The Situation

I just walked out of a conversation with my boss. The HR person from the head office also joined us via phone. I was served with a written warning 'for consistent disregard of work and attendance policy'. My boss says I am not communicating my whereabouts properly1, am not motivated, am not being accountable for my responsibilities within the team, am not actively taking part in office meetings.

While this is partially true2, I am alarmed by the fact that, while listing everything I've done wrong, he repeatedly made false allegations to inflate the case for the HR person, and leave me unable to deal with the avalanche of allegations one by one. I was not informed of the real nature of the meeting or the fact that the HR person will be there, and so was not prepared (unlike my boss). When I asked him to share his findings he refused, told me to look up the e-mails.

I have thirty days to 'improve significantly' or face 'further disciplinary action'. I was told that the working hours are nine to five, and if I take a longer lunch then I need to make up for it. I was given an order to move desks such that my boss could see everything I do any time he raises his head.

I also need to produce a written plan of the steps I want to take to improve productivity, attendance, and gain back the lost trust of the company, my boss, and (allegedly) my teammates.

The Question: what can I do?

What do I put in that plan, besides the obvious points?

Do I refute his false claims? We have a similar discussion scheduled for tomorrow.

Do I communicate the fact that micromanagement will not help? My boss was very hostile towards me in the meeting, pointing out that there are only two ways out of this, and that I 'know where the door is'. It is the first time he is leading a team, his last position was that of the product manager. Since he started leading the team from one year ago our team has shrunk by 30%.

Quitting is not an option at the moment.


I read the Does receiving a Performance Improvement Plan suggest my job is on the line?, and the answers are helpful, however it doesn't address my questions:

  • How can I mitigate the current situation?
  • What to put in the plan, since it looks like I'm the one who needs to create a Performance Improvement Plan, or at least a draft of it?

Status Update

One week after the conversation described above the two of us had a short briefing, at which my boss kept comments to a minimum and didn't give me much feedback, only instructing me to proceed. I assumed it was because he didn't have enough time to formulate anything constructive, preferring to wait a bit longer. Another week later (two weeks into the 30-day trial period) we reconvened; he said he is not happy with my progress. This time none of the issues brought up two weeks prior came up; instead he chose to focus on my productivity. Having realized that the decision has already been made, three or four days later I submitted my resignation e-mail. A noticeable "relaxation" in my boss's overall attitude towards me followed immediately thereafter. We parted two weeks later, on reserved terms.


  1. Before I was hired we agreed that I would be working from home once a week. Later my boss's attitude escalated into significant resistance to my doing it. I brought it up at the meeting, and he answered that this is because I was hired with trust which was subsequently lost. Basically he doesn't believe I'm doing much work when I'm working from home.

  2. Due to me currently dealing with personal issues outside of work that I am not comfortable disclosing to any of my co-workers, including my boss.

  • 91
    Even if quitting is not an option for you, it clearly is for them. Be prepared.
    – Telastyn
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 18:25
  • 2
    @gnat - I looked at that one, and while it has some applicable advice in it, I didn't think it was quite a duplicate. Partially because this one has the claims of some false accusations. Although, perhaps that doesn't matter, practically speaking. Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 18:57
  • 2
    @thursdaysgeek see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/194476/…
    – gnat
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 19:32
  • 6
    Your boss is just making things harder for you so you'll eventually get fed up and quit. The perception here is your boss's (and your) integrity are in question, and for both (whatever the reality - right, wrong, indifferent) to make a turn for the better is a tall order. Even if things do get better, you've got a target on your back throughout the rest of your job there. If I were you I'd get to work updating my resume and start playing the field with every intention of leaving a potentially hostile work environment.
    – user18483
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 16:44
  • 10
    "Due to me currently dealing with personal issues outside of work that I am not comfortable disclosing to any of my co-workers, including my boss." Given the situation this might have been a bad call - it is typically a good idea to give your superior an idea why you do not perform as usual and to give you more leeway so you can both take care of these important issues as well as being considered to perform satisfactory. Commented May 13, 2015 at 12:02

11 Answers 11


Prepare for the worst case:

This situation reads like your manager is laying the groundwork to fire you. In your position, I would expect that in 30 days, you'll be called into your manager's office and will be fired. Yes, even if you improve, and no, there's probably nothing you can do at this point to change that. At the very least, your manager has already made up his mind that he wants to fire you, and will seize any excuse to do so.

And frankly, even if that's not the case (which I believe to be vanishingly unlikely), it's always good advice to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best, so the wise thing to do is prepare yourself for being fired in a month, regardless.

As such, the only option you have is to get a new job, before you lose this one. (It's often said that the best reference for a job is currently having one, so if you wait until after you're fired, you will find it substantially more difficult to get another position.)

Hope for the best:

However, while it's important to be prepared for the worst case scenario and look at other options, you'll still want to keep your boss happy and work on "improving" according to the plan he gave you. (The other answers here have covered how to go about doing that much better than I could, so refer to them for how to do that.) If nothing else, showing improvement and keeping the boss happy will at least give you a little room to breathe... and if you don't improve, you might find yourself fired sooner than 30 days from now, as noted in your PIP.

But again, because it's so important to prepare for being fired at the end of your PIP, outside the hours of 9-5, you should be pounding the pavement hard and procuring a new job (and over your lunch hours, too). Getting a job offer or two is also the only safe way to stick around and find out whether or not you're going to get fired, should you be hellbent on not switching jobs for whatever reason.

It sucks, and I've been there myself, but that's really what's best for you.

  • 2
    Comments removed. For further discussion, please use The Workplace Meta.
    – yoozer8
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 17:06
  • 3
    This answer is being discussed here: meta.workplace.stackexchange.com/q/2524/16 Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 14:01
  • 4
    I disagree with this answer. If your boss was intent on firing you, he wouldn't be telling you to move your desk, etc. That suggests that he'd like you to get your act together, although he may not be very adept at knowing how to do that.
    – Vector
    Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 10:40
  • 4
    @comeAndGo ... or moving the desk lets the boss observe more closely and build up a stronger case for firing dalbeab in a month's time. Observe anyone closely enough, and you can make a case for firing them... fits better with the avalanche of charges and false accusations than anything resembling genuine concern for dalbeab improving. Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 18:40
  • 3
    Unless the allegations are not false, or merely misconceptions. In which case moving the desk may let the manager see he had it all wrong. Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 2:42

What do I put in that plan, besides the obvious points?

You provide a list of actions that you are going to take to show your manager that you are improving in the areas that he sees as deficient. It does not matter if you were actually deficient or not, you appeared to be deficient and that is all that matters. So now you need to show your manager that you are performing up to expectations going forward. Do not focus on the past, only look forward. Take this seriously. Do not get sarcastic or bitter about having to do this or try to "make a point" with your suggested action items.

Do I refute his false claims? We have a similar discussion scheduled for tomorrow.

No. Your boss does not want to hear excuses or to have you tell him that he is wrong. Refuting his claims is only going to put you even more on his bad side.

Tomorrow you will talk about the plan you have and ask him for help in how you can address any of the issues that you were not able to figure out how to address appropriately. Do not argue with him. If he gives you a vague action item do not argue with it at the time; it is your job to figure out how you can fulfill that requirement. After you've thought about how to complete the action item, if you are still unsure then you can take what you have to him and ask if that is what he meant. If it's not, then ask him to clarify or tell you how to accomplish it. If the action item seems impossible, just say OK I will do my best.

Do I communicate the fact that micromanagement will not help? My boss was very hostile towards me in the meeting, pointing out that there are only two ways out of this, and that I 'know where the door is'. It is the first time he is leading a team, his last position was that of the product manager. Since he started one year ago our team has shrunk by 30%.

Here is the truth of your situation: you have one foot out the door, and if your manager was allowed to remove you right now, you would probably already be gone. Your manager went through a lot of work to get to this point. His expectations for you are low and he is not likely to give you any slack at this point.

He has no intention of helping you, the point of this exercise is to either forge you into a quality employee or break you. You will come through this either stronger, and with a better understanding between the two of you what the expectations are, or you will be gone. If he gives you an impossible action item at your meeting tomorrow just realize that it is his out if you step out of line. It is the proverbial axe over your neck. It is there to make you feel uncomfortable and to remind you that your future with the company is in his hands.

Another thing to consider is did you do something to upset your manager or make them look bad? If you did, you need to figure it out before your month is up. Your greatest action item here is to apologize for stepping on your manager's toes and admit you were wrong for doing so. Do not make excuses here; the damage is done and your manager does not want to hear it. Acknowledge that you were wrong, accept responsibility for your actions completely, apologize, and promise to do better in the future.

If you made your manager look bad, but what you did was not technically wrong, you should wait for a few weeks to apologize. This would be things like pointing out in a meeting with his managers mistakes he made or even just publicly correcting him in that situation. You need to jump through his hoops first and demonstrate that you can be a good soldier. Let him make the first move in acknowledging you are doing better. Then you can "give unto Caesar that which is due." Apologizing now will act to point out that he is acting like a childish bully. And Since he is a childish bully with your career in his hands right now that is not a good idea.

For the record: I am not condoning the behavior of your manager, just trying to provide a some clarity into your situation, and provide you a road map that may allow you to move forward without getting fired. I would make it a point to look for other options as well. It is entirely possible that there is nothing you can do to save your job, only to extend your period of employment by a few months. Being prepared will make landing on your feet a much easier task.

  • 2
    Excellent, thank you. Just to be clear: apologising is not advisable? I was cross with him on one occasion during the meeting, and wanted to apologise for that, tell him I heard him and am serious about trying to fix the situation. Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 22:50
  • 7
    Do apologize. Don't make excuses. Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 23:37
  • 12
    +1 for " Your greatest action item here is to apologize for stepping on your managers toes and admit you were wrong for doing so. Do not make excuses here the damage is done" -- apologize, don't make excuses, and improve. If you want to keep the job, drop the ego, suck it up, and do what you're told with a smile on your face.
    – jmac
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 0:45
  • 6
    @dalbaeb - Re apologies: They should be of a professional, not personal nature: It's not about hurting someone's feelings or embarrassing them - it's about being insubordinate, failing to meet your work responsibilities, behaving appropriately in the workplace etc.
    – Vector
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 21:51

The Question: what can I do?

You must:

  • Accept the position you are in and cooperate in as friendly a manner as you can
  • Find out how to communicate your whereabouts properly, and do so consistently
  • attempt to improve significantly within 30 days
  • Work 9 to 5
  • Make up for long lunches
  • Move your desk
  • Produce the written plan as required
  • Above all else, try as hard as you can to find a new job within the 30 days

As has been pointed out, a Performance Improvement Plan is often the very last step before getting fired. Certainly this isn't the first time your boss has indicated that your performance is sub-standard. Unfortunately, the last time you hear it will almost certainly be in 30 days when you are terminated.

The steps you are required to perform are necessary in order to have any chance to save your job. Unfortunately, it most likely still won't work.

What do I put in that plan, besides the obvious points?

Just put in the obvious points, and indicate that you will try hard. While you can attempt to salvage your job here, your main goal should be leaving on as good terms as you can manage. There's a big difference between leaving when you aren't a good fit for the role and leaving after you just didn't bother trying. The former case can get you good referrals, the latter case almost certainly won't.

Do I refute his false claims? We have a similar discussion scheduled for tomorrow.

It almost certainly won't matter. When it reaches the Performance Improvement Plan stage, the discussion about false claims is usually moot. You have already indicated that there is at least some merit to the overall claims - finding a point or two that isn't accurate is unlikely to matter, and will just come across as complaints from a failed worker.

Do I communicate the fact that micromanagement will not help? My boss was very hostile towards me in the meeting, pointing out that there are only two ways out of this, and that I 'know where the door is'. It is the first time he is leading a team, his last position was that of the product manager. Since he started one year ago our team has shrunk by 30%.

Again, you are on a Performance Improvement Plan path. Pointing out your boss's failings isn't going to help.

More information here: Is it illegal for a manager to admit a Performance Improvement Plan is just a formality?

(Note: If you are in a union position, you should be talking to your local union rep. Everything is different when strong union rules exist!)

  • 4
    +1. It's a shame this answer has so few votes compared to the currently top voted answer as it is considerably more comprehensive and actually answers their question.
    – enderland
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 17:15
  • 4
    +1 I would add a few points. Go above and beyond what you were asked to do. You've been accused of undercommunicating, so now you need to overcommunicate. Don't push it to annoying limits ("I'm going to the toilet now boss, is that OK?"), but do make sure you're communicating everything your boss might conceivably want to know, whether you think he needs to know or not. Also, build your own paper trail. Keep good records that you are doing everything that was requested of you.
    – mhwombat
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 18:06
  • 1
    And maybe you should take the initiative in this whole process now. As soon as you've prepared that plan, request a meeting with HR and your boss to discuss it and see if they are satisfied. Then, halfway through the month, request another meeting to get feedback on how things are going. Maybe you can't make your boss happy no matter what you do, but you can create mountains of evidence that you are doing everything that was asked. That may make it legally more difficult for them to fire you, or at least delay the process until you are ready to go.
    – mhwombat
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 18:09
  • @mhwombat We had a guy who took a performance management cycle to that degree. He would loudly state that he is going to the toilet before he left. Later he would complain that the manager was being so unreasonable that he was forced to report when he went to the toilet. When this kind of thing is reported to HR they tend to take a dim view of it and it can be hard to prove that the employee was conflagrating the issue.
    – Underverse
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 1:29

If quitting is not an option, then I presume firing is also not what you want. Unfortunately, right now you need to save your job, and then you can deal with the false accusations.

So, immediately, you do need to fix issues that are partially true, no matter what the personal circumstances are. And that should be part of the written report. You need to comply with what you consider petty micromanagement, because you need to appear to be fully complying and trying your best to regain the trust.

Only after you have regained some trust, and are showing that you are actively addressing the concerns, can you go to him and point out that you were blind-sided by some of the accusations. Do this calmly. Then ask him if he would be willing to come to you immediately when he has concerns, so that you can act on that feedback right away.

If there is NO truth in some accusations, you've examined your actions, and the accusation is not just partially false, but totally false, then it could be worth taking that up with HR. However, since there is some truth in at least some of the accusations, you're in a very weak position. Your better bet is to improve that position first, and then deal with any remaining totally false accusations. (And, as Chad correctly points out in the comments, this is risky and very unlikely to help. I think there are cases where it can, but usually when there is no basis for ANY accusations, solid proof of that, and other issues about this manager known to HR from other sources. Even then, it can be a hard slog with no guarantee of success.)

Update: the answer to question b) will help with question a). You need to address each concern raised, both legitmate and not. List the concern, and then list what you intend to do to resolve it, at least in the short term. Be brutally honest with yourself, which will help them see you are taking this seriously.

  • Not communicating whereabouts - indicate how you'll keep him up to date with where you are. Micromanage yourself here, so he'll perhaps not feel the need to.
  • motivation
  • accountable for responsibilities - list places where you think you've failed or not done as well as you should, and what you plan on doing in addtion
  • office meetings
  • anything else mentioned

Don't admit to things you really haven't done, but do address each point as honestly as possible, with specific things you plan on doing that will help mitigate each alleged problem area. If you really have attended every office meeting, for example, still list it, but also list each meeting that you have attended. (Maybe you're missing meetings that the boss has overlooked inviting you to.) Don't give excuses, don't get emotional, just give earnest facts.

You need to have the attitude that you realize this is serious, you are taking it seriously, and here are specific ways you intend to address each point. Hopefully HR will also be part of this, so any fabrications by the boss are highlighted, not specifically by you, but by their absence in this subsequent meeting.

  • 17
    And stop thinking of it as micromanagement. You lost your boss's trust and that is how employees who do that are supposed to be treated. You have proven to him that you can't be allowed to work independently. If you had a personal issue affecting your ability to work or your work hours, you should have brought it up to him immediately. If people don't know that there is some reason to make allowances, then they won't as you found out. It is too late now for this job, but remember that for the future.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 18:18
  • @HLGEM Very true. At the same time, practical implications arising out of my situation still qualify as micromanagement, so I believe I'm correctly applying the term here. Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 19:31
  • 6
    @dalbaeb, HLGEM said "stop thinking about it as micromanagement". It "technically" is, but it doesn't matter in this case. The only thing matters is that you've lost your boss's trust. The only action you can do (other than quitting) is to regain that trust. And the only way to regain that trust, from what you've told us, is to do as your boss says and to do it well.
    – BeyondSora
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 19:36
  • 2
    then it could be worth taking that up with HR - Its too late for that. In business you can not file a complaint second, it just looks like sour grapes even if the complaint totally false unless you have irrefutable proof that the original complaint is completely false and the manager knows it. Even then your career is going to suffer because managers do not like it when you make one of their own look like a fool. Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 20:22
  • 9
    Regarading "personal issues outside of work that I am not comfortable disclosing to any of my co-workers, including my boss". If these issues might force you to be absent during work hours, you absolutely need to share this fact with either your boss or HR right now, before it happens, whether or not you are comfortable. Failing to do so will count against you. Yo are probably also going to need to provide evidence to support the case. If you had done so earlier this might not have been a problem. Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 20:41

What do I put in that plan

Work the plan like a job application. You've been told to make certain changes (like a job application has essential and desirable criteria), the plan must tick off each change with at least one and preferably more specific things that you will do achieve that change.

Some of them look pretty easy, "I am not communicating my whereabouts properly". So you need to inform your boss without fail of your location during working hours, including when working at home. Part of this might just be communicating your schedule, "today I will be away from my desk between 10:30 - 11:45 at meeting X and 2:30 - 3:00 for a discussion at Y's desk. I will take lunch at 12:30". I work from home full-time and it's convenient to flex hours, "oh, I'll take 15 minutes to put some laundry on and make it up later". Don't do this, you'll appear unresponsive if anyone IMs you or whatever. Sit at your desk and stay sat. In the office, arrive to work on time and leave late. Record the times you arrive and leave at each end of the day and either side of lunch.

Some of them look quite hard to make a plan for, "regain your boss's trust". Remember that goals need to be SMART, so you're looking for steps you can take with measurable outcomes that show trust has been regained. You might need to ask your boss what he would take as signs that he has started to trust you again. Documenting the work you produce while at home would be something. Giving up that day working at home is probably what he wants, you have to make a call whether you'll do that.

Don't say that you've "allegedly" lost the trust of your team-mates. Clearly you think you haven't but your boss and HR don't care for your opinion on the subject. For the purpose of the exercise just pretend you have, and come up with something you can do to objectively show that you've "regained" their trust. 30 days later they're all providing evidence that they trust you, although I'm not sure what form that evidence would take -- testimonials? Examples of them leaving you with vital tasks to complete? Whatever it is, if they do in fact trust you then collecting it isn't the problem, thinking of what it should be is. If your team-mates do in fact trust you (and your boss trusts them), then build you plan so that they provide supporting evidence on as many points as you can (without asking them to take significant time over it, of course, since you don't want your boss to see you as distracting others). They are the witnesses to everything you do right.

I think the "actively taking part in meetings" thing is a minefield. Now you have to speak up in meetings, but if your boss really is hostile towards you that gives him plenty of opportunities to shoot you down. Not knowing anything about your meetings I don't know what to say on this other than, work out what you're supposed to do in meetings, write down that you'll do it, but try not to overdo it and avoid any conflict in the meetings.

Motivation is tricky. "Yes, within 30 days I will love my job that has me on special measures and I will especially love my boss who now has me in line of sight all day because he thinks I lie to him about whether I'm working or not". I'm not exactly in favour of just lying to cover this point, but I fear you might have to. Don't tell a lie that can be objectively determined false by anyone else. Your thoughts are your own, so "being motivated" is not really distinguishable from "appearing motivated". Your task is to appear motivated whilst calling it "being motivated". "I'm highly motivated by the fear of being sacked" might be true but it's not what your employer is thinking when they say they want highly-motivated workers. Or even if it is they wouldn't admit it.

"Not being accountable for my responsibilities" is vague, but look at your job description and any less-formal descriptions of your responsibilities and find out which ones are problems. If you really are failing to meet vital responsibilities then regardless of the reason, in point of fact you are unreliable. Maybe you're unreliable for a very good reason, and your boss is being unfair not to sympathise with that. But the fact remains that the business can't rely on you if you aren't getting everything done. So you need to get on top of that.

Do I refute his false claims?

Don't explicitly agree that you took any action you didn't take. But some things are judgement calls, like whether your team-mates trust you to a sufficient degree, and clearly your boss's opinion differs from yours. HR almost certainly thinks more of his judgement than of yours.

I suspect that arguing details of any of this right now, even specific actions that your boss has imagined, is unwise. You might want to raise with HR any outright lies, after a suitable period for you to consider them and prepare your response. For example if your boss claims that you're often late to work and in fact you have been 5 minutes early every single day for the past 6 months then you have a clear grievance that HR ought to take seriously but under the circumstances might not.

After turning in your plan, you could ask HR for a more formal mediation by them of the fact-based disputes between you and your boss. But based on the way HR have handled this so far, it looks to me like you'll be lucky to get one. I'm not in HR though, and they can be full of surprises.

Bear in mind when dealing with HR that your boss is probably afraid of being judged by them to be failing as a boss. This is more of a danger to you than an asset.

Do I communicate the fact that micromanagement will not help?

No, and even if you're correct that it won't help, that fact is irrelevant. They aren't asking you for your opinion as to whether micromanagement will help, they are informing you of their decision to micromanage you. That is what will happen, regardless of whether it will help.

Besides, your boss apparently thinks it will help him, and you are unlikely either to change his mind or to persuade HR to accept your assessment of its effects as more accurate than his. Maybe one of the points in your plan to regain his trust (the private version, not the one you send him) is not to tell him how to do his job.

This is partially true due to me currently dealing with personal issues outside of work that I am not comfortable disclosing to any of my co-workers, including my boss.

Unfortunately employers do not give you the option of saying, "I am not currently able to do my job and I am not comfortable telling you why". You have to seriously consider how you are going to work around these issues, because you're past the point where you'll get much special consideration if you raise them now. Even if it's a somewhat-protected issue like sickness or disability, you have a credibility problem by only mentioning it after a protracted period of under-performance and a written warning.

I'm sorry that your relationship with your boss is this bad that you haven't had any opportunity to explain or mitigate these problems before they added up to a written warning, but there it is. He's unlikely to trust any explanation you give now.

  • 3
    Your answer makes it clear how woolly/vague some of these criticisms are, which lends a lot of support to the opinions voiced that this is just a hoop to jump through on the way to being fired. Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 10:47
  • @starsplusplus: I agree that this doesn't look good. I've answered taking at face value the question "how can I save my job" even though it might turn out that is no longer possible. I think that the woolliness of the criticisms is partly from the boss and partly from the questioner's summary for the purpose of the question. It's possible we have a comprehensive list of the criticisms, verbatim as the boss stated them. But I don't expect that should be the case :-) Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 10:56
  • 4
    +1 for "Unfortunately employers do not give you the option of saying, "I am not currently able to do my job and I am not comfortable telling you why"." Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 10:57
  • 4
    @starsplusplus: The one thing I see that is cautiously positive is that the requirement is "improve significantly" within 30 days, not "solve all of these concerns within 30 days". But I don't know if one can really cling to that, it might just be formal language and a lie. Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 10:57
  • 1
    @starsplusplus - I don't see a great deal of "vague" criticism to be honest. What we are told might not be be direct quotes. Some of the issues in the "vague" comments are real issues. There clearly are trust issues with the manager and the employee.
    – Donald
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 15:04

I think it might be a good idea to go over some of the key points and see if they are areas that you have been slacking on and actually need to improve, or if your boss is blowing everything out of proportion (as you say).

"not communicating my whereabouts properly"

What does this mean exactly? Are you not showing up to work on time? Are you leaving early? Are you taking excessively long lunch breaks? Are you missing from your desk for what appears to be no apparent reason?

A good employee tends to not have to worry about these kind of things, as they are getting things done and a good manager tends not to be in the business of managing people's time, but rather focuses on what is being delivered.

"not motivated"

Are you not motivated? What do you feel is the reason you are not motivated? With that said, I don't feel that having an employee that isn't motivated fault falls all on the employee who isn't motivated.

"not being accountable for my responsibilities within the team"

This one stands out. Are you not getting your work done? Is the reason you are not getting your work done because you are not spending enough time on work, or is it because your boss has too high of expectations?

"not actively taking part in office meetings"

What are you doing during office meetings? Are you attending the meetings at all? Are other members of your team contributing more to the meeting then you are?

Regardless, you mention that your manager is making false accusations? Chances are this is to build his case against you. Companies are always worried about lawsuits, and HR probably asked him to provide a list of ways you are "acting out".

You say that losing your job is not an option, do you care to explain why it is not an option? How long have you held the job? Has your current manager ever been satisfied with your work, or has he always been dissatisfied.

I feel like everything you mention is actually not the source of the problem, but a symptom of something else.

One last note

You didn't disclose to your boss that you were having personal issues that you clearly felt were affecting your work. A good boss cares about the well being of his employees and/or cares about his employees. Why? Because happy employees tend to be more productive. And productive employees tend to meet deadlines. A manager who ignores this fact is destined for failure.

  • 2
    "A manager who ignores this fact is destined for failure" - oh, don't we wish this were actually true? Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 23:27
  • Exactly. All else being equal happy workers are better than unhappy workers. All else is not equal. Managers don't ignore the fact that happy employees are preferable, but just because they're aware of it doesn't make them prioritize it. However, I suspect they almost universally prioritize it higher than disgruntled workers think they do, that's just human nature when you're disgruntled. Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 23:42
  • 1
    @Triplell89 - As you point out. The manager is likely taking every complaint he might no matter how small it is. Based on the complaints that were listed I have my doubts ( at least in this case ) stuff was made up.
    – Donald
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 15:09

The Question: what can I do?

Above all, the thing to put in the plan are clear, measurable, and doable actions. This isn't a time to be vague, this is a time to get crystal clear on what you should do if you want to keep your job. And it's time to consider, yourself, if you are in a position to accomplish these things and what your other options may be.

As a basic philosophy - keep the focus on you, your work, the demands placed on you and your ability to meet them. Don't get distracted with shortcomings of your boss, his attitude, your like or dislike of all of this or any other person involved in your job. Focus on making a plan and then meeting the plan.

What do I put in that plan, besides the obvious points?

If you have a serious family/medical/personal life situation going on, you need to make your boss AND HR aware of it, and be clear about what you can and cannot do in light of these limitations. You don't need to go into tons of details here, but you need to make the basic nature of the issue clear and you need to be able to state what accommodation you need and how you will fulfill

For example - if coming at 9 and leaving at 5 and taking a 1/2 hour lunch every day are his stated expectations, and you know that you have to leave early one day a week and take a long long lunch one day a week - bring this up. Talk with how you can give your manager a heads up when this comes up, and how you will make up the work when it happens. Don't expect that past accomodations will work (like work at home), since they clearly haven't - find a way where you both get what you need.

Also - get clarity on what type of work needs to be done and what "good enough" is - if he thinks you've done a bad job, and you think you did a fine job, there's a problem here. Push to get feedback on what's wrong with your work, be open to hearing why, and find a way to clarify the expectations when writing the plan. You want to make sure that when you finish work in 30 days, you won't hear "not good enough" because you didn't understand the plan.

Do I refute his false claims?

I would advise clarifying concerns that he has raised that make no sense to you because by your definition, you haven't done what he claims.

I would advise AGAINST refuting his false claims.

Does the difference make sense here? Walking into a room and saying to your boss, "You are wrong, I did not do that" is not likely to save your job. If you feel that this is the only valid response, then you should quit, because you aren't ready to compromise.

But if you want to try to keep your job, you have to be able to walk in and say "I don't understand your claim - I see that I've done this, but it's not the same that - can you describe the event a different way so I can understand your point?" He's got the power here, and a "wrong/right" battle here won't win you anything.

Do I communicate the fact that micromanagement will not help?

I don't think that anyone (even your boss) is a big fan of micromanagement. In fact, it takes a tremendous amount of time and energy. But excessive attention to employee behavior happens when there's a problem with performance. The manager HAS to pay some degree of extra attention to see what on earth has gone wrong, in fact, they are often held accountable for daily records and tracking by HR in order to be able to do a Performance Improvement Plan.

That level of scrutiny is micromanagement.

What you can do is work out with him a process for checking in, keeping in communication, and getting your needs answered so that you have the resources you need to do the work you are assigned and meet the goals of the plan.

You can talk about ways that he will know you are going your job (besides staring at you while you do it) that will help form a better pattern of work between you two. That also helps redefine what his management of you should be.

My boss was very hostile towards me in the meeting, pointing out that there are only two ways out of this, and that I 'know where the door is'. It is the first time he is leading a team, his last position was that of the product manager. Since he started one year ago our team has shrunk by 30%.

In all honesty, none of this matters. This is about your job, not his. If the company structure and legal team are any kind of reasonable, he may very well have a list of reasons why your performance hasn't been any better, and your performance is what you are being held accountable for. Regardless of how you feel about him, you will have to succeed despite your boss.


It would be impossible for me to add to the cornucopia of excellent advice that has already been made here, except to emphasize (and draw a double-underline beneath):   "Get the hell out of there, quickly!"

It seems to me that you have a "poison boss." He knows how to push your buttons, and your buttons are very easily pushed. He clearly wants to control his employees, perhaps out of resentment. Doesn't matter. Your days are clearly numbered there. You have no job stability and probably not any good future reference. "Salvaging" such a situation really is not possible.

You should be candidly aware that you might soon be facing a period of unemployment anyway. If you have never faced such a period in your life, you might fear that you can't survive it. But, sometimes being "in no job at all" is better than spending one more day in a job that is poisonous. Spend one hundred percent of your non-working time "shopping your resume."


Due to me currently dealing with personal issues outside of work that I am not comfortable disclosing to any of my co-workers, including my boss.

I suggest that you consult an lawyer who specializes in employment issues, and perhaps talk with HR.

I don't know where you work. Depending on the jurisdiction and the nature of your problem, your employer may have some responsibility to accommodate you, for example if you or a family member is ill.


  • They don't have a responsibility to accommodate you if you don't communicate with them
  • The best time to communicate is before you're fired
  • A lawyer (with the kind of specialized experience you might hire if you're dismissed illegally) is someone who could advise you before you talk with HR
  • In theory HR might be someone you can talk with if you have trouble with your boss
  • In practice, HR might work for or with the company's lawyers, so it might be better to get some advice from a lawyer of your own before you talk with them
  • Law is complicated; it might include human rights, your employment contract, slander, constructive dismissal, etc.
  • 5
    I strongly disagree with contacting an attorney at this point. Attorneys generally come in to play after an employee has been dismissed, because neither the courts nor attorneys want to get involved in an employer-employee relationship that is ongoing. The law is a last resort when everything else has failed. If the asker meets the requests of his coworker for continued employment, and still ends up dismissed, then he should consider contacting an attorney. Doing it now would be a waste of time and money.
    – jmac
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 0:53
  • 5
    @jmac - He said to consult an attorney, not bring a suit. It sounded specifically like he meant to consult an attorney to clarify what the legal obligations of the employer are in relation to his situation, which doesn't sound like a bad idea to me at all, though it may be expensive. There's nothing wrong with knowing your rights, though it may be a judgment call on whether or not to assert them. I would agree that this is not an appropriate situation in which to file a suit, issue subpoenas, etc., but there's no harm in learning the law.
    – reirab
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 1:02
  • 1
    @jmac I meant the employer's obligations to accommodate the personal issue that he said he doesn't want to mention. That was what I understood ChrisW's answer to be referring to, as well. There absolutely are laws regarding certain situations in many jurisdictions.
    – reirab
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 1:12
  • 5
    @jmac: "The requirements of the employer should be outlined in the contract" -- in my jurisdiction (England and Wales) that is simply false, employers have responsibilities established in statute. Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 8:11
  • 2
    A lawyer in this situation should at least be able to give advice on what not to do. He will have experience and has seen many disputes of this kind. And he can tell you where you're standing and specifically what to avoid to not weaken your position even more, like "don't use the phrase x" or "don't agree to y". The boss or HR may be laying out (legal) traps for the employee to later justify their actions.
    – JimmyB
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 9:59

I think you need to focus on how all of these things are going to be documented going forward. Don't get into an argument with your boss over who is right and who is wrong. I realize no one wants to be falsely accused of something, but if you want to keep this job, you need to make sure everything is clarified going forward.

Take your lunch break as an obvious example. How long do you get and how are you going to indicated you left and returned each day at the right time? Don't wait for a few months to pass only to have your boss accuse you of taking too long for 10 days. It will just be your word against his. Unless your company has a time clock, I don't know how to manage this logistically. Maybe your boss keeps a sign in and out paper on his desk and you fill it in and document the appropriate time.

Find out why types of things you are saying or doing that makes people think you have a bad attitude. This is tough to measure. Maybe there are coworkers who will vouch for you?

Hopefully this will pass and your boss will find that all this tracking is counter-productive and will let you get back to work after you've proven you can be trusted. HR may discover you may have not been so bad after all if you can make an easy turn-around.

  • 2
    Is this a technique you have used or seen used, or is this just an opinion of something you think might work? I do not intend to be rude but this reads more like a guess at something that "might" work, than an authoritative answer to the question. Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 21:16

Regarding not being accountable for my responsibilities within the team.

What lies in this? Do you think something you have done or not done have upset any of the team members, and that they have complained to your boss? Or do you think that this is more your boss' projection of something that he thinks affects the team? You say your boss had a hostile attitude towards you. Do you think this is shared by some of the other team members? Maybe someone envy you for working at home? Are there other team members that might be in the same position as you and fear that they will be the next on the line (although you said it came as a surprise on you, if getting awareness of your situation, perhaps someone might start wondering who's next).

Anyhow, I suggest that you take a round and ask your team members for input (private one to one conversations). Ask them "Do you have any input and suggestions on how I can improve my contribution to the team?". Take notes, and for all suggestions ask why he/she mentioned that. Do be afraid to ask why repeatedly, see 5 whys, but if so inform why you are doing so to avoid them misinterpreting this as you being slow to grasp what they are telling you.

Keep in mind that although I think talking with your team members is important, you should not spend a disproportional amount on time on this compared to other things that your boss thinks is important. Probably the best approach is to discuss with your boss that you want to talk with team members (this will then be one of your point in the plan) and then get some guidance in how much time to spend on that.

Regarding I was given an order to move desks such that my boss could see everything I do any time he raises his head..

Disclaimer: my personal judgment is that this is a rather irrational and almost childish requirement. I suspect that he has some issue with fear and/or anger that influences this (very possibly something he is not consciously aware of). Having such issues is quite common, and people are not bad people because of that. They just have an undealt issue with their emotions.

Having that said, I would perhaps try to mildly "challenge" this by asking him what he want to achieve with that. Challenge is wrong word here, what I am looking for is to try to expose the contributing causes for him to suggest this. Challenge also might have a negative aspect that I am not looking for. In fact if you do this you must keep absolutely all of your own judgments aside and approach it with a 100% pure curiosity mindset. Just try to understand why he thinks this is a good idea. If you can't, then don't.

To do this in a neutral way, you can create a problem solving matrix1 - a piece of paper divided in four columns with headings:

  • What are the problems?
  • What are the causes?
  • What can be done?
  • Who should do it?

Pre-fill with "Move desk so {boss' name} can see me all time" and "{your name}" in the two last columns. Say that you would like to understand better why he thinks this is a good idea, and repeat asking why and get several incarnations of problems and causes (ref 5 whys).

Be very aware of how he responds to such questioning. If you meet active resistance from him or sense that he feel threatened, don't push and just leave it at that. This is his problem for him to solve. You can only just possibly help by bringing awareness. And again, you must approach this without any judgment on your part. If he feels any negative judgment on your behalf he will likely turn defensive and not perform any reflection on his own behaviour.

1 The two first columns in a problem solving matrix are in mine experience the by far most important. When things are settled there, the content in the other two others follows almost naturally.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .