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I work for a corporation in healthcare and I'm a manager of a practice. Just over a month ago I had a meeting with my boss where she told me some negative feedback she had gotten from my team. I was told that the team wasn't happy with my management style, they didn't feel I was approachable and they felt I was taking too much time off (I have vacation time accrued). I was completely blindsided by this as I felt I had a pretty good working relationship with my team. I expressed this to my boss and told her I wasn't sure where this was coming from but I would take immediate steps to ensure the team knew I was aware of their concerns and was taking them seriously. I said I would do some one-on-one meetings with everyone to apologize and try to set things straight.

In this meeting my boss asked me several times if I wanted to try to fix my relationship with the team or not. She also asked me if I wanted to continue to be a manager, but without offering any other options (but it felt like she was eluding to me quitting without actually saying it). She said it so often that I eventually asked her what the alternative was to which she didn't have a reply. She also told me she felt I was taking too much time off as well and pulled up my vacation requests in the meeting. I felt that I had to justify my vacation even though I'm well within what I'm allowed to take in a year.

I had one on one meetings with all of the staff and everyone was shocked by what I had to say. They all had positive feedback and didn't understand where this was all coming from. Most of them said they hadn't actually met with my boss about me at all and were surprised by what I had to say.

We had a managers meeting a few weeks later and she again asked everyone if they wanted to continue to work as managers. It's been a very stressful year with layoffs, lower income than projected and price increases. She talked for several minutes about how if we don't want to continue doing our jobs then we need to speak with her and that she wants employees who want to manage. This conversation came out of the blue with no one bringing it up or causing a fuss at the meeting. I don't know if it was directed at me or someone else, but it was uncomfortable for everyone.

Fast forward to this past week. We had an inventory count to do on one of my scheduled days off. I was also required to be available from 9-5 the day after inventory in case there were any questions or reports that needed to be fixed. I'm salary and I work four 10 hour days a week, so I ended up working my regular 40 hours plus the day we counted inventory (a full work day). Then I was on call the day after and was required to have my laptop and cell phone on me at all times. The corporation I work for gives out lieu days instead of paying for additional time worked, so I told my boss the two days I wanted in lieu. I was immediately shut down and told I would only get one day. When I pushed back and explained that I worked two extra days that week and therefore should be entitled to two lieu days I was told no again. I asked for a meeting about it and was ignored (this is all via text message).

I feel like I'm being asked to quit without actually being asked to quit and that my boss is trying to make me uncomfortable enough to leave on my own. I've worked for this company for nine years and so firing me without real cause would be expensive. My boss has mentioned before how we don't need to fire people because we can just find ways to make them quit. I feel like it's happening to me now.

I'd love to get an outsiders opinion and advice if I could.

Thank you for all the support and advice. I'm located in Ontario, Canada.

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    Being on call isn't a day of work anywhere I've ever been.
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 4:05
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    @TigerGuy You may want to try a country with solid labor laws then. Not every country is an exploitative employers dream. 24h on-call is counted as 8h work day where I live and only in the event that you are not actually called. If you are called, every minute you are actively working counts 1:1.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 5:00
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    @TigerGuy not a full day but absolutely not nothing. AND if it's in the company policies than so be it
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 14:02
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    Go about your days as if you're the happiest little clam on earth. Make a point of saying things like "I love my job." and "Working here is the best." It may sound a little corny, and dropping little tidbits like that will help create a complete discordance with your manager's narrative. If the discordance continues, their intentions will be a little more obvious. Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 15:28
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    "I've worked for this company for 9 years and so firing me without real cause would be expensive." - "The corporation I work for gives out lieu days instead of paying for additional time worked so I told my boss the two days I wanted in lieu. I was immediately shut down ... I asked for a meeting about it and was ignored" - 9y? You knock on the door of the owner's office and say, "Do you have a minute? Sorry to bother you but,"
    – Mazura
    Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 0:11

5 Answers 5

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It's been a very stressful year with layoffs, lower income than projected and price increases.

So your boss is trying to reduce staff. It will either be you, or someone else who caves first. Obviously that will not mean reduced work, because they barely make enough money now, so the work will stay the same, just fewer workers to do it.

That will make your job even more unbearable than it is now.

In my experience, you have a choice to make. Do you want to be the passive victim of the things to come? Or do you want to be the active participant making your own choices about your life?

The company doesn't care. But you will. There is no such thing as feeling good about being a victim. If you let the company do things to you, it will feel bad. It will come in an inconvenient moment where you did not expect it. You will not be properly prepared and have no backup plan.

The company is in a bad shape, the work is stressful, and they aren't paying you enough. There is no reason to stay there. Stop being the passive victim; go take your life into your own hands and find a job in a company that is not going under, that pays you properly and where people aren't so stressed out that they act like they want to get rid of you.

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    There is a reason to get an employment lawyer and start to gather evidence for a constructive dismissal case though. OP could end up with a LOT of cash
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 14:03
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    @Hobbamok That depends on juristiction. Not every country is happy to dish out ridiculous punishments in court cases. Where I live, if you win, you get lost earnings and your lawyer fees. So basically if you find a new job after a month of being dismissed unfairly, you get one month of salary and your legal fees. You could instead have found a new job on your own terms and not entertained the whole legal procedure, for probably the same money and less stress.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 14:39
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    true, but an initial consultation (which would include informing OP about how valuable a potential payout could be) doesn't cost much (the rest of preparations/lawsuits can), so I'd absolutely still recommend getting professional advice about the legal options#
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 15:12
  • Yep, I totally agree with this answer. I would also recommend having a "I still want to be a manager, just not for you" convo with the OP's manager after new employment is found. And also quietly recommending the people under the OP to also find new jobs, as long as that doesn't get people into legal trouble. Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 17:37
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    I am not sure about labour laws in Canada, but if OPs assessment of the situation is correct, the company is trying to get people to quit to avoid the expense that would come with laying them off. For example, that could be severance. In my country, if you quit you are not entitled to one, otherwise you may be. Whether you quit, were fired or laid off also has effect on unemployment support. Advising OP to quit may in their interest in terms of stress and mental health, but not financially. Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 9:45
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Step 1: Document, document, document

Something fishy is happening here, so your first line of defense is always to document every detail. Keep a diary with all relevant interactions. Note the date & time, the content, location or means and keep copies of e-mails, text messages, transcripts of verbal interactions, etc.

This will give you much stronger negotiation position for whatever may come.

Step 2: Read up on your internal policies and local laws Understand what your manager is allowed and not allowed to do. What rules govern terminations, how does severance work, is a PIP required, what are mandatory notice periods, etc. Also understand what your rights with respect to vacation are. Withholding it would be illegal in most jurisdictions

Step 3: Try to figure out what's going on From the sound of it you are indeed being managed "out the door" but it doesn't seem to be targeted at you specifically but more a department wide issue. There could be many reasons for that, anywhere from "the company is heading for bankruptcy" to "your boss is off their rocker or just incompetent". Could be financial troubles in the entire org or just your department, could be that a merger, acquisition or major reorg is in the works, could be that your boss has screwed up their budget and need to recover somehow, could be that your boss is just passive-aggressive for the fun of it, could be a misperception on your part, etc.

So look at your company's financials, business strategy and outlook/forecast. Look at some industry news to see how the sector is doing and where it's heading. Talk to other people in the company within and outside your department. Pay GREAT attention at any all-hands meetings and carefully read any internal or external company communication

Step 4: Make your plan

You can't really do this without the other 3 steps. If the company is doing all right and it's more that your boss is on some personal rampage your can try to approach HR (if you have it), your boss's boss, or the senior leadership of the company, especially if you are not the only one affected.

If you come to the conclusion that this is not long-term viable for you (for whatever reason) you can plan you exit strategy. One of the most underused tools here is the "Mutual Beneficial Agreement".

The main reason why they try to "manage you out the door" instead of just firing you is practical: In many legislations it is actually difficult to terminate someone without a good reason: it costs time, money, effort and often comes with a non-trivial legal exposure risk.

Hence the company is often willing to make concessions, if you leave voluntarily. They may not HAVE to pay you severance but they sure CAN. There are all kind of other things you can potentially negotiate: an extended garden leave, equity, one-time bonus, etc. It's a free contract and everything is fair game that both parties agree to (as long as it's legal).

This is a powerful tool but needs a fair bit of negotiation skills so you may want to consider getting 3rd party help or coaching if you are not comfortable with it. Keep in mind that Step 1 will really help here. The words "detailed documentation" in combination with "outside advise" strike fear into the heart of every HR officer and company lawyer.

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    Uhm, Step 2 is consult with an employment lawyer. This could very well be a case of constructive dismissal and yield a significant amount of cash
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 14:04
  • Not everybody jumps right to lawsuit, @Hobbamok. That's one of the major problems with the US legal system - everybody want to sue everyone for every minor slight. Sometimes, you just need to pull up your big girl panties and get on with life. It makes it easier on everyone.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 15:14
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    Further to Step 1, document the items discussed in the meeting with the boss, then send meeting notes to the boss with an action plan. This way you have the boss' statements in writing and give the boss an opportunity to refute them in writing. Gives you solid ground for that lawsuit if that's the direction you choose to go. Or at least, grounds to get unemployment compensation (in the US or similar in other countries).
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 15:17
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    @FreeMan Calm down buddy. I said CONSULT. Aka just know what the options are. So OP can make an informed decision before they sign something that deprives them of a decent severance packet. Which could also likely be obtained by negotiating without a lawsuit. But probably only if OP knows the potential legal options.
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 15:17
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    @FreeMan source? You seem completely oblivious to my actual first response that a CONSULTATION is in no way directly a lawsuit and I just want OP to be informed about POTENTIAL future legal steps (or missteps they could take). Please read my comments again.
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 15:42
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Contact an employment lawyer now

Also gather all the evidence, text messages, etc. in a way where the company cannot interfere with them (e.g., delete WhatsApp messages or meddle with company email servers).

Document everything further that goes on. Start recording meetings with your boss (if your state allows it secretly), or follow it up to him with a recap (BCC your private email).

From my absolute layman’s perspective you have a decent chance at building a constructive dismissal case, and those—if won—can be a quite significant payout.

And even if not—or if you don't want to sue—knowing the legal standpoint, options and especially missteps that you could take is likely to pay off in the future. Even if it's just for more confidence when negotiating severance pay or something like that.

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Yes, it looks like you are pressured to quit. At this point you should decide what you want to do. If except for that boss you like the workplace and you would like to stay there you have to search for a legal advice by a professional. Get in touch with a lawyer or a union. You will not get enough advice from an online forum.

If instead you think that the job is not worth the pain and you are planning to leave behave as if you had nothing to lose. In such a mood you could openly challenge your boss and ask them about their intention. Next time they schedule some work while you are on holidays push it back. If you are in Europe and they ask you to be on call without compensation you can push it back as well. Actually even in the US you could push it back, if they want to get rid of you tell them to do it explicitly and fire you.

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Like everyone has pointed out in the comments, your boss is cutting staff as the company is not doing so well. They want you to leave so they don't have to pay you.

In my opinion you should leave, preferably, now. I know leaving seems like your are playing into their hands but in this case you are getting a free ticket out of hell. Your company can no longer provide positive working conditions and the increased stress will slowly but surely eat at you until you leave. Why wait? If you are not financially stable enough, start searching for a new job and when you secure it, leave. This is impacting your health in more ways than you realize.

The ship is already sinking my friend, your choice is to stay on board and go down with it or leave in time and save yourself of the increased toxicity of your work environment.

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    so, just do exactly what the upper management is bullying the OP into doing, then?
    – njzk2
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 16:32
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    Actually yes. The circumstances are such that the company is performing poorly. They are laying off staff, the rest of the staff gets an increased workload, no additional pay for it and like OP stated they even get paid less than usual. I wouldn't see a reason to stay even if they didn't try to make OP quit. The environment is toxic and it would eventually get to the point of OP getting fired or leaving. Why waste his nerves on spilt milk?
    – CodeJunkie
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 16:40
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    the company wants something: that the OP stops being paid by them. Why should the OP give that away for free? Hilmar's recommendation of negotiating an exit make a lot of sense.
    – njzk2
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 16:42
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    If I were in his place, I would leave, that is my opinion. It is not worth wasting time nor your health on that company. They are on their way down either way and I don't think they would settle for payment as that is exactly what they want to avoid. I would rather pack my stuff and leave for another job than stay and bargain. No money is worth my health and happiness
    – CodeJunkie
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 17:11

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