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too emotional in work

38 replies

eefs · 18/08/2003 16:38

Please help!
I've had some official correspondence this morning from my boss with regard to my standard of work. He's stating that my standards are too low, that no one can trust any information that I produce and that he has to spend so long correcting my work that it defeats the purpose of me doing it in the first place. This has come completely out of the blue and I never ever expected it. The accusations in the letter can be easily disproved, and while I haven't been the best employee recently (to be honest, due to my preoccupation with my pregnancy) I am generally one of the best and am usually acknowledged as such. I went into my superior (above me, below boss) this morning to discuss this and he also expressed surprise and disbelief at this letter.
My problem is that while I have no problems systematically breaking his letter into points and responding to each one to show that it is harsh, unfair and untrue, I seem to be sooo over emotional about it. I burst into tears this morning when talking to my supervisor (to our joint complete horror) and nothing I could do would stop the tears flowing. I had a brief conversation this afternoon with my boss on the phone and was also in tears almost immediately (thank god he couldn't see me).
I'd already made a list of issues to address etc calmly before the phone call but as soon as I looked at the letter while he was on the phone I could feel myself well up. I suspect it's all down to pregnancy hormones but it's hugely embarrassing and is doing nothing for my reputation here. I?m an engineer working in a male environment and have usually managed to keep a calm professional attitude at all times.
any ideas on how to control this? I?m due to meet with my boss tomorrow morning and I?m dreading the waterworks starting again ? I can?t seem to stop them at all.

OP posts:

Boe · 18/08/2003 16:45

Eefs - can you not go to HR first and not straight to your boss - I would say to him that it is extremely bad for to just send you a letter - in your state (pregnancy) could be dangerous and he really should have had an informal meeting a while ago - sounds to me like he is just making up problems before you go on maternity leave - don't want to worry you but I would be concerned as to his agenda???

Just remember that he cannot do this - there must be some kind of official process he has to go through and cannot just send you a letteer slating your work - you are in the right - try not to cry (I know you will I do and am not pregnant!!) just sit there and get angry (don't show it though) - try and get you immediate superior involved too!!


Bossanova · 18/08/2003 17:05

Sounds to me like he is just trying to find an excuse to get rid of you because you are pregnant. He obviously knows that he can't use that as a reason (against the law - discrimination) so is trying to concoct a reason by saying you can't do your job. Maybe get your immediate boss on side to point out to big boss that a tribunal would see straight through him as nothing has been said before.


prufrock · 18/08/2003 17:11

eefs- previous threads which might help are here and I can't find the other - posted by same person though


prufrock · 18/08/2003 17:14

found it


mamajinks · 18/08/2003 17:40

eefs - what a b**tard, i agree with Boe and Bossanova and would question his agenda particularly if, as you say, his comments have come out of leftfield.

If his letter is 'official' ie part of a disciplinary process then speak to your HR team about how this process works - I think it is more usual to have a verbal discussion about a persons performance before launching in with the written statement. Maybe you could initiate a grievance procedure particularly if you can prove that his comments are unfair and possibly discriminatory. Definitely take advice on this, don't tackle it yourself when your HR team could do the work for you. Threaten the little f*er with a discrimination case, let's see where his letter writing gets him then.

I don't know how you can stop the tears from coming eefs and I appreciate why you don't want to cry when you're the only woman in a male environment. When you meet with him, keep your chin up, feel proud and tell yourself you won't give him the satisfaction of letting him see you cry and then when the meetings over go and find a friend or a quiet place and have a good wail!

I hope it goes well. Keep us informed! Cyber-hugs coming your way.


lucy123 · 18/08/2003 17:48

How big is the company?

Is there a nice HR person who you could talk to about this, possibly with a view to them sitting in on the meeting? (dunno, it just might help)

This is very unreasonable: I cry a lot when pregnant too, although I may have cried over such a letter even if I wasn't!

Also it might help to write down everything you want to say before the meeting: this will help focus your mind, but if the waterworks do come, you can simply hand over the notes. I would perhaps explain that it may happen at the beginning of the meeting too - but hopefully by the time the meeting happens, you will not be quite so emotional about it all.

good luck with it!


princesspeahead · 18/08/2003 18:14

really sorry to hear about this. unfortunately I agree with others here, sounds like this may be connected with your pregnancy. as someone who was treated not brilliantly while pregnant, by employers that I'd worked for for AGES, I felt completely let down and betrayed - and very weepy etc. My only advice is to try and stop feeling let down (difficult) and start being angry (not so difficult!). I find that I'm much less weepy when I'm cross and feeling like I've been misused, than when I'm feeling let down and unfairly treated, if you know what I mean.
It also helps to speak to friends about this, so they can all say "that's outrageous! don't let him get away with this!" - helps a lot!

Best of luck and let us know how you get on. On a practical note, write down as much as you can remember of your meeting with your superior and your call with your boss, date it, and keep notes of every other relevant conversation. You may not need them but conversely you never know when you might....


WideWebWitch · 18/08/2003 21:35

Eefs, it's unusual IME to go straight to a written record of issues with your performance - surely the first stage would usually be an meeting and discussion or an appraisal process? Is he following procedure? If this is out of the blue and you completley disagree with his claims then I'd be worried about his agenda too. Agree with PPH, document everything, all conversations and sign and date them. Also put as much as possible in writing (email counts). I would also get HR and your immediate manager involved asap. IKWYM about being emotional, it's totally normal, I am too and it's very hard not to cry isn't it? I bawled at a policeman who was nice to me not so long ago too, damn pregnancy hormones hey? This probably will look a bit better in the morning, so get a good nights' sleep if you can and do your best to tackle this tomorrow. Good luck, let us know how you get on.


twiglett · 18/08/2003 21:42

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twiglett · 18/08/2003 21:43

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twiglett · 18/08/2003 21:43

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twiglett · 18/08/2003 21:43

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twiglett · 18/08/2003 21:47

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JJ · 19/08/2003 00:04

Eefs, no suggestions on the work situation, but here's what I do to avoid the crying thing...
For me, if I can afford to kind of tune out the person ranting, I do the primes in my head (1, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13....) or sometimes multiplication by 17. Anything where I can half listen, but also have something else going on in my head.
Or this past weekend when I was very angry with the hospital and needed to keep calm and remember I was right, I kept saying to myself "I am a wall, I am a wall." As it somehow fit but was such a bad analogy, I had enough on my mind (yes, it was a really bad analogy) to dismiss the doctor's tone and inference that I was a neglectful mother.

If I were you (and, of course, I'm not, but maybe this will inspire something?): I'd also write down, point by point, my comebacks to every single thing in his letter and keep them on my person. For me, writing things down and having them on me is enough for me to remember in times of crisis. I don't think I'd want to pull them out to check.

Also, if he's ranting and you're tuning him out (after first figuring out the proper response -- usually they will give the key to the proper response first, then go on and get all ranty), wait for him to finish and do not interrupt and then wait (ie count slowly to 5) to respond. Ranters tend to fizzle out and get thrown off when people don't rant back.

Think of an out and go by what he said in his note. Lead him on and bring the points up yourself. If you've got the answers, you can handle the questions.

And, this has been my trump in these sorts of situations: apply the phrase, "It's not what you say, it's how you say it." Don't be argumentative, be slightly confused about the complaint with a tad of wondering about how this man could be so stupid.

My husband thinks I'm nuts with the wall thing (and probably with the primes), but that is my first defense against crying. The rest is, honestly, just manipulative bullshit, but has been effective for me.

Again, I've never been a corporate person, but these things have worked for me here and there and I'm hoping you do well tomorrow.

My husband just read this and suggested getting a performance review from your supervisor and also seconded (thirded? fourthed?) talking to HR.


spacemonkey · 19/08/2003 00:32

eefs, sorry this is happening to you. To be upset is a normal reaction, pregnant or not! Agree with the other posters on here, this seems a highly unorthodox way to highlight any performance problems that might exist - surely an informal chat would be the normal thing to do?! Definitely get the support of your line manager and HR department if you can, otherwise seek external advice (CAB or similar) asap because it does sound as if there's a hidden agenda going on. Is impossible to say anything to stop you feeling upset, anyone would be upset at being treated like this. I think the advice princesspeahead gave about being angry rather than hurt is sensible in this scenario. Also putting not only your official response in writing but also spill out your emotional response in writing (not to be sent of course!) is excellent advice, will provide some kind of release for your feelings as well as clarifying your thoughts. It's awful, but I think I would try to put it into a wider perspective (i.e. what's most important is you and your family and this is only a job) in my own mind and try to see it as their problem, not mine. GOOD LUCK XXX


FairyMum · 19/08/2003 07:12

Oh no. I get so angry when I read this. More or less happened to me when I was expecting dd and I was eventually made redundant (or offered a more junior role which they knew I wouldn't take up, so I took redundancy. Legal? Not really, but how do you fight the biggest bank in the world on 4 hours sleep a night?).
I agree with what is already said, but had do comment on this one since I feel so very angry about it.

Do write down your thoughts, but I think you should arrange a meeting too. You cannot come out with a letter like this without any previous signals that anything about your performance has been dissapointing. Make sure someone from HR sits in with you (this is your right!).
I understand that you feel emotional and unable to deal with this now, but at the same time you need to sort this out and get him to withdraw letter as it can be used against you later. I went through a similar process before I left my job. I was then 8 months pregnant. I was also very emotinal about it, but in the end I found that my anger took over. I also wanted to stand up for myself because I felt that I was now going to be someone's mum and I wanted to be strong for the baby. I kept thinking about it as if my baby was looking at me while I was in my meetings and learnt from my strong character (Ha!). I also think it is easy for your boss to write a letter and less easy to be so harsh when he sits opposite a pregnant lady. Men are always terrified we will go into labourat any time and also they have to be careful as pregnant employers could sue for stress etc....

Good luck. I hope you get through this smoothly as possible so you can continue enjoying your pregnancy and baby. I am so irritated while writing this, I must calm down with a coffee now. Do let us know how you get on and remember your Boss is a very pathetic operson for doing this to you. Probably has an extremely small willy.....,-)


tigermoth · 19/08/2003 08:17

eefs, thinking of you. It is awful to be attacked like this, especially when it comes with no warning. I agree with the others here who say there might be a hidden agenda.

I have had some pretty hairly meetings with bosses in my time. One thing that works for me is to ask them lots of questions to put them on the defensive too. I really think one question you must ask is why did your boss or line manager not tell you before it got to letter writing that they had concerns aobut your performance? Don't let them slip out of anwering this, keep banging on about it. Agree with jj's advice on approach. Appear bemused by their unfathomable actions.

Another thing - have you time to think of specific instances when your work has ben praised by others or you've achieved something special? ask your boss how this fits in with what he is saying. Keep bringing up these examples every time he starts to talk about poor performance.

Oh and this is really important IMO. Look at your job description before you see your boss. Are you being criticised about aspects of work that are not in your job description? sometimes the nature of a job changes over time. If you are being criticesed for not keeping pace with the changes, then that is not on. You are entitled to training and mentoring. I know this from my own expereince because I stopped a disciplinary procedure for this very reason. They can't get rid of you on performance grounds if they haven't tried to help you improve it, especially if what they want from you is not in your job description.

Good luck for this morning.


EmmaTMG · 19/08/2003 08:28

Just wanted to wish you luck today Effs. So many good points here that I'm sure you'll come out of the meeting with your head held high and him with with the very small willy (LOL at that Fairymum) will wonder were on earth he got the cheek to write the letter in the first place.

Take Care and enjoy making him squirm!


3GirlsMum · 19/08/2003 09:00

Eefs what a horrible situation you are in. Not much I can add as the others have said it all but lots of (((hugs))). TC x


Boe · 19/08/2003 09:17



badjelly · 19/08/2003 09:42

Before and during my preganancy I was accused of all sorts by my colleagues (I now work in a different dept by choice) but only heard about them from my manager & supervisor when I was hauled into their office, usually with 2 days notice so I could stew about what was going to happen although I didn't know what had been said this time.

The only thing I can think of that helped me is to take a glass of water into the meeting with you and if you feel the tears start to well up take a slow sip to cool you down and give you a moment. This also means that you can't punch their lights out as you have your hands full

Also, as has already been mentioned, try thinking of other things whilst you are in there and semi tune out of what they are saying.

You are in a slightly better position than I was in that you sort of know what it's all about and have time to prepare notes - so use the time wisely

So sorry this has happened to you - stay strong and don't give them the satisfaction!


Mo2 · 19/08/2003 09:47

Not much to add to all the good advice here eefs, but I know exactly how you feel - I was made redundant while pregnant and was very emotional throughout.
I know you said you worked in an all male environment, but do you have any 'good friends' there you can lean on? (Sympathetic dads who might understand how you are feeling right now?)
Reason I ask, is that I'm sure if they are trying to effect a disciplinary procedure on you, that you have the right to be accompanied to meetings by a colleague (or possibly even by an external friend or relative?). If you feel you simply will be unable to cope emotionally, and make your points clearly it may be worth considering having this type of person as an 'advocate' for you??

Best of luck - let us know what happens.


aloha · 19/08/2003 09:55

The first I knew I was being made redundant once was by being called into head honcho's office and being told that I couldn't really do the job I was already doing. I was being bullied a bit already by management so I was definitely very tearful. However, I didn't let that get in my way. Still threatened to sue (sex discrimination) and got a much bigger redundancy package than they offered. Best thing that ever happened to me - definitely. And it paid for our new kitchen, our wedding, honeymoon, a new car etc etc! I was getting married and at my age they knew babies were on the cards and wanted to get rid of me for that reason. I had a great employment lawyer who supported me too. I also think your boss has a hidden agenda and you have to try to be strong. Don't worry if you cry - don't let that stop you saying what you want to say! And if you really can't hide your emotions, then use them. Take a trip to HR. Tell them that you are pregnant and have been very upset and stressed to get a letter like this out of the blue. Tell them you've taken some legal advice (lie!) and that you don't think that the proper procedures have been followed. Put the ball back in their court. I had a letter from the founder of the company in the US telling me what a great job I'd done, and another email from the MD saying how fantastically a project had turned out (only sent because he thought someone else was in charge of it!!) which were very useful ammunition. Also I got some official statistics proving I was consistently under-budget and performing very well in the marketplace, so have a look to see what you can find like that.
Good luck, we're all thinking of you. I think the sight of a sobbing pregnant woman would actually scare the pants off some weasely, tiny-penised, middle-aged engineer anyway!


Batters · 19/08/2003 10:02

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

eefs · 19/08/2003 10:07

I never expected such a response - thanks so much, you've made me smile. Thanks for finding that old thread Prufrock, for the advise advise advise advise twiglett J ? and for the good tips and sympathies all.
Well after a good nights sleep I feel much stronger and decidedly angry. The problem is that I was angry yesterday too but still crumbled every time I was talking about this.
My supervisor is being really sweet this morning - I think I scared him yesterday.
Two points I suppose:

  1. I am also very surprised that I got a letter before getting any sort of verbal mention of this. My supervisor is as well, although I know he is trying to hide this so he can figure out what the company line is first. My boss was available all last week and is out of the office this week - I got the letter yesterday morning.
  2. At my last review I did really well and got a very decent bonus and pay-rise. During the discussion we talked about my good and bad points - they were mostly stating good so to balance I bought up what I consider to be my worst point - although I do my work very fast I sometimes make a basic calculation error which I generally catch before sending it on. I mentioned this as something I am aware of and do watch out for. I've been quite good for most of this year to the extent that I've ended up performing 90% of these calculations - however I made this same basic mistake last week. It was quickly noticed and corrected (by me, but after I'd sent the calculations out) and it's this that is the focus of the letter and of the "we can't trust your work" content.
    I don't have a problem handling the letter, it's just these dammed tears keep coming and I feel so unprofessional and weak. I have a call scheduled with said boss this morning - I am going to make a point-by-point response and because it's on the phone I can have all this before me. I do feel that I can't come back with all guns blazing though as I did make this error but the extent of the reprimand is totally unjustified, as is slating all my work on this basis.

    I know this boss is very unhappy about my pregnancy, esp as I?ll be taking the busiest month off (December = year end). I?m being more than accommodating in getting a lot of my work that was scheduled for the next few months completed now, I?m about to start on an extended business trip to get all my meetings etc completed so that there will be very little for me to pass on ? believe me I?d much rather not be flying at this stage of pregnancy but I offered just to help the company. I?ve decided to just keep my head down and do my best work until I leave so he has no other reason to come after me. I?ve decided not to involve the HR dept yet but will keep a copy of all correspondence and notes of meetings just in case.

    Thanks again ? I feel a lot stronger now and I?ll let you know how the meeting goes later on. Thanks for the tips re the tears. I also never realise how common it is to encounter work problems caused by pregnancy - this seems to have touched a nerve with a lot of people.
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