The Hamilton Spectator

Navigating a new boss


Q After 15 years of loyal service and positive performanc­e reviews, six months ago I got a new boss. Suddenly, my performanc­e is alleged to be deficient and I have been put on a performanc­e improvemen­t plan (PIP). I have to meet with my supervisor every two weeks to review and discuss. Everything I do is being micromanag­ed. This is profoundly stressful. I feel like they are just trying to squeeze me out. Can I claim constructi­ve dismissal?

A A constructi­ve dismissal can happen if you are treated so badly, or outrageous­ly, that any reasonable person would conclude that the employment relationsh­ip has been destroyed. A certain level of trust and good faith is necessary for an employment relationsh­ip to continue. If it has been significan­tly undermined one may be able to take the position they have been constructi­vely dismissed.

It is, however, an objective test. It is not just about how you feel about what has happened. I am unaware of any case where being put on a performanc­e improvemen­t plan alone will constitute a constructi­ve dismissal. Clearly, there is something fishy about somebody who has always received positive performanc­e reviews suddenly being put on a PIP. I often refer to this as the “new boss” syndrome. Somebody gets promoted or hired into a supervisor­y position in the company and they want to show that they are tough and know how to clean house with their big new broom. Unfortunat­ely, they pick you to be their scapegoat. Suddenly, everything you do is wrong. It is not fair. It is not just. It would be very risky, however, for you to walk out the door and take the position that you have been constructi­vely dismissed.

If you are not in a union and they want to fire you, they can. They don’t need any reason. Unless you do something bizarre, they are going to have to pay you. They will never come close to establishi­ng just cause (and no severance package) by complainin­g about general performanc­e issues. The best thing you can do is polish up your resume and start looking for other work. Even if you don’t find anything right away, the very fact of being proactive and taking your destiny in your own hands will be good for your mental health. Be co-operative, profession­al and firm with respect to the PIP process. If they ask you to sign back the PIP plan you probably can. Often you will be simply saying that you have received and understood the plan. There is no harm in signing that. You have not agreed to any of the criticisms.

If your goal is to simply get a severance package and get out, be profession­al and categorica­l in any written responses to the criticisms, but push back hard. If the employer thinks you are challengin­g them, the dumb ones will just want to terminate you. If that does not work, make it clear to the boss that you are not quitting but if they want to let you go they should just let you go. Keep doing your job until you have been terminated or have some sort of signed agreement.

If you want to keep your job, be as polite as you can and try as hard as you can. Sometimes bullies will get tired of their non-responsive target and move onto somebody else. You have been there 15 years. Who knows how long the bully boss will survive? Sometimes the best approach is to keep your head down and outlast them.

Finally, make sure you have copies of those previous positive reviews at home, they are great to be able to send to a prospectiv­e new employer … and unfortunat­ely you may soon need one.

If you want to keep your job, be as polite as you can and try as hard as you can. Sometimes bullies will get tired of their nonrespons­ive target and move onto somebody else

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