You (think) you are performing well, and out of nowhere you receive disciplinary action from your manager for actually doing something they told you to do. This leaves employees confused, scared for their job, outraged by the negative feedback, and of course, suspecting that's there's something rotten in the state of Denmark.
Managers may not have direct cause for firing, but if they want to get rid of an employee, they must start a paper trail to get rid of an employee.
Here are some reasons why your manager might have turned against you, and how you can set things right.
Office politics plays into our employment, and it can cause anxiety about our job security. Whether it's because the boss's daughter is gunning for your spot even though her top skill is posting selfies, or a member of upper management who's just doesn't like the way you look, office politics play into many corporate situations.
According to Harvard Business Review, the psychology of office politics often lies in the root of a toxic corporate culture where managers want to pit competitors against each other, which brings out negative behaviors in order for people to get ahead. Unfortunately, everyone will deal with office politics, because they're in every organization.
You might be the nemesis of the boss's favorite employee. Perhaps you're his or her biggest competition, and the best way for that person to get ahead was for them to start campaigning against you slowly to your boss. If you are gone, your colleague gains control or maybe a better territory, and you're on unemployment.
What to do: Dealing with office politics is situational. If you're being attacked by a colleague or upper management because someone is gunning for your job or salary, you're in trouble. Start getting colleagues to write you stellar reviews on Linkedin, get a head hunter, and spend your off hours looking for another and better position.
If it's a few colleagues who are undermining you, taking credit for your work, and being masterful at getting ahead, the best alternative is to be assertive. Most likely the colleague is a team member who has become the "boss's pet". You cannot bad mouth this person to anyone, the second you do, you will get axed. You must be positive around the boss's pet, and keep this person an ally. Try to get the boss's pet to see another person as the bad guy, and as sneaky as this is, it keeps you safe. Your only other alternative is to get rid of the boss's favorite, and that's nearly impossible.
You could be a top performer, hitting your deadlines and numbers every month, but the moment you start in with negative attacks, a giant target was put on your back. There is no room for negativity on a team, as managers do not need to deal with the drama and toxicity. They have enough on their plate without a team member's constant whining. If you are giving your manager any negativity or pushback, he or she will find reasons to get rid of you.
What to do: Vent somewhere else, to someone else, but keep all complaints about work away from work. Find a neutral party, whether it's a private journal, an app, anything but a colleague. You may think your work best friend is a sympathetic ear, however, you never know when they could turn on you for the hopes of a promotion and share your negative thoughts with your boss.
At work, always be positive and a team player. When a terrible idea is posed by your manager, ask a series of questions to let him or her come to the conclusion the idea may be taking everyone down the wrong path. Leading questions are the best way for subordinates to help guide a manager to the right conclusion and think through the bad decision, rather than blunt feedback that will be perceived as negative.
This is something that I's struggled the most with my latest stealth startup Due. It's hard when you have Debbie downers in the office. Don't bring that to the office, it'll hurt everyone in the company and from my perspective, it's not worth keeping you around.
There is nothing more salacious, fun, and shocking than finding out that a VP was arrested for solicitation off Craigslist at the last big conference he attended. Or that two members of the management team ran away and got married in Vegas. All of this gossip adds to the boring workplace environment, and makes the untouchables a bit more human. Unfortunately, if caught passing around inaccurate information (especially using company resources) or even accurate information that embarrasses the company, heads will roll.
Managers often know who the gossips are. During one on ones, there's usually a person on the team who is whispering in the manager's ear about who's telling who what. If you're involved in office gossip, your manager probably knows about it.
What to do: Try and abstain from passing on company gossip. Obviously you can't un-hear what's been passed to you, but never forward an email with any gossip, and never even share verbally with a trusted colleague. If it turns out you were the one passing along a negative story about upper management, it doesn't matter who you heard it from, you're the one caught red-handed.
The new phenomenon of social media has become the wild west for both employers and employees. What's private? What's personal? When is an employee's feed representing the corporation? The lines are blurred, and in today's social environment, there are still no real answers as social media companies change privacy settings often enough to all of a sudden reveal too much about us.
Think your management doesn't know you've been negatively talking about the company? You'd be surprised. You never know who's been lurking on your page, what web crawlers have seen your posts, and what's been seen by who.
What to do: When it comes to social media, it's better to be safe than sorry. A true professional will understand that social media is a representation of their own corporate brand. Politicians and celebrities have been dealing with cameras and paparazzi for years and have guidelines to dealing with unwanted media attention. Always be cognizant of what you and your friends are posting about you online. Manage everything. Some choose not to be online so they don't get found and can limit information about themselves. This is actually not ideal. Friends will post embarrassing photos people can still find, they're just unaware because they're not tagged. It's better to take full control and have all social media representing a professional, with little to no "party photos" and never mention your company negatively, ever.
Any discrimination whatsoever will not be tolerated by members of the public, and if ever caught, you'll be thrown under the bus. Whether upper management turns a blind eye matters not. If emails are hacked or released because of a lawsuit, and you are found to be sending or distributing any type of discriminatory language, a firing (and publicity nightmare) will ensue.
Management has access to your emails. They control the email server, so even if an old college friend is passing you dirty jokes, they could know about it.
What to do: Plain and simple, don't forward discriminatory emails. If you receive one at your office email, ask the sender to not forward them to your work account in a professional way.
A Bad Manager
Sometimes a bad manager gets promoted. This is the person with a 90% turnover rate, passive aggressive management style, and a hypocrite. He tells you to be in at 7:00 am and takes roll call from his bed, then lazily walks in at 9:30. She insists on being at every appointment, then doesn't show up. Somehow you get punished and yelled at constantly. There's no recourse, and everyone lives in fear.
What to do: Record everything this manager does, forward to your personal email and have other colleagues also keep a journal of his or her behavior. When the time is right, send it to HR. If the manager has ties to the C-levels, you'll need to start looking for another job.
There are many reasons a manager will start a campaign to get rid of an employee they don't like, even if they are performing. Protect yourself by staying professional, both online and off, and always keeping your resume updated.