Possibly getting the sack

walked in to work today to find a letter on my desk inviting me to an employment review next week where I should be warned that this may result in the termination of my employment. I had a bit of a moment the other day when I had a disagreement with my manager about issues I raised re the design of one of our projects. I felt pretty devalued as a result of it - it got a bit heated and I ended up asking to speak to my manager in the office where we continued to get out our issues on the table - for me it was feeling like I was being treated like a ‘junior developer’ whereas my manager said he had concerns that I was too slow in understanding the kind of development he was trying to introduce to the company.

A little bit of background for anyone familiar with the technology but it was an mvc entity framework based system where i had been told to implement the asp identity 2.0 functionality. I started the company on a part time basis around Feb. this year - and I came in on well basically a junior dev’s wage because I lacked the relevant skill set . Anyway lots of the technology was completely new but I successfully finished a project and was now getting on with a new project. For this one my manager had developed a framework to base the project around - this time he moved away from the repository pattern that I had used in the previous one, had introduced a services layer instead, IoC contained / dependency injection, Automapper and in addition had decided to move from a database first approach to code first. All great stuff - I think he did an awesome job but it left me with a lot to learn (I’ve been working on it around 4 weeks now) I got pretty stuck with the identity stuff as I need to fit it into this layered framework with custom users, user managers etc - and I did get a bit stuck and frustrated. Anyway - the first I mention of there being a concern with the timing was at our meeting on Monday. I think to add to the situation was the fact that we got a new guy in last month who is effectively also my manager but I’ve been feeling as if they have been a bit condescending to me and I suppose it all built up to the heated discussion the other day. Importantly though I am self-diagnosed borderline personality so it’s complicated and I cam on here read some of the resources and had realised I had been pretty out of order so contacted my manager to apologise. This was all day before yesterday - so today I got this letter.

Anyway have came home and started to apply for other jobs - but my confidence has taken a severe hit as a result of him pointing out that I have been slow in the uptake. I agree that I’m not the fastest coder in the world - programming has never came naturally to me so I get by just by sheer determination and work. I probably wouldn’t do it at all but I am a lone parent and have a 4 kids to support so I’m feeling pretty upset at the prospect of being unemployed again - which I was beforehand for a while before contacting this company to negotiate a part time position.

I stayed in work for a few hours today , and had asked if we could have got the meeting over with today but that wasn’t appearing to happen so after a while I just got overwhelmed at the prospect of losing my job and had to leave. I’ve to go in on Wed for the formalities.

Sorry for long post - it wasn’t intended.

So I woke up this morning with a massive headache and sick to the pit of my stomach. Strange cos I went to bed last night feeling a lot better and having decided I wasn’t going to the review on Wednesday. The letter did say in my absence they would make their decisions so I reckon I’m just best to let them do that. I am going to report in sick and let them get in with it. If I quit I’ get sanctioned from any income support. I would have preferred to get some notice as it would be so much easier to get a job whilst working. I’m worried too that I can’t get a reference now although I’m going to ask for one anyway as the software director is a nice guy and hopefully will understand I need to make a living. Even if there was a chance of them not sacking me I just don’t think I could continue working with such a team dynamic where my feelings of not being a valued member of the team was only confirmed by the letter that was left on my desk. Feeling really gutted I actually loved the job and had only been feeling like that very recently. The part time nature if it too allowed me to pick up my kids from school not something I’m likely to find again. Any advice would be appreciated.

This sounds like a Performance Improvement Plan situation. You get 3-6 months to “improve” your performance, but what they’re really doing is forcing you to quit. They may or may not play dirty tricks at the end when they do fire you.

Can you give us more detail about this letter?

It’s not about the technical details, as programmers we have to get out of that mode of thinking. It’s about the social and personal and organizational relationships, especially in this situation. You are a good programmer, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing the job you’re doing!

I’ve actually heard the complaints about speed multiple times and it seems that those complaints are only ever targeted toward the good developers. The complaint’s purpose is to make you feel like crap and to make sure you are subservient.

If I quit I’ get sanctioned from any income support

Double-check the employment laws in your country and state and double-check your employment contract.

I would advise only quitting if you have another job lined up. Don’t let them force your hand too early! If they take a few months before they fire you that’s more time to improve your skills, clean up your resume, interview at other places, explore any legal options, etc.

I’m worried too that I can’t get a reference now although I’m going to ask for one anyway as the software director is a nice guy and hopefully will understand I need to make a living

Just ask for the reference and don’t worry. If they’re assholes you’ll be able to mention that in your interviews. I find it more helpful to ask for references from fellow coworkers and other employees you’ve interacted with.

Hi = thanks so much for your reply - I’ve been pretty confused by the whole thing - fighting for it not to get me down to a place that is hard to get up from. I would be happy enough for it to be some sort of review as you say - I desperately want the time to sort out my job hunt - the thought of being unemployed again is devastating for me. I know there is no way I could continue working there long term now - I really just want to stay long enough to get another job.

After I made the post this morning I changed my mind thinking I would go to the meeting so I emailed the Software Director and asked if he could accompany me there. The thing that I worry about going is if I lose my cool which is pretty likely to be honest. I’d rather not go at all and just end it where it is where I have already apologised for my behaviour and just accept my fate and leave as gracefully as possible. Anyway I just received a mail back from him saying he is not about next week and won’t be able to go. Big shrug off - which has left me feeling more isolated. I feel like it is definitely just a formality to sack me right away in which case I don’t see the point in going. I did say to my md before I left that the letter would indicate this to which he replied well come in and have a chat anyway it doesn’t inevitably mean this and that they needed consideration time.

I don’t think they are arseholes at all - well at least not the devs (there is only 3). I respect them and liked them. I don’t think they were perfect and I think my manager made some obvious mistakes in handling the situation but not through malice just inexperience himself - he’s only just been persuaded to stay in the company as I started with a promotion, company car and the shiny new title of software specialist. The other dev had just left then too.

It’s the MD and the HR woman I’m not mad on tbh - although I feel pretty crap about saying that at least about the woman . The MD is completely narcisstic - the one thing about being mental is you can spot the types a mile off - it takes one to know one and all that. Having to sit through this meeting with them is not something I want to do at all. I thought having the Software director there would have taken the edge off that a bit but he’s obviously picked his corner.

As for the letter it is 5 short paras.

  1. date place of meeting
  2. “The question of your current employment and future employment position will be discussed in accordance with companies terms and conditions of employment”
  3. “Options will be discussed in relation to current budget restraints and I must warn you that this may result in the termination of your employment”
  4. I need to confirm my attendance with MD and if I do not attend may result in a decision being taken in your absence.
  5. I am entitled to take a fellow work colleague to the meeting (of which there are no objective people i.e. the only people are me , the software dir, my manager i.e. the software specialist and my new manager the guy they just took on and he was involved with the heated discussion the other day). Only other people in this office is graphic designers the MD and the HR woman.

Phew, sorry for the rant. By the way - thanks for the vote of confidence it helps.

Okay so it’s not a performance improvement plan, it’s some exercise in budgeting. If they’re anything like my company they’ve seen the budget numbers and have been aware for at least 1 quarter there’s an issue and maybe your issue with the manager was just coincidence.

I am entitled to take a fellow work colleague to the meeting (of which there are no objective people i.e. the only people are me , the software dir, my manager i.e. the software specialist and my new manager the guy they just took on and he was involved with the heated discussion the other day). Only other people in this office is graphic designers the MD and the HR woman.

You’re also entitled to have a lawyer present. I would highly recommend finding one. If you cannot afford one or find one, you will want to take someone with you who knows how employment law works and what you would be entitled to in severance pay. You can try to have two colleagues come with you as well; one for the knowledge of severance pay, the other for moral support. You aren’t alone is what the message should be.

I would suggest practicing different scenarios on how this meeting can go and how it will go with different coworkers coming along. Don’t say too much and don’t overplay your hand especially if you do not have a lawyer present.

If your lawyer or colleague(s) that you have chosen to attend the meeting cannot make the meeting, then you must change the meeting date to accommodate everyone’s schedule.

You may also want to call the Labor department for your state and ask questions like is this legal for them to do, and ask them about severance pay. Even if you’re terminated you will get 2 weeks pay with vacation pay (depending on the state) and may be entitled to some other severance.

Unfortunately your best bet is finding a new job as fast as possible, posting a review of this bad company on Glassdoor.com and making sure your references are in order and your skills are up to date for the new job.

Worst case scenario is that you will no longer be employed there, you will not get severance, and you will not get a reference from them. Make sure that you can handle that worst case scenario: find a new job, have enough savings or cut back on spending, find colleagues or previous coworkers to provide a reference.

Good luck.

P.S. it’s the weekend, take a relaxing walk, read some good books, take your mind off of this situation for a little while! Life isn’t always about office politics and bad managers and bad budgeting!

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Thanks a lot for the advice it really made a difference you taking the time to reply. I haven’t told anyone else yet - don’t want to worry any of my family about it so it’s really helped coming here. Feel strangely at home - mental illness and software dev - glad to be able to relate. I’m off to bed the now hopefully get some sleep and take my mind off it.

So I contacted Acas today (I’m based in UK) for some advice. Basically because I’ve only been with the company since Feb (you really need to be there 2 years) I don’t have full employment rights which means I can be sacked at any time by the company as long as I’m given proper notice - which in my case I believe is one week.

They said the benefits of going to the meeting would be to argue my case against dismissal (although at this point not sure what the case for dismissal is - or at least what they are going to say it is) and tbh I absolutely don’t feel like doing that. I feel I’ve been through the upset of it already and I should just report in sick this week and let them go through their formalities.

I asked also if I had a case for discrimination based on the fact that I am getting paid £26/k pro rata (which gives me a pay before tax of around £17/k) compared to the £40k+ along with company cars that the other 3 male dev are getting (including the one that is just started). I think this has been part of the problem of me feeling devalued and I think being treated as less of a professional. In years experience I have probably got more that all these guys although I suggested I come in on that wage because I didn’t have the technical skillset to a senior level what they are working with. I never knew at the time what they were on but found out as one of the employment agencies I had been registered with sent me the job spec for the position taken by the new guy as I had came up a match for it. Anyway status is there unless you’re doing the exact same job you’ve not really got a chance and the guys do more client facing stuff, and design spec so they are doing a different job although not so different that it warrants the great discrepancy in pay I feel.

I think that has been weighing on me , especially as I think (though not sure) that I’m being charged out at a senior rate (at least I’m appearing as Senior Developer on the Quotations being sent to clients. It seems that I sold myself short on the job and have taken offence when others have started to follow suit. It seems it is a common thing with people who come to the site i.e… lack of self-confidence etc. I’ve did some research too into the factors why so few women take Software Dev up as a career and why such a large percent of them drop out and and that feeling of not being good enough comes high up on the list - despite their high performance rates.

For me it wasn’t just a matter of money - it was getting to the stage where I was really restricted in my code as the manager was increasing putting pressure on me to do it exactly his way - at times he even went in to the codebase and rewrote my code. Although I’m alright about him wanting to improve the code I think he would have better approached that sort of refactoring by pairing up with me as opposed to jumping in and changing it all then telling me. I was feeling I had to constantly ask his permission to do anything, or constantly justify what and why I was coding. He had told me during our discussion that he felt I needed a lot of support - and this was the result really of my constantly asking questions - which I do - but I’ve always learnt by doing that - and a lot of the time he responded by explanations that assumed I knew a lot less than I did. I noticed him doing this but accepted it as he was so giving of his time like that and I felt by him verbalising his explanations in such detail I was giving him the chance to clarify his own thinking and in doing so bringing him on a bit too. Fool me - all I was doing was giving him the feeling that I was not up to the job.

Anyway I’m just getting this shit off my chest. Having a personality disorder, also means I can’t trust what I feel/think 'cause I know my viewpoints can be pretty skewed and I can be overly sensitive etc. That along with depression leaves me in a pretty screwed up position.

I’ve went back and forth about whether I’ll go to the meeting or not, but when I think about not going it makes me feel better. Although I don’t want to be unemployed I worked out that financially I’m round about £4k a year worse off - that’s based on my part time status just now - which in fact I’m better off than I would be full-time on same wage as then I have crazy child care costs. You don’t get part-time positions advertised though, so I’d need to look for remote working. The thing is though even though I say I’m only £4k better off that is the difference on whether I’m able to eat at times, or have gas /electricity. I got pretty overwhelmed and upset on Friday at work as the MD’s teenage daughter was there and she was so like my own daughter I was thinking how am I gonna support the kids and they’re the ones who are gonna suffer. I know it’s my fault but employers just don’t give a shit about that stuff - regardless of the impression they try to create about their company.

Anyway the sun is shining and I don’t feel too bad. Life goes on and we just need to deal with it I suppose.

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