Feel like I am being pushed out of my job..advice and help needed!

(105 Posts)
joesy43 Thu 06-Oct-16 10:34:56

I have been in my job for 27 years. I work in a team which is myself providing admin support to lawyers. In July I had a few words with a junior who had discussed with others that it was inappropriate I had read out an email from another to my boss where I was mentioned. After asking her why she felt it was as it was about me and that I monitored his emails so I would see this, she said in case he got to hear about it.

The following week I received a call from HR asking me to ring them and when I did they said allegations had been made against me..they were as mentioned above and what that was about, alleging I had called another PA my boss' girlfriend and was reading out their emails. I explained about the email being about me and I denied saying 'girlfriend' and that I read emails between myself and the PA and not between my boss and her. A few days after this I was asked to do a vc between myself, boss and HR as they were in different offices. My boss basically interrogated me and raised other allegations one being discussing another PA booking travel? I defended myself as best I could and days later an email was sent stating he was not taking it further, no action was to be taken but if more allegations came to light action may be taken. I did not see him until about 3 weeks later and from then he says morning and goodbye and any requests for work were emailed or handwritten and left on my keyboard. We also had a girl who left and another on temp contract who I was very friendly with and both at their leaving interviews said how bad atmosphere is, no communication and an us and them attitude.

Last week I had my mid year review. When I entered the room, the HR girl was there also?..they started by saying there were issues that needed resolved and a bad atmosphere. I seemed to be very unhappy etc and then the knives were out..I was reactive not proactive..I needed to be looking at travel a month ahead and see what needed booked. I had booked a hotel the week before that was 25 mins away from event. I said I google mapped it and it said 15 mins..that I was leaving her stuff and she was having to do the admin when she had enough to do (this is a lie). The HR girl had the cheek to insult me when she asked if I needed to sit down with another PA to see what I should be doing! So it was left we will come back in a few weeks to see if there are improvements! Prior to this, my actual review was beg of year and in all sections I got valued performer. Needless to say I left the room, went downstairs, a colleague spoke to me, I broke down badly, he went to get the HR girl and she took me to a room and I said I felt I was picked on badly and needed to go home.

I have been signed off for stress/depression. My husband has told me he doesn't want me to go back. I am sick with worry, have lost weight, knots in my stomach, not eating, really bad anxiety. I need some HR advice and other please..thank you

OhNoNotMyBaby Thu 06-Oct-16 10:41:09

I'm afraid I don't understand your first para about who did what, why you were reading emails out, who to etc etc. It's not clear to me so I can't comment.

joesy43 Thu 06-Oct-16 10:55:47

We work open plan so there was myself and 3 others beside me. Going through his inbox I came across an email from another fee earner to him. The reason this caught my eye is because he had rang me twice in the week asking where my boss was (he was out of the country) and I didn't know as he hadn't told me. As he had called I was obviously going to read it in case there was something I needed.to do. When I read what he said about me I said 'remember the director who was ringing me, he has just sent an email referring to me feeling exposed and they came behind me to read

WittyCakeMeister Thu 06-Oct-16 16:04:32

I am a HR Advisor. I will come back to this later this evening, when I've got time to read it properly.

Just got a question - the first incident that you talk about - do you have it in writing that the issue was dropped; 'no further action'? Were you given any kind of sanction - a verbal warning (need to be on paper, not just 'verbal') or written warning? What is a vc? You say you had to do a vc.

Thanks.

atticusclaw2 Thu 06-Oct-16 16:15:13

I'm not entirely sure I follow completely but a fee earner sent an email to your boss and you read it aloud to others?

IMO that sounds like something they were entitled to speak to you about with a view to potential disciplinary. Is it that you're upset about or the subsequent appraisal?

joesy43 Thu 06-Oct-16 16:20:08

I have an email to say no formal action would be taken after they discussed my explanation over the phone and by vc (video conference call)..I had also asked if I could take someone in with me to the vc and she replied back it wasn't necessary it was informal. Thank you

joesy43 Thu 06-Oct-16 16:26:30

atticusclaw2..I understand this. I never discuss personal/confidential emails to him. I read it as it was talking about me and I was surprised at that. I guess what I am saying is my boss hasn't forgotten this incident and from then he has been having little to none communication to make it difficult for me and the mid year appraisal was nit picking to try and push me out. I may add he has had problems with other team members who have subsequently left

atticusclaw2 Thu 06-Oct-16 16:48:39

It sounds as though that incident has eroded his trust in you. Just because an email is about you does not of course mean that you can read it out to others.

Its quite normal for your relationship and the atmosphere to have been affected by this and for that to impact on your appraisal rating (although it sounds like you might be saying that you think things are being made up to make you look bad which is of course a different issue entirely). Can you ask to be moved to work for another fee earner?

joesy43 Thu 06-Oct-16 17:13:20

I agree it has changed things but it seems I am to blame for the atmosphere. I admit I backed off the others and just went in to do my job buy was always pleasant and professional when spoken to. Would you be discussing personal talk with your team who had reported you. It has been a living nightmare. As far is moving is concerned, we work in teams all specialising in different areas. They are all filled up as far as I am aware. Is suggesting this an option or would it have a negative effect on me if the answer is no as they would know I asked.

atticusclaw2 Thu 06-Oct-16 17:44:22

I would ask HR. The reality is that most legal secretaries are broadly interchangeable, albeit that it might take a while to get used to the work in a different team.

WittyCakeMeister Thu 06-Oct-16 18:05:50

The first issue - it sounds like they didn't follow a formal investigative disciplinary process, and you also have an email that said no further action will be taken. Therefore, despite what they said, they can't use any of that incident against you. It can't be considered AT ALL. Just forget it.

All that matters is what they've got down on paper.

It sounds as if your Annual Review was used to start a Performance Improvement Procedure (PIP). They were specific about areas they thought you needed to improve on. They will have made notes and have a record of that conversation.

Did they hand you a Performance Improvement Plan, or any kind of document stating areas they expect you to improve on? It may have set targets and action to be met by specific dates? They mentioned that they want to meet up again at a later date to discuss your progress. They will assess wether you've met any set targets (and maybe set more) at that date. This is a formal process that employees take when they feel an employee is under-performing / not meeting expectations. It may lead to dismissal, but only if they do the following:

- Clearly communicate areas that need to be improved (in writing, which could be a PIP document given to you or just notes signed at end of meeting that you are allowed to keep)
- Set measurable, fair, achieveable targets (can't be above the level that others in your role at same leve are achieving)
- Support you, with training or other support (the word 'training can be interpreted broadly. It''s probably why the HR Advisor wanted to sit down with you to see how you perform your role. So they can call that 'support').
- Assess at provided dates whether you are achieving those targets.
- Inform you that failure to achieve those targets means you are not performing at the expected level and it could end in dismissal.
- A disciplinary process will be followed with some formal warning letters sent to you.

(I am presuming here that they are following a PIP with you).

If these steps aren't followed by the company, they risk a tribunal claim from you that you have been unfairly dismissed (if you go down that route). They are involving HR though so you can bet they'll follow the procedure properly.

My advice is to decide whether you want to work there. If you want to keep your job (and I would in your situation, unless it's truely awful - don't let them push you out), return to work, keep your head down, feign that you are happy, don't make any mistakes and meet your targets. Be the model employee. I would ignore any frostiness from the manager. It's unprofessional of him to treat you coldly after the initial indiscretion you had. It's been dealt with. Be overly nice to him and pretend you haven't even noticed his attitude.
It will then be impossible for them to find a way to terminate your employment.

If they are trying to think of a way to get you out of your job, they will soon be starting the sick leave procedure - which could end in termination. (Also applies if you keep having short periods of absence as well). If you return to work, they may be worried about treating you badly in case you go off sick with stress again. Employers get nervous when colleagues go off with stress - it costs them money (sick pay), inconvenience and there is a degree of legal complications regarding dismissing colleagues who have gone off work with 'work-related stress'.

Write down anything negative your manager or others do to you. Kee a log of actions and dates. You may need it in future if you are facing dismissal and you feel you have been victimised.

Don't let all of this worry you. It's actually very hard for employers to dismiss you once you have completed one year's service. They can then only do it if you make mistakes and they follow formal procedures. PIPs are actually quite common and often come to nothing.

joesy43 Thu 06-Oct-16 18:20:20

Thank you for this advice. Nothing was mentioned at this meeting about PIP and nothing was handed to me. You see I rarely make mistakes when doing something that has been asked of me so they had nothing on me that I was doing badly only this need to be more proactive ie looking at travel in his calendar a month in advance or if I am asked to run off a wip report it is not enough to do that and leave back with him
What should I do with it then..it is up to him to tell me. The other pa taking notes was asked how she does travel and she waffled about apps on phones, running off tube maps and telling whichntube they

joesy43 Thu 06-Oct-16 18:24:50

Which tube he needs to catch..this is all nonsense and he has made the same journey for years..it has never been needed or asked for before..why now?.
Also saying the hotel was 25 mins away from event when I explained google maps said 15 mins..this could mean as little as 3 miles away..my work rarely has mistakes and is done right away with minimal errors..she also said I didn't look over bills for spelling mistakes when 18 were sitting on her desk with my amendments on them

joesy43 Thu 06-Oct-16 18:27:48

When can they start the sick leave procedure..I know of others who were sick for months and didn't come back. Can I hand in my notice while off on sick?

WittyCakeMeister Thu 06-Oct-16 22:47:41

'Mistakes' was probably the wrong word to use. It can be anything that they feel isn't up to the standard they expect.

They will start the sick process straight away. Someone will arrange a home visit to see you soon. Its a long-ish process. If you remain off they will get advice from your doctor. They will be looking for evidence of whether you will be able to return to work and when. If seems unlikely (esp. If docs say so) they can ramp up the process towards termination. If a return to work seems possible it slows the process down as they need to be seen to provide that opportunity. Depends how ruthless and organised HR/managers are. A supportive business will terminate contracts approx 1 year of long-term sickness. If a return is unlikely could be 6 months or sooner depending on medical report.

WittyCakeMeister Thu 06-Oct-16 22:52:54

You can give notice whilst off sick.

joesy43 Thu 06-Oct-16 23:14:14

So either return to work and be worried sick about what else they can come up with or hand in notice. As it is, I was scared to say boo so if I return I will be even more stressed. I can also guarantee no other pa's who book travel etc this is asked of them..in fact when I was asked to do a certain report one said to me what is that? I guess they would just say each team has different needs but we all do billing so why should I be asked for something that another isn't asked for. Seems unfair.

WittyCakeMeister Fri 07-Oct-16 19:32:29

If they are not doing a PIP with you, then perhaps they are not looking for ways to 'get you out'. They did not give you a PIP document or any targets and no further actuion was taken after the incident you explained. Are you sure that's actually what they're trying to do? Maybe they thought they had a few genuine concerns they had to discuss with you at the review meeting. Like you said, you defended yourself.

If your manager is being frosty, it's his problem. Loads of people work for managers who are frosty with them, or worse.

Go back to work, hold your head high (I meant 'keep your head down', as in 'work hard'), do a good job and 'f' them!

Swirlysunshine Fri 07-Oct-16 19:46:07

Not able to give any "technical advice" but just wanted to say I feel really sorry for you. Having a bad work life is kind of like having a bad relationship. I would say cut them loose. It seems scary now but imagine life this time next year. Still going to that place where you work now or you could have established yourself somewhere else, where you are valued. Even if the law etc was on your side....would you want to stay?

joesy43 Sat 08-Oct-16 00:49:27

Thank you..I am in so much turmoil atm..I know what you mean by no PIP document was mentioned or handed over but saying we shall come back in a few weeks to see if things have improved sounds like one
Being unaware of all this is also getting to me. I am scared of going back and feeling the exact same way and then more depression until I find something else or not going back and possibly giving him exactly what he wants..for me not to return..and btw he is a narcissist and the newbies are enablers which is frustrating. I also don't want to go back to a place where I have been most of my working life and feel inadequate, no confidence, not good enough and always on edge..sad(

flopsypopsymopsy Sat 08-Oct-16 20:06:41

Sorry to hear this is happening. You've been there an awfully long time perhaps it is time for a change?

TBH I've been a PA for a long time and have seen some awful behaviour from bosses to PAs. Once they decide it is time for someone to go/their face doesn't fit there is an awful lot of bullying behaviour.

You must be good if you've been there for 27 years so find a new employer who look after you a bit better.

flopsypopsymopsy Sat 08-Oct-16 20:08:20

Also, I should imagine the newbie PAs are bright and attractive young things who don't know their arse from their elbow but manage to laugh at his jokes in all the right places? grin

joesy43 Sun 09-Oct-16 09:12:11

Funny you say that but it kinda true..they come in and give all the right compliments, don't matter how the work is done. My boss gets on well with people NOT in his team but the ones who should be treated well are ignored. One PA made a complete mess once which I had to fix and nothing was said about that. Another comes in with no office experience and gets handed a role over all PA's because she has a bit of mouth on her etc...I am just afraid of what the future holds..

CotswoldStrife Sun 09-Oct-16 13:35:12

Hmm, I'm getting a slightly different vibe here (former HR worker). You did something you shouldn't - there is no doubt about that. You also say that you 'had a few words with a junior' which sounds rather confrontational, especially when the company know you are in the wrong! Did the initial problem arise because your boss was abroad and you didn't know?

You denied calling a PA 'girlfriend', but did you imply it or call her something else? And some of your comments do imply that you look down on the other PA's in the firm. I know you think that you may be coming across as polite and professional in your dealing with colleagues after the incident but I suspect that you are not and that is the main issue.

As Witty said, if they treated the incident as informal then it should not be on your record. They have raised points at your appraisal/review which seems to be the main cause of your stress (the review and the points raised). Things seem to have spiralled downhill from that review, is that the only reason that you complained of feeling 'picked on'?

There is a possibility that your boss has realised that the other fee earners are getting different information from their PAs (such as the reports and the travel) and wants the same. Obviously, the best way would have been to just ask you directly rather than wait until the review!

It is difficult to see why everything seems so bleak on the work front to you at the moment - it's just one incident and one review with items to improve on - but I suspect that you put great store on not making mistakes and have catastrophised a bit! I do think you'd feel more comfortable with a change of fee earner and team, or a change of employer but that would be a big change after such a long career with the same company. Could be good, though!

It is probably just going round and round in your head at the moment (try not to do this, much easier said than done I know!). How long is your sick note for, you've been off for a week so far? From what you've said it doesn't sound as if it can't be resolved, but if you've had enough and just want to leave then that's fair enough too.

joesy43 Sun 09-Oct-16 13:58:17

To address these points, yes I wasn't told by him when he would be back in the country, issues have arisen as far as a year ago when a senior member left who had raised a grievance and new members came which changed the dynamics, 2 juniors said how awful it was when they left..that left me. Following the HR incident, there was a bad atmosphere with limited communication..from him only morning and goodbye..requests for work emailed or left on my desk. I did not refer to the PA as this and in fact one of the others may have said this. I am absolutely polite and professional and can't think of anything I have said to be the opposite albeit being quiet and putting my head down to do my work. I think the review did not go well because in the juniors leaving interview she criticised the seniors and said they were the cause so I was made scapegoat for atmosphere. I most definitely do not look down on other PA's..I am stating a few facts. There is only one other PA that books travel on the same level as me and absolutely no-one else who does apps, prints maps. This was asked to the PA at the review who takes notes and that is the first he heard of it.

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