I work for a rather large company. A friend of mine, who was an hourly employee, got fired for inaccurate time recording. However, she had worked there for around 9 years, did a very good job and was loved by all. She got a new boss who took issue with the way she reported her time and was fired pretty much without warning. In investigating her, they found that there were 4 other employees that she emailed with on a daily basis. Two employees have been reprimanded. I was one of those employees and have received a reprimand for excessive emailing. This reprimand has been presented to me as a “first and final notice” with threat of termination. The amount of emailing that I had with this employee was approx 7-8 emails a day. The content was short – a sentence or two most of the time. I was also nailed for forwarding larger content emails (pictures etc) to others that had been sent to me by other employees.
I have worked for the company for 8 years and am an exempt employee. I work around 50-60 hours a week with only a rare lunch break. I believe that if I am going to do a job, I am going to do it well. I am not able to complete the work well in less time. I rarely take or make personal phone calls. I do, however, check my personal email, which is not against company policy. Besides this extreme warning that I got, my boss has also informed me that I would be able to get the work done if I didn’t email so much. All the effort and extra time, without pay, is completely dismissed. Needless to say, I am really upset about all this.
My question for you is about how I can be singled out and given such a strong reprimand? The emailing policies have been overlooked or not enforced for every single person I have asked. In fact, I know of nobody else that has received a reprimand, other than the one person who was also a friend of the fired employee. I also do not understand what excessive is. Clearly we should not forward things and I will not do that. But, I am scared to death now to answer any email that is even remotely personal. A coworker announced her pregnancy and sent the sonogram and I was scared to death to even respond with “congratulations.” Personally, I do not consider 7-8 emails a day to be excessive, esp if the they were very short and discussed things as simple as if they were going out for lunch if they would bring me something. Also, with the amount of time I put into that job, that amount of emailing does not account for my overtime hours as my boss now concludes. The policy is vague and I am at the mercy of my boss’s subjective evaluation. How can I protect myself from being fired? This same boss, only a few weeks earlier, launched what felt like personal attacks on a mid year review. For the time I have worked there, I was treated as a valuable, award winning even, employee, but the new boss has a different opinion. Our HR person is someone who is not someone that I want to have anything at all. I feel like asking assistance from her would be like walking into a hungry lion’s den.
This, surprisingly, is not at all about e-mail. It may seem like it’s about e-mail, but it’s not. It’s about a new boss who wants to change things.
The non-exempt employee who everyone liked was fired because her new boss didn’t like the way she recorded time. This translates into she was putting down that she worked more hours then she did. Now, I’m not there, so I don’t know whether that was an accurate assessment or not. I don’t know if she was eating lunch at her desk while chatting with people the whole time, but because she was at her desk she counted it as work time, or if the new boss just wanted her to clock out every time she went to the potty.
Let’s assume it was closer to the latter. Just because someone is well liked does not mean they are doing a good job. Even if she was a stellar employee, she’s gone now and that’s her boss’s prerogative. It sounds like the e-mail investigation occurred after his mind was made up to fire her. You got caught up in this.
For the record, I don’t think exchanging 7-8 short e-mails a day is a bad thing. In fact, it can be a lot more efficient than standing in the kitchen in front of the coffee pot chatting. It also helps build relationships. In my last job I worked with people at all of our company sites. I only saw these people face to face rarely. E-mail and phone was how we built our relationship.
But, as I said this is not about e-mail. Your boss pulled e-mail out as a reason for you taking so long to get your work done. He doesn’t see you putting in 50-60 hours a week as a positive. He sees it as a negative.
He believes that you are being inefficient. The fact that you have time to “waste” on e-mail supports his belief. Please note, I am not saying you are inefficient. I have no idea, as I’m not there and I don’t know what your job expectations are.
What you need to do is lay off the e-mailing for a while because that is an easily observable sign that you are wasting time. But, more importantly, you need to sit down with your boss and discuss how he thinks you could increase your efficiency. Do this with an open mind. I know you think you are a careful and hard worker who is using every minute wisely, but he may see things that you do not. Listen and take his suggestions.
Go into this assuming that he knows what he is talking about. This may or may not be true, but if you go in assuming the opposite you are sunk before you start. He’s given you a clear signal that taking 50-60 hours a week to do your job is unacceptable to him. Listen to this. And remember, this isn’t about e-mail.