Advice for ‘Help, I’ve Been Written Up!’

Dear Rose,

I have been reading your site and your advice has been very, very helpful. I have attached a copy of a letter that I received from my supervisor. Despite all what she said in this letter, I have gone out of my way to speak and help anyone who needs it. Right now it feels as if I am losing my mind. I really love my job and the work that I do. Ironically, I work for attorneys!

Please let me know your thoughts and I would appreciate any advice that you have.

Thank you! – V.

Dear V,

I read through the letter that was given to you, and it was very thorough. I’m so sorry that you’re in this position. I’m not going to print it here, because it’s personal, but maybe my advice to you will also help others. For other readers, the warning letter was very thorough, very long and emphasized a need to be more ‘likable.’ Amusingly, the letter also mentioned that V. is a GREAT worker, all around, but just isn’t very popular.

One of the problems in the corporate world, is that it doesn’t really matter who you are, or what you mean to do. What does matter is how you are PERCEIVED.

These are some harsh facts: you may be perceived as being less friendly if you don’t dress as well as those around you, if you have an outdated hairstyle, or don’t wear makeup. ESPECIALLY as a woman. You may also, I’m sorry to say, may seem too ‘OLD’ for what they want in the office. Legal discrimination happens all the time, even if it’s not supposed to.

Also, you may have a less educated way of speaking, or may be used to speaking in a tone of authority, when in fact, they don’t want you to. In your position, they want you to have LESS personality and be more subservient.

And maybe they are right – maybe you do need to work on being friendlier – it’s really hard to say.

I do have some advice for you to keep your job – because, make no mistake, that thorough warning letter was a way to document problems so that they can terminate you if necessary.

This is unpleasant advice, and I’m sorry.

1. You need to score some brownie points. I believe in acting authentically at all times, but you know what? When your job’s on the line – especially in this case, I think it’s time for you to kiss some serious booty. Pay your bills first – and then be yourself!

(Survival before anything else.)

2. Put yourself in a position to resign rather than be fired. Look for other jobs, even though you love where you’re at. Do NOT procrastinate on this hoping the problem will go away. Watch out for yourself first, please!

3. The most important advice I can give you is to STOP talking as much as possible. Listen, listen, listen and ask questions. Be more polite than you feel you need or want to be.

4. Take them up on their advice. Talk to anyone they want you to talk to – and ask for these meetings in writing (and keep copies!) . And in those conversations, do not talk if you can help it. Say, “Thank you for your advice. You’ve given me a lot to think about, and I’ll do my best to do what you suggested. If you have any other advice for me, please let me know.”

And follow through with what they said to do. Just in general, stop gossiping, don’t blame issues you may have on others, and do your best to be as professional, but ‘nice’ as possible.

I don’t care if their advice is a load of crap – this is what you need to do right now to try to keep your job, and to maneuver yourself into a position where you can take care of yourself. I know you don’t want to be in the unemployed stack.

One more thing – another reason to try not to talk in these discussions, is that they may be ONLY looking for ways to terminate you, and may not, in fact, be willing to help. So, please keep that in the back of your mind.

5. Finally, document everything. Document every conversation and your responses. Send them to your home email every day.

If you have any problems with your hearing, you might want to mention that in your ‘discussions.’ Hearing issues would help you in this situation, because maybe you mean to be friendly to people, in the hallways for example, but don’t hear them all the time. Maybe you seem less friendly because you talk louder than others. I’ve known quite a few people with hearing problems that are singled out in the business world for these reasons.

Finally, don’t believe everything you’re told. Maybe they’re right, and maybe they’re not. Please don’t believe less in yourself because of what others have said. If they have given you advice that is helpful to you, make the changes to change yourself into being a better person. If the advice they give doesn’t, then follow it anyway for now, until the time you’re in a better position to be yourself.

My usual disclaimer is that this is only advice, and I have no ‘official’ qualifications to back it up. I have had to fire people, whether I agreed with it or not, because of company politics. I am intimately familiar with the ways the corporate world works to discourage ‘certain’ people. And, I do want you to know, it can be just as nasty as you can imagine.

I do believe however, that following this advice may make your transition easier.

Finally, without knowing you and your situation personally, just from what I’ve read – I do believe it’s time to move on. I’m sorry.

All best to you V, my heart goes out to you,


Rose M. Garland
Rose M. Garland, a successful graduate from the school of hard knocks, in the US foster care system, writes a daily blog to faithful readers about emotional self-help. As an editor, Rose catches those little slips that writers often make, so readers don't have to!