I was recently placed on a performance improvement plan and my work output has actually gone down since then because of the stress and anxiety I have about being fired. I feel so much pressure to keep this job because I need to support my family. I don’t know what I’d do if I was terminated. I used to enjoy my work, but now I wake up every day dreading it. Every time I talk to my family and friends about work, I break down in tears because I’m so stressed. What should I do? How can I get my performance back in line so I can keep my job?
The first answer
Bruce Sandy, principal, Pathfinder Coaching, Nanoose Bay, B.C.
Meet with your supervisor. Indicate your desire to improve your performance and ask for your supervisor’s help and support in effecting the changes that they desire from you. Ask for specifics involving goal and milestone achievements and behavioural changes that they are looking for from you. If there is still a lack of clarity, then ask for specifics and examples. Be honest with them about your stress and anxiety levels. Ask if you can meet regularly with them to review your progress and continue to build your relationship. If your supervisor is not open to this, then you have more information about them and you should update your résumé and start to look for a new position.
Your supervisor will hopefully be open to helping you and meeting with you regularly. They may also recommend that you seek support for dealing with your anxiety and stress management. Companies often have employee and family assistance programs which offer counselling and sometimes coaching support for employees as part of their extended benefits program. This is something that you will likely want to explore whether your supervisor recommends it or not. Counsellors can help you with learning stress management techniques such as breathing and mindfulness practices, addressing past and current life and work challenges, and building more effective work relationships and work styles and patterns.
Consider working with a coach on specific performance improvement goals including focus, deliverables, time management, organization, work styles, reporting and relationship development. They can also help you with exploring other jobs and other career opportunities, if necessary.
The second answer
Shalini Duggal, chief people officer, Wattpad, Toronto
I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been struggling at work. Before I dive into strategies to address your performance plan, it’s worth it to ask yourself if you’re in the right workplace to begin with.
Assuming the answer is yes, let’s get to the meat of your question. I empathize with what you’re going through because I’ve been there. It sounds to me like you’re frozen in a state of fear. Within that headspace, it can be difficult to see past the here and now, let alone make plans for the future.
So start there. Make your mental health a priority. Talk to friends, a health care professional, a career coach or even your HR representative. It’s easy to say this from the other side, but mindset is everything. Strengthening your sense of well-being will empower you to find a way through this challenging period.
The truth is, if your company wanted to fire you, they could’ve done that. So take your performance improvement plan as an opportunity to get clear on what’s expected of you. Set up weekly touchpoints with your manager to ensure you’re receiving immediate feedback on your attempts to improve.
At the end of the day, everyone involved in this situation wants to see you succeed. By self-advocating, you can take back the reins of your career and steer yourself in the right direction.
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