Your Office Coach: Complaint against ex-employer won’t help job hunt

 

My written termination notice misrepresents the reason that I no
longer work for my former employer.
Q:

My written termination notice misrepresents the reason that I no longer work for my former employer. It states that I failed to comply with the required start time of 8:00 AM. This is not the whole story, so I want to provide the actual facts in my upcoming job interviews.

The truth is that my 100-mile commute became a hardship when fog created dangerous driving conditions. My manager refused to consider telecommuting as an option, even though I had previously proved that I could perform my duties from home.

The real problem was his assistant, who likes to be in control. She resented my good working relationship with him, so she convinced him that the work I produced from home was deficient. Because he relies on her heavily and agrees with everything she says, he would not let me telecommute.

I don’t want to sell myself short by adhering to the company’s fiction that I was fired for tardiness, but I also don’t want to malign my former manager. How should I explain this situation?

A:

If you tell prospective employers exactly what you just told me, they will immediately conclude that you are a high-maintenance employee and ditch your application. To avoid being viewed as a risky hire, you need a reason for your departure that doesn’t make you sound irritable or demanding.

For example, you might simply explain that your excessively long commute made it difficult to consistently arrive on time, then describe how you will avoid being tardy in your next position. This assumes, of course, that you have now made the wise decision to apply for jobs closer to home.

Q:

In my unit, I hold the position of union coordinator, which is a liaison between management and employees. One of my responsibilities is to talk with the supervisor about productivity, so in the past I have been candid about individual performance issues. I didn’t expect this information to be used against anyone.

Recently, however, our supervisor gave some performance warnings that seem based on my comments. Now I feel trapped in the middle of a conflict between management and my co-workers. I don’t know whether I should remain neutral or take a side, so I’m afraid to say anything. Do you have any advice?

A:

Fortunately for you, the role of “coordinator” is probably defined by your union contract. Your obligation is to understand this definition and see that everyone involved respects it.

If the coordinator is supposed to be a neutral liaison, you will need to avoid taking sides. But if your role is to represent the interests of employees to management, then your “side” has been defined for you. To get clarification, talk with your union steward (or whoever is responsible for contract interpretation).

You must also determine whether you are supposed to give the supervisor feedback about individual employees. If so, your co-workers need to know that. But if not, then your supervisor must be told not to ask.

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