When It All Goes Tits Up
Everything suddenly gone wrong at work? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered!
Bad stuff happens. This is a universal truth. But when the proverbial hits the fan, remember two things: first, failure is fundamental to success (see all those TED Talks if you don’t believe us); second, there’s always something you can do. We spoke to those who’d been there, seen that and fixed the problem. Here’s what they learnt.
You failed your probation
Three months into the job, and they’re still not quite sure if you’re a ‘good fit’, so guess what? They’re extending your probation. ‘This is a decision that can really knock your confidence,’ says Aliya Vigor-Robertson, co-founder of HR consultancy JourneyHR. ‘Without becoming defensive, you need to get clear feedback on your performance and where you’ve fallen short.’
So instead of hiding in the loo, dust yourself off and ask your line manager for a meeting. ‘Get them to set some clear objectives that can be measured – that’s the important bit,’ says VigorRobertson. ‘You don’t want ambiguity in what’s expected of you. Then catch up regularly to check you’re on track.’ If you fail your probation outright, you can try to argue it – but unless they’ve discriminated against you in some way (check out Ccma.org.za), there’s not much you can do, as you’ve been there less than two years. If you sense things aren’t going well a few weeks into a new job, don’t wait until that three-month review. Ask for feedback while you’ve still got a chance to change things. DID YOU KNOW? You’re not alone. Nearly one in five people either fails their probation period or ends up having it extended.
You lied on your CV and got found out
You’ve never actually climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, you don’t speak French, and as for that weekly volunteering you do… Clawing back a lie in an interview is tough – they don’t know you yet, and there are other candidates who (probably) have not fibbed.
Your only real option is to put your hand up, apologise and explain why you did it – i.e., because you really, really want to work there.
Your chances of making it through this also depend on the lie. Hobbies and the like are kind of okay (in one survey, 72% of hirers said they weren’t bothered by fibs in the personal-interests section), while claiming a few skills you don’t have is recoverable, says John Lees, author of How To Get A Job You Love, because you can say you’re planning to learn them imminently.
But if you’ve lied about working somewhere you didn’t or your qualifications, expect little sympathy. Even if you got the job and are out of your probation period when you’re found out, there could still be consequences. ‘Your contract can be terminated based on the fact that you were hired under false pretences,’ says Vigor-Robertson. Worstcase scenario? You could even be prosecuted. (In 2013, 324 people faced charges for lying on their CV, according to UK fraud-prevention service CIFAS.) So stick to the truth, however dull it may be.
DID YOU KNOW? The South African Fraud Prevention Service is one organisation that investigates CV fraud.
You’re made redundant
Pop this one in ‘kak things about being a Millennial’, along with unicorn crap everywhere and a shortened attention span (thanks, Twitter). In the first three months of 2017, 16-to-34year-olds accounted for a third of redundancies.* But you do have some control.
‘The company needs to provide justification of how the decision was made,’ says Vigor-Robertson. Your performance can’t be the reason – if it is, you may be able to bring a claim against them. You’ll find loads of free advice at Ccma.org.za and Labour.gov.za, where you can check your rights and the legal minimum you’re owed. (You could get more – check your contract for your company’s specific policy.)
While losing your job can feel shameful, no future employer will judge you for it. ‘It’s only a problem if you make it one,’ says Lees. ‘Remind yourself of your skills and take some time to work out what you have to offer.’ By all means, bitch to your friends – but try to put a limit on it. ‘It’s about getting the bad news out of your system so that when you’re in front of prospective employers, you’re focused on moving on.’
DID YOU KNOW? Income protection insurance exists, and could pay some or all of your salary for up to a year if the worst happens. But be warned: if you know redundancies are due in your company, the insurers often won’t pay out, making your monthly payments worthless.
You need to bring up mental health at work
Whether it’s a rough breakup, a family member taken ill or a bad bout of anxiety, we all have times when our body is at work but our brain isn’t. Ongoing mental-health issues require a serious conversation with your boss. ‘Legally, if you’ve been diagnosed with a mentalhealth issue, you have to be treated fairly and can’t be discriminated against based on your health,’ says Vigor-Robertson.
For times when life is just kicking you in the balls, honesty is best, too. If your boss has noticed your work is slipping, it’s better they know there’s a reason for it, and that it’s temporary – rather than just assuming you can’t be bothered. ‘Communicate clearly about how it’s making you feel,’ says Vigor-Robertson. ‘Explain that you want to do your best and you’re upset that you can’t. You don’t have to divulge the details – they’re your boss, not your therapist. Just acknowledge the issue and let them know you’re dealing with it.’
DID YOU KNOW? An ad agency in the Philippines introduced ‘break-up leave’ for its employees this year. *Googles work permits in the Philippines.*
You pulled a sickie – and got caught
The festival you didn’t want to miss; the Sunday lunch that turned into a Monday-morning rave; the unseasonably hot spring day that would be criminal not to spend at the beach… It’s all good – until you get tagged on Facebook and your boss sees it.
The first rule? Never try to justify it, says Lees. Whimpering about how you work hard and deserve more time off is only going to wind up your manager more. Admit it, apologise, suck up whatever dressingdown you get and promise never to do it again – and mean it.
‘You won’t necessarily be fired for this, but it starts to demonstrate disloyalty and disengagement, and can create a lack of trust. You’ll be considered the kind of person who’s not really adding much value,’ says Lees. ‘Employers look for a pattern – they’re waiting for you to be a cliché.’ So next time you are actually sick, get a doctor’s note. (And stay off Instagram, yeah?) DID YOU KNOW? The most believable time to call in sick is 6.38am on a Tuesday morning. Just saying. ■
Warning: career salvage in progress