I received this letter this week about someone who’s boss wants to fire him and asks what he can do. Here is his story:

I am 63 years old, have owned my own business for more than 20 years and was forced to take a job for a large company four years ago when the economy took a nosedive and my business became non-existent. My problem exists with my boss who I cannot please – no way; no how.

In the four years I am there, he has only given me one positive annual review with a minimum raise. He had constructive criticism for the first three years that helped me improve but since last year he has been on my back for the last 4-6 months RELENTLESSLY!

He has written me up four times; the most recent April 17, 2014 when I was also suspended without pay for 3 days. I was never given a copy of the first two letters. The third report had erroneous information that he claimed “was witnessed” yet never occurred.

This last letter/suspension cited an incident in which I believe he was to blame as well as my doing something I was never advised he didn’t want me to do. When he handed me the letter (a week after the incident for which he never advised a letter would be forthcoming) he made the remark, “I’m going to stay on your back until you either quit or I terminate you!”

The basis for his dissatisfaction is stated as unsafe behavior and repeated safety violations. For the last six months he is always watching me – comes by my work area at the end of break and lunch to make sure I return on time and always inspects all of my work before, during and after completion – looking for any kind of error. No other employee under him has to work with such scrutiny.

The day I returned from suspension I was put on a project that was difficult and complicated and required concentration. It has been slow going but so far so good. The morning of the second day he called me in to his office and reprimanded me because the “job was taking too long”! If I rush I’ll mess up…. It’s hard to work under his watchful eye, knowing he wants me to screw up!

I spoke to HR yesterday and asked for a transfer to another department and was told we would discuss it more on Tuesday after she has a chance to research the matter. I’m afraid that entails her discussion with my boss and whether or not he will approve it.

I have several questions, the first am I entitled to a copy of the first two letters of reprimand? Second, WHAT DO I DO? He is in the second tier of management and I’m afraid no one will stand up to him….. I don’t stand a chance. Third, in the two letters that I have there are discrepancies to the truth – if I try to bring that to someone’s attention, who’s going to listen? Fourth, if I don’t get the transfer, do I let them fire me or quit? Fifth, would I be entitled to unemployment compensation?

Please give me some guidance. I am at my wits end. Thank you for your time. – BB


You have found yourself in a complicated situation and you are not alone. I speak with many people who feel trapped. Let’s work down your questions one by one and see if I can find some options for you to consider.

Are you entitled to copy of your reprimands? While the obvious answer would be yes, the correct answer is it depends. If your company has an employee manual or policy that outlines the disciplinary process, it will include how write ups and warnings are handled. Get a copy of it and review it or go to HR and ask the question directly, “What is the discipline policy? What are the steps and how is it administered?” Once they tell you, if applicable, ask “What do you do when the policy is not followed?”

My suggestion, don’t get into a debate. Just get information. Decide what you want to do when you are not under pressure.

Second question, what do you do? No one can tell you what to do; you have to decide what to do yourself. The question I would be asking is…Why are you still there? Why do you feel trapped? There are many other companies to work for. Granted it might be harder to get into one or you may have to make some allowances but consider how the stress is affecting your overall quality of life. If you are there because you love the company except for this one boss, then you have lots of work to do to turn it around.

Third question about the two letters that have discrepancies – what do you do? Challenge them? I recommend people never to sign a document that is untrue or if you are under duress (hopefully you did not sign off on it). You can sign you received a copy of it. Going back to question one, if there is a discipline policy, there is often a way to contest or appeal a decision. This is the process you would use to offer your information into record.

If a clear disciplinary process does not exist, then you have to decide if fighting it is worth your energy. If it is, then write-up a response and give it to your manager and HR. Will they revise their stance? They may or may not. Based on what you have shared about your relationship with your boss, he definitely wants you out so he is probably backed into his corner squarely.

Fourth question about asking for a transfer – this is a good option and could be a win-win for you and the company as long as the relationship has not been damaged beyond repair. There is nothing to say about letting them fire you…if your boss wants to fire you, he will make it happen. Most states follow at-will employment where the employer can terminate a relationship for good or bad cause or no cause at all. There are some exceptions depending on what state you live in. The best place is to consult your local unemployment insurance office for details.

You always have the option to quit – your employer is not the trap.

Fifth question – will you be eligible for unemployment? That will depend on your state and how they handle unemployment claims. States have different definitions for discharges based on good or bad cause. Some states are lenient on providing benefits; others make distinctions based on good or bad cause. Check with your state unemployment insurance office.