So you're boogying along at work and everything is cool. You're meeting your targets, getting on well with colleagues, your clients are happy, and you are in that rare sweet spot of having just the right amount of interesting work to keep you occupied without being under too much pressure.
Good or bad, nothing lasts forever because – out of the blue - your new boss wants a quiet word. It's nothing personal, but nearly everything you're doing is not good enough. They're not pleased and there's talk of you being performance managed – but only to help you, because he really does want you to succeed. Oh, and there's been a complaint from a client or work colleague about you but your manager can't name them for privacy reasons.
"Being performance managed is a brutal process," says David Trought, a partner at career coaching firm Clear Path Careers. David has a UK diploma in career guidance and 27 years' experience in the career planning industry, including time at the Faculty of Business & Law at AUT.
He says the issue of being performance managed out of a job, and its close neighbour the workplace bully, is at crisis levels in New Zealand.
"It's absolutely a hidden crisis, to be honest," he says. "I'd say of the adults we see for career coaching the vast majority, probably 70 per cent, have either been very poorly managed or not treated fairly. It's a huge problem and I'm quite shocked at the level it's at."
David says being performance managed is a manoeuvrer to put pressure on people to move them on.
"Quite often this is something that happens when a new manager comes in," he says. "And suddenly the pressure is being put on and you get more work to do. You raise it as an issue but no one's listening so you just get on with it."
Then you notice you are not invited to office meetings – only to hear later that decisions have been made about your department or your job via office gossip.
David has seen these situations many times as a career coach and feels for those who come out the other end demoralised, with lower self-esteem and confidence.
And if you think running to HR is the answer then David cautions you to think again. The people in HR are not there for you, he says. They are employed to protect the interests of the company.
"But if you do go for a chat with them or your manager, then take a witness who can sit and take notes for you, it could be a union member if your belong to a union," he says.
"HR will be working within the remit of the senior management team and being told what to do, so they're not there to be your friend. They may be able to intervene up to a point, but at the end of the day, they're responsible to the company."
David advises that correct legal processes need to be followed and that employees need to keep a careful note about what's said, when, and by whom. While many people may turn to an employment lawyer, David says the Department of Labour has lots of resources.
"You need to first of all check your employer is following the right process. Because if it isn't, that's something to query with them."
He also says people need to be given a genuine opportunity, and support, to improve their performance. If your manager just wants you out of their department, then David advises to seek a different role within the firm – to explore all options before backing yourself into a corner.
These could include an internal transfer, asking for voluntary redundancy with a suitable payment, having a few month's paid gardening leave and your firm paying for retraining or career coaching to help you on your way.
"You need sufficient time to actually start planning because you're going to need a certain amount of time to find another job," says David. "But if you're thinking of a complete change in direction, that's even more complicated. And that's when I think you need to get external help from a careers consultant.
"Because people in this situation often feel bullied and it damages their confidence. They think they're useless. So I think they need some tools that will help them with that."
David says jumping in to a whole new career can often end in tears with just a 30 per cent success rate if rushed. He advises taking it slowly and to consider a stepping stone job first.
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