HELP MY BOSS JUST WROTE ME UP! WHAT CAN I DO?

Food for thought about Managers

I have this continued conversation with my son who currently works in retail and I counsel a lot of people who have been written up or terminated from their jobs. Most people who are terminated feel that there was an injustice done. Being an HR Manager for over 18 years, I understand the frustration of termination and ending someone’s employment.

When I had to execute policy that resulted in ending someone’s employment, I viewed it differently than most HR professionals. You see, when you take someone’s job, you take their house payment, childcare, car payment, electric bill or groceries from the table. I never took this lightly and because I did that, I went to great pains to make certain that before someone terminated their employment, they knew what was happening before they ever walked across my office threshold. I looked not only into what the allegation was against that employee, but how the manager did his job, whether there were personal issues contributing to whatever the issue was, is there anything else going on with that person in their job besides just this one policy violation or job opportunity.

I never break up documentation on an employee. I always covered everything at one time so that they had a very clear, big picture of what their job performance looked like and what road they were heading down without an immediate change of behavior or circumstances. Breaking up a corrective action or discipline documentation is head-hunting. It is very apparent to the employee that you don’t care if they are successful or not. You just want them out the door so you can fill their job with someone else. To them, you have already written them off as a loss cause.

Why go to so much trouble? Because I believe that EVERYONE deserves the opportunity to change their behavior. If you continuously do something wrong and no one bothers to point it out until they want to fire you, then what kind of manager are you really? I will tell you. You’re a manager who has his/her own opportunities to improve. Because real managers know that firing people should always be a last resort. You spend more money on hiring and training than you do any other part of employing someone. You lose countless man hours when you don’t bother to develop someone and you allow them to fail versus develop and aid in making them successful.

The last comment I am going to make about this aspect of this article is this. If you are a manager, a real manager, then you will know that "you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with." In other words, if your people are failing, and it happens often, then you may need to take a good look in a career two way mirror. Because, people don’t fail as often as managers fail their people!

You need to lead by example, remember that if you had bad experiences when you came up through the ranks, you should never, ever, repeat those mistakes to your people. Why? Because they will come out just as angry and bitter as you are and their people will hate them, never respect them and never want to work for them, just like you did. That’s right bosses. Don’t forget where you came from. Unfortunately, all too often that is exactly what happens.

So now you are written up, what can you do?

First, you need to not be reactive. Being reactive to an already tense situation is not going to make you look any better and is most likely going to prove a point to the managers that you don’t want to make. Don’t start making excuses, deny allegations or do anything until you have all the information they are willing to give you about why you have been sat down. If you can’t be professional, then don’t speak. Just calmly acknowledge that you understand what is being said to you. That is if you do. If you don’t understand a term or something in the documentation, then make a note so that you can come back to it after you regain control over your emotions.

Why am I doing this? Two reasons: (1) so you can clarify what you heard and get more information if you need it. (2) It keeps you focused on what is happening in that moment and allows you some control over what direction the conversation is going. No one ever really expects an employee to actively engage in their discipline. It throws the managers off their game when you use this approach. Try it and you will see that you have unsettled them as much as they unsettled you by bringing you back to talk to you. Even your playing field will allow you both to have some sense of ownership in this meeting.

There are really 3 types of employees. (1) The Right Fighter: This employee is about 80% of the workforce reaction. Employees sit there red faced, indignant that managers dare call a meeting. They refuse to own their own part in the problem. They deny all wrong doing, push blame on poor management, time management or another associate who is horrible at their job but “bet you didn’t document them”.

Those employees never take the information presented constructively and rarely last in the workforce because of their own sense of entitlement.

(2) The Drama Queen/King: This employee burst into tears and either quit on the spot because they “just can’t deal with all of this stress” or they sob uncontrollably to try to make the manager feel sorry for them or in hopes to guilt them into not completing the documentation. For the record, I never kept tissue in my office. I felt if you were this dramatic then you obviously needed your privacy to either go to the restroom and compose yourself or I would leave and get you tissue and give you time to compose yourself.

But either way, we are still finishing the conversation. I don’t get emotional and I don’t truly believe professionals should. That includes you as much as it does me.

These employees often appear weak to managers and dramatic. No one likes drama. You are giving the managers signs that you lack communication skills, you also have little self control or ability to lead people if you can’t handle constructive criticism.

(3) The Learner: This employee is a little miffed by being documented because they are typically a good employee, hard worker and over all someone who has a promising career. They made a mistake. Sometimes they feel that the manager should have pulled them over to speak to them. But most of them know that if they broke a policy, that the only way to show fairness and consistency is to do the same thing that they should be doing for everyone else. They take notes, most of the time they own their part in the policy violation. They thank them for pointing it out, reassure them they will not commit the same violation and they shake hands and walk out the door with an option to return at a later date to discuss any concerns or questions that may arise after the conclusion of the meeting. This employee will request a copy of the documentation and policy violation. They request this so that they can take the time to review it later that evening when they have time to revisit it and bring out any questions or comments that they may like to submit in addition to the actual documentation.

With that said, you should always be the Learner. Here is why. You never want to appear weak or unable to control your emotions. Reactive people often say things or do things they wish they could take back after thinking what their actions may have just done to the opinion of them in the eyes of their managers, or worse, they quit and realize that it’s not as easy to get another job and pay bills on time as they thought.

The Learner has the advantage because he proves immediately that he /she is professional and has strong control over their emotions. They instantly separate themselves from others by accepting that what is being told to them is truthful. If it is not, you are taking notes to come back and get further clarification. It shows that you thought through your actions and that you deserve the same respect in a like meeting if necessary. In addition to this, you are showing them that you are capable of following policy by accepting it when you break a policy that others have a job to do by holding you accountable.

It’s important for you to have a copy of the documentation and policy that you violated. You need to keep this in the event that the managers don’t do their job and are not fair and consistent. You need to keep your paperwork together and if you feel that they have made a mistake you have what you need to defend your actions should you need to request that it be reviewed at a higher level. This also makes them want to dot their I’s and cross their T’s when they deal with you, because they know that you are controlled, professional and will expect them to present you only real policy violations. They will not knit pick or present you with weak documentation in the future, because they know they will be held to a higher standard. That is your edge and you need to keep it.

If you don’t agree with the information in the paperwork:

You need to write a grievance in reference to the corrective action. Be factual. Your opinion does not count. As much as people like to say there is a grey area. The truth is that there is not. Use the KISS method. Keep It Simple/Solid. You either broke the policy or you did not. If you did not, then you need to use the policy and point out that the action they documented you for was not a violation of the policy that they gave you. Be specific.

Example:

Let’s say you are a smoker. You were documented because you were seen smoking in the parking lot. The policy states that as an employee, you cannot smoke anywhere in the parking lot or building. That’s simple enough. But, what if you were clocked out and on lunch? Are you still an employee? The answer is no. You are no longer an employee. At this time, you are now a customer who was smoking either on his/her way to the car or on the way into the store. Either way, you are still off the clock and no longer someone who can be considered as violating the policy. Therefore, you would request that your time card be pulled and compared to the time that the incident allegedly happened. You would then point out in the copy of the policy that you were NOT an EMPLOYEE during the time of the allegation. Therefore, legally you did not violate their policy. You will then respectfully request that they remove the documentation from your file. You should be present when that documentation is destroyed.

That is how you defend yourself when you are being documented. Keep it simple and always keep it within the same policy that they were using against you. If you can dispute their policy with solid proof, then you will win the right to overturn the action and it will also show them that you were professional in the way you conducted yourself. You respected that they were trying to execute policy, but unfortunately, it did not apply during that specific incident. Sometimes, not all information is relayed to the manager during the documentation. It’s important that you keep that in mind before you become dramatic, angry etc… You need to be in control. Being in control gives you self respect and it shows that you are someone that will not tolerate substandard investigations.

This does not make you look like a troublemaker. This makes you someone who does their homework. Don’t ever apologize for defending yourself legally. No HR Manager or Manager is perfect or above reproach. If they consistently do the wrong thing, then someone needs to report them to their Corporate Office. Never accept shoddy documentation. You have rights. Use them.

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Comments 20 comments

Daniel R 6 years ago

I really like how you explain this troubling situation I find myself in now. Thanks for some mager key points. Keep advising, we/I need your help.


ugagirl66 profile image

ugagirl66 6 years ago from South Carolina Author

Thanks Daniel. I will be glad to help you anyway I can. If you need specific advice, just email me. My email is ugagirl66@gmail.com

I will need to know the stste you reside in as well as the industry and what type of policy they think you may have violated.


Puppyluv profile image

Puppyluv 5 years ago from Hanover, PA

Voted up and useful. This is GREAT information to have! I really enjoyed the part about the smoking policy. I'm a smoker and have worked in 2 places now that have the policy that an employee cannot be seen smoking by clients. I've never been written up for it, but it's nice to have that information in case it would ever happen!

I also like you comment that everyone deserves a chance to change their behavior. I totally agree with that. I think before anyone is terminated there should always be a time beforehand that the employee is made aware of the behavior that is "frowned upon" so that they have the opportunity to change it. I also think that even if it hasn't changed completely, if they're showing an effort to change it, that should count for a lot. Okay, enough rambling. :)


Ugagirl66 5 years ago

Thank you. I appreciate the feedback and am very glad you found it helpful.

Have a great day!


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

......well it's a wonder the 'boss' doesn't write me up - lol lol - because I do a lot of my writing in rough form at work (which eventually finds its way here and posted online at the Hub) .....although I am always doing my work at the same time and I work in a union job - so that is a big factor too - I've worked in retail and normally they don't have unions - so the boss can get away with a lot more .......

You are a terrific writer though and this is a stimulating thought provoking piece - I could see you writing easily for a magazine doing investigative columns and articles ...... so nice to have met you and thanks for making my day and dropping by to view my humble hubspace!


tigergirl15 profile image

tigergirl15 5 years ago

Excellent information. You are right. A lot of people will not share this information with their employees. Coming from someone in HR. I can tell you that my management team would not want this out there. But, you are correct. How can you develop them if you can't teach them. If you shut yourself off to this kind of learning, you will never move up in any company. I think it is sound advice. I look for the same things in my people.


Tom T profile image

Tom T 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

Great Hub. It is also why employees need to keep a copy of the employee handbook and become familiar with its contents. They may be written up for something that is not even covered. Thanks for shining some light on a very tricky subject.


ugagirl66 profile image

ugagirl66 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

You are so right. It is very important to keep that book and any updates printed. They are always revising things. It's important to have that as well. Awesome point. Thank you.


pathfinder881a profile image

pathfinder881a 5 years ago from Grand Gorge, NY

I was written up and I handled it as professional as possible but, the "Boss" kept repeating items already discussed. I felt he was trying to goad me into an emotional or unprofessional response. It seemed to irritate him that I would not fall into the trap.

Sometimes the deck is stacked against you.......


ugagirl66 profile image

ugagirl66 5 years ago from South Carolina Author

You are correct. The deck is sometimes stacked against you. I am sorry to hear of your recent documentation. It seems that the "Human" part of HR is falling short in a lot of organization. A lot of the stories I have heard fall back on being more of a corporate "yes" person than someone who is there to protect the assets of the company, which means their people too. You did a great job of keeping your composure and that made you a better person than your HR. Shame on them for being so unprofessional.


4 years ago

This article really helps. I just recently got wrote up. I have been under so much stress outside of work that I fell into one of my old bad habits. A few of my friends/family just told it is like picking up on smoking again after you have quit because you were so stressed. I was "picking" through my tasks at work and working the easier stuff. I knew better, and I can't believe I stooped that low. I did it when I first started and then started it up again just recently. My supervisor said that he wasn't for sure if he was going to give me a written warning or a corrective counseling which still has me worried. It is the first time in 4 years that I have been wrote up. I can say that I am a learner. I plan on bouncing back, and I know that I won't do it again. I just wish I could get it off of my mind.


ugagirl66 profile image

ugagirl66 4 years ago from South Carolina Author

I am sorry to hear that you were documented. However, I hope this comment may help you with the peace of mind side. The easiest way to handle this is sometimes the hardest for people. Own it. If you want your supervisor to respect you, change their behavior towards you and see past this small mistake in your career, then you need to take charge of the error and just own it and move past it. If it were me, I would handle it this way.

Employee to Supervisor: When you have some time, could you schedule me in for about 10-15 minutes?

Why am I scheduling this time? Because you want them to know that you know their time is as valuable as yours. You also want to make certain that you have their full attention and by scheduling the time, you should be able to accomplish that.

The Meeting:

Employee to Supervisor: Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. I will not take much of your time. I wanted to sit down with you to apologize for my recent behavior. It is not who I am, but I was not doing my job as well as I am capable of doing. I apologize for that and I am not here to provide you with excuses. I want you to know that there were some things in my life that were distracting me and I did allow it to transfer here to my job. But, I am resolving that and I will not allow something like this to happen in my career again. I value the opportunity I have to work here and enjoy my job and the people I work with. I wanted you to know this, because I feel like I owed you an answer to my behavior, and to make certain you know that I own it, have resolved it and will never allow it to happen again.

Your supervisor if they are worth their salt should thank you for your honesty. Ask you if there is anything that you feel he or she can do to help you get back on track or if there are any employee resources that you feel may help you get through any future issues. They should tell you that by policy they will most likely have to still document you. However, it should be more like a coaching than a written and you should walk away with a mutual respect that you have identified the problem, resolved it and resolve to never allow it to happen again. This is where your peace of mind will kick in and you can now go back to your job and continue being the quality associate you have always been.

If you have a jerk for a supervisor who tries to antagonize you, disengage you, or make you feel worse for coming to them. End the conversation abruptly with. I am here to put you on notice that I did have a lapse in judgement, I have resolved the problem and it will not happen again. I can't imagine why I need to be lectured any further. If you need to document me for my behavior I am willing to accept it and move on. I would like to know how long it will remain on my record and I would also like to make certain that I can add an attachment to it that states my side of this situation to be added for record.

You should never have to go through with something like this if you have a professional. But, if you have a jerk and they try to make it worse, seek higher counsel and explain your case and again revert back to the professional side always.

It is best to never engage with a bad boss when you are angry. If they are bad, then they are also typical bullies and your anger and their attitude only creates more drama. I would expect from any professional to another professional that they never engage in bad behavior, even if the person displaying it has higher authority. Just because they lack professionalism, does not mean you should ever stoop to their level. One day they will meet that professional who puts them on notice and replaces them with a professional like you.

Keep your head up and let me know if I can help you in anyway. Replies alert my iphone, so I will know if you respond. I hope this helps you in some small way. Best of luck and my hats off to you for being such an honest and dedicated employee.


Kelsey 4 years ago

Hello, thank you for your article! It is helping me calm down a bit. It is a Friday and I just got sent home early from the medical office I work at. I never worked in a medical office before now and was kind of thrown into the position of handling medical records with little training. Despite that, I have been praised numerous times for how great of a job I do by the physicians I work for and my office manager. A few days ago, I received a request for records with 3 fax numbers on the release. Normally there is only one, so I assumed it was the 1st fax number and sent the records after having a dr. sign off on them. Today, I received an irate call from the patient stating I had faxed her records back to her office and all of her employees have now read her her personal medical history. My heart sank, I try so hard to be careful at work and it was honestly my fault for not reading through the entire release. I was immediately sent home and told to come in Monday to sign a formal write-up. I'll be an anxious mess all weekend and just have to ask somewhere, what are the chances that I would have been fired on the spot? After I sign my write up will I be sent home for good? I am sincerely sorry and I have no doubt it was my fault, and I'm worried.


dreamiegirl 3 years ago

I have a situation where the incident took place about 3 weeks ago. Mgr says I broke policy & therefore Hr has recommended me to be written up. I requested to see the policy. 3 weeks later & still no written document nor specific policy I supposedly broke just a meeting 2 days ago where mgrs just thru me unduer bus. I was told not to spk to anyone but I vented privately with another mgr who knew about situation all along. 1. How should i be handling this? 2. Did I do wrong by venting to a mgr? 3. I feel like one of the mgrs is trying to squeeze me out. 4. I feel how management has handled this is wrong & I don't agree with their decision ...any advise u can give would be great. I am an excellent worker & I am not sure how to keep myself grounded. I love my job & would like to grow there but this has stomped my growth.


kittydog 3 years ago

Thank you, thank you, thank you, I can not say that enough to y'all. Reading this article,the comments, and experiences afterwards have probably saved my job. I did get written up yesterday and I handled it like a learner. I will go in level headed tomorrow and ask for a copy for my records. That way I my boss knows she will have to write up everyone for the same mistake, and will be held accountable for making store policy that was not in place before.


ugagirl66 profile image

ugagirl66 3 years ago from South Carolina Author

dreamiegirl, I apologize as I have been a bit ill and just read this. Please email me at hrlady66@gmail.com every detail, dates, times, witnesses, state you live in, tenure etc... If this is not already resolved.

Kittydog: I am happy this worked out for you. It is a guideline and for informational purposes to help give people a different perspective than emotional anger and personal feelings. Its very difficult to separate it when you feel wronged and by knowing what you are allowed to request and what managers look for when they do corrective actions, it gives you composure, control and dignity. Three things, I feel SOME managers try to take away when they document people. We all put our shoes and pants on the same way and I never felt that I was superior to anyone that I worked with. Because we are ALL great at some things and I can ALWAYS learn something from everyone I meet. Kudos to you for taking control.


evenso 3 years ago

This article is written from the point of view of a standard HR person, and one who, not surprisingly, assumes the employee is at fault from the get-go. He doesn't address the scenario of a corporate culture that cultivates bad managers! What happens then? If an employee defends himself from a manager out of control he has no options. The article typifies a "my way or the highway" approach to employment. One reason America teeters on collapse.


ugagirl66 profile image

ugagirl66 3 years ago from South Carolina Author

Hello Evenso. I appreciate your opinion. I don't think you really took the time to read the entire article. But, never the less we live in America and you are entitled to your opinion. On a side note, you do sound bitter, almost like someone who lost their job. I hope that is not the case. I never used the "my way or highway approach". You see, there is usually three sides to every store. The employee, the manager and somewhere in the middle of the two lay the truth. I am the person seeking the truth.

I have had the displeasure of having to firing managers as well as hourly associates. One never wants to see someone lose their job. It is an ending that is a loss to the employer as well as the employee. However, managers can be hateful, disengaged and they do cause a trickle down effect to the employees becoming both angry and disengaged in their jobs. Sometimes, it is better to let the manager with a history of behavioral issues go than the employee. Bottom line, you have policy that has to be executed fairly and consistently in order to practice terminations that are fair and consistent. Meaning you have to actually investigate, ask questions, listen to what is not being said in monitoring body language and talk to the people that work with those people. You compile the evidence that is factual, see where it points and make the best determination possible for that situation. But, if you are someone waiting in the wings to see what was done disclosed to the rest of the gang, then you would be disappointed. I would never discuss what I did, how I came to my decision and what the outcome of the investigation was with anyone aside from my superiors. I have NEVER fired someone who did not see the light and hear the horn blowing because they had a paper trail that led them all the way to the station. That includes Management. It's always sad when people try to lump one position into so many other HR Managers who have made poor decision practices. I am not perfect, but I can tell you that I still get calls from employees who ask me about policy and what they should do with their new HRMs. Mainly because I NEVER sugar coat it, I NEVER lied to them, and I always followed this one rule. If it's not Illegal, Immoral, Unethical, or Unsafe then it's part of your job. If you feel you are being overly exposed to crappy jobs out of retaliation and you don't tell me, I can't help you. If you are being harassed and you don't tell me, I can't help you. If you are being sexually harassed or even think you are, and don't tell me I can't help you. If you think someone violated policy or your violating policy by doing something and you don't ask me, I can't help you. Because despite all my God given talents, being a psychic or mind reader was not one of the abilities that I was blessed with.


mvecho 3 years ago

I love this article and hope you can give me some advice. I was written up less than a week ago for not writing a log in my deposit book. During the coaching I took full responsibility of my actions but my manager seemed to provoke an emotion out of me. She would cut me off during me apologizing and state how I was wrong for not paying attention to detail Its strange cause I ve been recently promoted but they would avoid answering my question about pay until they raised my pay to a dollar more without my approval for acceptance. When I approached them about this professionally things got weird and the write up came. its important to note that a senior manager made the same mistake the exact day I did and the person who wrote me up made the mistake the very next day. now they are going to write me up for recommending another retail store to a customer for a product we did not have in store nor online and I don't know what to do I just want to step down now sadly but feel like management is just trying to get rid of me


ugagirl66 profile image

ugagirl66 2 years ago from South Carolina Author

The thing about retail is that they expect quality customer service from you. Yet when the store does not produce an alternative product to make that sale and make the customer happy, they seem to lose interest in the customer. What you did was right. When your company just does not have the product the customer wants there is one option. You tell the customer where they might find it, and you encourage the customer to return to the store for anything you can help them with. That leaves the customer with a feeling that you still took care of them and you will more times than not receive repeat business because is your professionalism and honesty. The manager who wrote you up sounds like a child who has a chip on their shoulder and are abusing their power. When in doubt, take it to HR and ask what they suggest you should have done for that customer. Trying to get you to break into some kind of emotions again a very unprofessional and sign of immaturity on the managers part. I realize this is a little late as I have stopped writing hubs to focus on health issues and other interest. But, for future reference just remember to always check to see a policy number that you violated and what specific clause of that policy. If you don't agree with it, then counter with a rebuttal citing your side and always keep your emotions in heck. If the manager is abusing their authority, document dates, times and facts only. Finger pointing without facts looks more like a tit and tat situation. Always back up your claims with facts.

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