Am I being managed out?

'Managing out' refers to when management makes an employee's working life so unpleasant, the employee decides to hand in their notice. Some employees aren't aware that this is a management tactic, even though they may be the victim of it. 

It's quite difficult to legally sack a worker (in some countries) if the management of a company is unhappy with them; that's why they have to use covert strategies to make life unpleasant for the individual. This process could include: criticising an employee's work repeatedly and never giving them credit; not supporting them in learning or developing; keeping them out of communication loops; ignoring their requests or making their life at the company difficult in general. 

There are two sides to every story, so let's think about what it's like for both parties involved.

The employee now dreads coming to work every day, receives no praise, has no learning opportunities and feels completely unimportant. They may call in sick more often (with either a stress-induced illness or pretend illness); underperform even more because they feel it's not going to be acknowledged either way and complain about the organisation to friends and family - thus damaging their company even further. They are now well on their way to becoming an 'actively disengaged' employee, as the researchers at Gallup would say. This means they are not just helping the business; they are actively damaging it. What should they do?

Book an Online Career Coaching Session

On the other hand, we have the management team. They are typically very busy people, with lots of balls in the air and are under various personal and professional stresses themselves. They have an unmotivated underperforming employee who's costing them time and money every day. They feel that they've tried to support them, but it's not being reciprocated in any meaningful way. Also, they have ten other things that are a much higher priority that one employee. What should they do?

But first, a short story from my experience.

I worked in a bar when I was in my early twenties. The job involved doing general bartending duties and included making coffee, cocktails and advising customers on wine choices. I was capable of pint-pouring as I'd done plenty of that before, but making coffee and cocktails, along with giving wine selection advice, were skills that still eluded me. In addition to that concoction of incompetence, was my lack of training and the fact that I had been let go from a previous cafe because there were 'no more shifts available'. I was terrible at my job, and I knew it, but it wasn't for want of trying. 

The result of all this was that my manager gave me a hard time. He was a cool guy, but he had to run a tight ship, and I was way out of my depth. He routinely put me under pressure; didn't explain things to me and made few efforts to help me learn. 

I had to ask myself "am I being managed out?"

He was the experienced professional, and I was the amateur. Until one day when I couldn't take it anymore. I told him that he could continue as he was, but that would result in us both looking bad. Alternatively, he could help me learn, and I'd do the best I could. Either way, I was there to stay; it was his choice.

That was a turning point because it signalled the moment when he knew he couldn't manage me out. His only alternative was to help me, and he did so with immediate effect - he taught me to make an Affogato (whatever that is!). 

Now, back to present day and what we can do if faced with similar situations.

I believe the onus is on the employee to do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay; to be diligent and responsible. If they are unhappy with their training or skill level, they should seek advice and guidance either internally or externally. They should find out exactly what their superior considers to be satisfactory work and endeavour to match those expectations, within reason. If they are dissatisfied with the company or the work that they're doing, they should actively plan to move on as soon as possible.

I believe the employer also has a responsibility to train and support employees to do their best work; along with clearly stating what is expected of them from day one. If the employee really isn't the right fit for the organisation, they should provide training and support for the employee to move on. That way, even if the employee stays, they'll at least be better trained.

Having said all that, I'm aware that these are often tricky situations and there are rarely perfect strategies for dealing with conflict. 

I know, I was there myself.