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Thread: Warning email from boss? Confusing.

  1. #1
    Gold Member leseine7's Avatar
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    Warning email from boss? Confusing.

    Why is December always a month of tension? Yeah, I know there a lot of reasons. I just need to get this out there.

    I took on an Operations role 6 months ago in a totally new industry for me. I dove in enthusiastically, and I am being 100% honest when I say that I have worked harder (and done better work) in this position than I have ever done in any prior role. I've been through the ringer professionally, made a 180 a couple of years ago when I made the decision to leave my artistic/ performing aspirations and I haven't really looked back.

    After finding my footing in the Dutch workplace in an admin role I did well and excelled in, but didn't see as a longterm career path, I finally found this role with a start up, working directly with the boss and his business partner. My boss is the co-founder and CEO. He's incredibly smart and experienced, he's only 5 years older than I am and he built the company in the US before moving it to the Netherlands, so I feel at home in the workplace and get along with my colleagues well. I've been told on numerous occasions that I am an asset to the company, have been "vital" to the growth thus far, and about one month ago my boss sat me down to say that after I return from my maternity leave next summer (I am about 18 weeks pregnant), they want to do whatever possible to make me comfortable balancing motherhood with this role. I've been working on a number of recruitment projects to help build our staff, one of the roles eventually intended to be an assistant to me - so I'll ultimately (as far as I've been informed) be in a leadership position. All of this is great, I've been going head-first into projects and enjoy the role and even the most mundane duties.

    Therefore, I was really shocked when I received an email yesterday afternoon where my boss encouraged me to "take a day off for some extra rest" in the coming week. The tone of the email was very kind, but ultimately contained a list of mistakes I've made in the past month. I have always been 100% transparent with him if I felt I misstepped, and we would always discuss those moments positively - nothing he listed was detrimental to the company, and some of them were not even literal mistakes, but rather, questions I had asked for my own clarity that apparently indicated I am missing a beat. They were things I wanted to double check because I'm less used to doing those tasks and they are in regards to sensitive things like our finances, or a client set up. He listed these as "mistakes" but ultimately, I did not make a mistake. I asked for my own information and clarity before hitting the button.

    The overall email read as "Hey, you're normally really awesome at your job but you're making too many mistakes and we can't have that, so take a breather." (That is my paraphrase). I've shared it with two or three closest friends to get their take, and they said it reads as concern, but not a lack of trust. However, he did say at the end of the email that "We need things to be very careful because these kinds of slip-ups could impact payroll or other consequential things in the future." To me, that is a warning that they are less confident in my abilities.

    The email came as a shock after having just had multiple one:one meetings with him this past week where he seemed glowing and enthusiastic about work I was doing. I know that mistakes can be a drain on the company, but I feel like I don't know what to do about asking questions for my learning curve. 6 months is long enough to have made a good amount of growth, which I feel I have done, but it is not enough time to be 100% confident and never have to ask dumb questions now and again.

    Anyway, my main concern is that this could be a red flag that they are monitoring me and this is the first in the way of "documentation" that could eventually lead to termination. Particularly since this level of concern was NOT discussed in person just hours before the email was sent to me. I will naturally be careful, but given the amazing feedback I've had so far, I can't help but feel more than a little thrown off about what this means for my upcoming months and if I can really trust all the positive feedback. With a baby on the way, I really need to know that I can openly ask questions and feel confident there and not like my moves are being tracked and documented.

    Any thoughts out there are much appreciated.

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    Platinum Member Wiseman2's Avatar
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    Is this CEO/company Dutch or American?

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    Gold Member leseine7's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Wiseman2
    Is this CEO/company Dutch or American?
    He's American (And so is the company). He moved to the Netherlands for his Dutch wife and the company thrives pretty well being here as a headquarters. All of our employees except one are American. There are (max) 5 of us in total.

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    Platinum Member Wiseman2's Avatar
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    It's doubtful they are trying to generate a paper trail to fire you. It sounds as though too much anxiety/lack of confidence was coming through in the meetings. This can be perceived as you being stressed out. Or that you still need a lot of hand-holding.

    Some questions are fine but too many out of curiosity or "learning curve" can be misunderstood as incompetence or an employee being overwhelmed. Perhaps they expect more independence/autonomy after 6 mos?
    Originally Posted by leseine7
    The email came as a shock after having just had multiple one:one meetings with him this past week where he seemed glowing and enthusiastic about work I was doing. I know that mistakes can be a drain on the company, but I feel like I don't know what to do about asking questions for my learning curve.

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    Gold Member leseine7's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Wiseman2
    It's doubtful they are trying to generate a paper trail to fire you. It sounds as though too much anxiety/lack of confidence was coming through in the meetings. This can be perceived as you being stressed out. Or that you still need a lot of hand-holding.

    Some questions are fine but too many out of curiosity or "learning curve" can be misunderstood as incompetence or an employee being overwhelmed. Perhaps they expect more independence/autonomy after 6 mos?

    That's definitely possible. The two questions he mentioned were things I asked for clarity because I hadn't done them before, so I was a bit surprised he would expect me to just know the answers on my own. I think my stress/ exhaustion in general could be apparent - first time pregnancy is def no joke but I haven't actually brought it up at all. Maybe he can just tell. He's a good guy, so I'm definitely not questioning him as a boss but definitely red flag about the future or how things are really going there.

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    Platinum Member Wiseman2's Avatar
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    Ok that makes sense that he would mention "take a day off". Don't worry about it. Written memos are commonplace. Everyone's performance and activities are "monitored and documented", how else could they run a company? Relax and just consider it feedback sort of like a 6 mo. performance evaluation/review.
    Originally Posted by leseine7
    I think my stress/ exhaustion in general could be apparent.

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    I wonder if he is concerned about your maternity leave and having to do without you while you're gone...so he is in fact laying the groundwork to release you. I say this because at one company I worked for, out of nowhere I got written up for a mistake someone else made, then a couple of weeks later I was termed for another mistake made by someone else...and it was because the COO wanted me gone so she could hire her friend in my place.

    I would request a face to face to discuss his concerns. Get a feel for what his goal was in sending you that email. I could be way off base, but it would be better to know for sure than to go to your friends (or us here!) speculating and possibly reaching an entirely wrong conclusion...and then stressing about it.

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    I wouldn't try and interpret what you or your friends or anyone here on this board think the email means.

    I would take the email verbatim for what it exactly is, from his mouth: a listing of mistakes you've made, with a request that you take a breather and take into consideration that you have, in fact, made some mistakes that could be detrimental to the company.

    This is one of those situations where you have, in writing, what someone is telling you. There is no room for interpretation.

    Frankly, I would take all of this very seriously, and I'd look inside myself to figure out the mistakes I had made, and how to not have those occur in the future.

    I get that you're saying that some of these were "questions" you had, vs. actual "mistakes". I can tell you that he does not think so. He told you that.

    I'm not trying to sugarcoat anything for you because yes, he's put this in writing, and yes, he can add to this in the future and yes, he can add all of these emails together and make a future decision that you will not like. Take this very seriously if you want to keep this job, or want him to give you a reference for a future job.

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    Gold Member leseine7's Avatar
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    I mean... no part of me intends NOT to take this seriously. His email stated that the mistakes were not detrimental to the company, that he doesnít want me to apologize and that I am and have been a careful, organized person by habit. But if I werenít obviously concerned that this email is a legit warning of possible termination, well, I wouldnít be posting here. I also am wary of staying in a job where I canít ask questions on brand new tasks. There is literally no one else to ask but him. The ramifications of making a move without asking could be VERY detrimental.

    In any case, I do intend to speak with him face to face. Iím trying to put my head on straight before doing so on Monday. Obviously that will tell me a lot.

    For what itís worth, I researched it more today, and it is actually illegal as per their contract with me, and the laws around pregnancy and maternity here (in Netherlands) for them to terminate me before or during my maternity leave. Then, when I return, they are required to give me 12 weeks in the office before any termination can be discussed. So, I do have time, but am trying to figure out just how serious all of this is and frankly whether or not I should continue busting my ass with this role if all the back patting is over. Will figure it out.

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    Originally Posted by LHGirl
    I wouldn't try and interpret what you or your friends or anyone here on this board think the email means.

    I would take the email verbatim for what it exactly is, from his mouth: a listing of mistakes you've made, with a request that you take a breather and take into consideration that you have, in fact, made some mistakes that could be detrimental to the company.

    This is one of those situations where you have, in writing, what someone is telling you. There is no room for interpretation.

    Frankly, I would take all of this very seriously, and I'd look inside myself to figure out the mistakes I had made, and how to not have those occur in the future.

    I get that you're saying that some of these were "questions" you had, vs. actual "mistakes". I can tell you that he does not think so. He told you that.

    I'm not trying to sugarcoat anything for you because yes, he's put this in writing, and yes, he can add to this in the future and yes, he can add all of these emails together and make a future decision that you will not like. Take this very seriously if you want to keep this job, or want him to give you a reference for a future job.
    All of this plus - illegal or not - get your resume together now, make it letter perfect and start networking now. I would start going on interviews while you are on maternity leave unless by then (i.e. 5-6 months from now) this was a one time issue and all is golden. He does see the mistakes as detrimental -not to the bottom line -but to your success as an employee. I have nothing really to add other than this to how LHGirl put it other than my suggestion for these next steps.

    Also I am unclear as to what back patting has to do with this? If that is your expectation in a work environment I would question why?

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