearly heard by others (but not shouting). People don't succeed by stooping to a lower level.

  • If your work load is truthfully too much, slow down so you don't burn out. You don't need to slack off at work; but it is considered a healthy thing to take time off occasionally. By unwinding outside of the office, you can perform while in it.

I doubt that the double standards exist as strongly as you believe; but, even if there are double standards, they can't come down on your more harshly if you aren't creating the issue by bragging about "how much work I do compared to EVERYONE else!"

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Whether there is a double standard or not is completely beside the point. There's no reason that you need to compare your workload to other people or complain about other people. Objectively speaking, it is not unreasonable for management to ask you to stop doing that. Even if other people are doing the same thing and "getting away with it," you still need to stop doing that.

Unless you're being given an unreasonably high workload or your pay is too low relative to what management is actually asking you to do, there's no basis to complain about it. Even then, your conversation with management should be focused on setting reasonable expectations for how much you can complete and/or asking for a raise to reflect how much you're doing - it should not focus on "I'm doing way more than other people are" because that's not relevant. (Note that, if that's the case, this conversation should have happened before you got a final warning from management).

Any ideas on what I could say to my managers without it sounding like “oh but everyone does it too”?

You can't - it would be "but everyone does it too." If you approach the issue from that perspective, you would be making excuses for an objectively unreasonable behavior.

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  • Whether there is a double standard or not is completely beside the point. - please heed this OP. Your employer isn’t warning you about what others do, they’re warning you about what you do. If everyone does it, well you can’t fix what Bob and Alice do, but you can fix what you do. So do that.
    – Rob Moir
    May 13 at 17:12

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