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How can I stop my new manager from pushing me out?

THE QUESTION

Shortly after being hired, my second-level manager was let go and the replacement restructured the team. I was skilled and successful at my job, but he redesigned my role to fix project errors that others had made.

Normally, the responsibilities I handle are done at the managerial level in other teams, and I mentioned that in my development plan. The new second-level manager was promoted, and that's when things got worse. Before presenting a project to his replacement, I would receive feedback from two other managers and incorporate their suggestions. Nonetheless, she criticized my work as not up to standard. There is a constant pattern now, and I feel it is part of an orchestrated effort to push me out. I received my first bad performance evaluation and feel eventually they will terminate me. I don't know how to protect myself.

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THE FIRST ANSWER

Doug Ewen

Certified Human Resources Executive, Midland, Ont.

Is this really a performance issue or do they just want you out? Either case is worrisome. Fortunately, you can deal with both issues using essentially the same process. Let's look at this in terms of both performance improvement and protecting you in case of termination. You will need to document, document, document to protect yourself.

First, review your performance evaluation. Meet your manager to really understand the improvement requirements. If you disagree with any points, discuss your concerns (don't debate or argue). Keep the meeting positive and constructive.

While working on projects, continue to get input from other managers. Given that your second-level manager has concerns, meet with them to validate your approach. Pro-actively review your approach to show them that you are taking ownership.

Use e-mail to your advantage by summarizing the details and reiterating your desire to succeed.

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Finally, plan for the possibility of termination. Record details of pertinent conversations, including dates, times and anyone present during them.

In the end, either you will see improvement in your performance or you will have documentation that will be important for future negotiations.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Bill Howatt

Chief research and development officer of work force productivity, Morneau Shepell, Toronto

You can look at your situation through a few lenses. One is a legal lens to determine with an employment lawyer what your rights are.

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The other lens is considering how this is having a negative impact on your mental health, which can affect your overall quality of life. Regardless of your life situation, you own your mental health. You may not be able to directly control what's happening at the workplace. However, what you do have control over is taking steps to improve how you're coping with it. A recent article in the Harvard Review explores how to use stress to your advantage.

When we learn how to positively manage our stress load, we're able to change our focus to looking for opportunities and solutions. In your case, you have some choices to consider, such as do you want to work for an employer you don't trust or respect? This may be an excellent time to explore your options with an EFAP counsellor, trusted peer or family member. The more energy you can spend focusing on things you can control, the more you can develop your resiliency to push through life's potholes. The catch is, you have to do the work.

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