I’ve been at the same company for 25 years and suddenly everyone seems to be turned against me. There’s a new director who doesn’t like me, and the HR manager has never been friendly towards me. A couple of co-workers made some false accusations against me (saying I refused to help when I said I would be happy to as soon as I finished what I was working on), and now I’ve been labelled as a non-team player. Year-end evaluations are coming up and I need to protect myself and my performance review rating! Our bonuses are based on these ratings and I need the money, plus I’ve always been a high performer. What do I do?
Whew! That’s a lot. Let’s unpack this situation and come up with a solution. First, you’ve been there a long time, got a new director, and everything has gone to hell in a handbasket. What happened?
Is it possible that you’ve been resistant to change? Heaven knows we all are. And if you’ve been there for 25 years, you may be — even subconsciously — balking at every suggestion because “this is the way we’ve always done it and it works very well, thank you very much.”
It’s also possible that the new director is a jerk who wants you gone, but it’s impossible for me to tell from here. It may be impossible for you to tell as well, so you’ll need to sit down and carefully think things through, and possibly ask a friend. Your resistance to change could also explain why other people are mad at you and you’ve been labelled a non-team player. It’s entirely possible you are a non-team player.
It can be really hard to see these things in yourself. You’re thinking, “why can’t they get on board?” and they are thinking, “why can’t she get on board?” So, give this idea some careful consideration. If you determine you have a part in this problem, go to your director and say, “I’ve been thinking about it, and I think I’ve been resistant to some of the things you want to change. I guess I’ve just worked here a long time! I want to let you know that I’m stopping that right now and I’m on your team. Can you give me a head’s up if you notice me pushing back too much?”
If this is the problem, this will likely make everyone more relaxed around you and help save your rating.
But, if the problem isn’t you, but them, it’s harder to solve. (It’s always easier to fix yourself than it is to fix others!) The HR manager may not be your best pal, but that doesn’t mean she’s not a resource. If she’s proven herself to be competent, you can ask for her help. If she hasn’t, then, yes, you’re on your own on with this.
So, the next step is to figure out what the problem is! Is the new director trying to drive you out? Are the other employees trying to suck up to the new boss? Is there age discrimination going on here? If you have evidence of discriminatory behaviour (statements like “can’t teach an old dog new tricks, can we?” are the best for that), you can report it to HR via email with a subject line of “Official Complaint of Age Discrimination.” That subject line makes it impossible for HR to ignore.
If it’s not some form of illegal discrimination, and just a dislike for you, the best thing to do is write a self evaluation, noting specifically where you have excelled. Make it clear that you are an amazing employee and make sure your director receives a copy before she writes your performance review. If she wants to give you a low rating, she’ll have to explain why your accomplishments didn’t count.
If your company doesn’t have a formal self-evaluation process, write up a list of your accomplishments anyway, and give a copy to your boss. Yes, this can look a little presumptuous, but it also makes it easy for your manager to see what you have accomplished. Send it with a note saying, “I just wanted you to be aware of my accomplishments this year. I hope this helps make writing the review easier.”
If it comes down to it, and you get a poor rating, you can always appeal it. Generally, this process goes through human resources and it’s not often successful, but its worth a shot.
But one more thought — you’ve been there 25 years. There’s no shame in moving on either. It’s fine to find a job that fits your style better. No one will consider you a job hopper if you move on!
About Suzanne Lucas
Suzanne Lucas is a freelance writer who spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. You can follow her on Twitter @RealEvilHRLady, or read her blog, Evil HR Lady.
You might also enjoy Suzanne’s response to the question: Should you threaten to quit to get a raise?