my dad is pushing me to handle a firing differently than I want to

A reader writes:

I’d been having problems at work. It was a job I loved at first, but then things changed so much it no longer felt like the job I’d accepted. I’d come to resent my micromanaging boss and my coworkers were driving me nuts, but I tried to stick it out and put on a happy face until I could get a new job. But my resentment showed through and my manager put me on a performance plan to improve my attitude, although when I raised concerns about my job being in jeopardy, he assured me I wasn’t getting fired and I had a month to turn things around.

Nope. Two weeks into the performance plan, I got terminated. Part of me was relieved, even though I also feel horribly ashamed for screwing up so badly. But when I told my dad, he was pissed at the company. For one thing, he felt I should have been given a severance package and I should be paid a month’s worth of wages (he’s an employer too, and hiring and firing is part of his job). He also feels that my boss lied about my not being about to be fired, which was not okay, and that it was low of them to make me sign something but not give me a copy. But I don’t think I’m entitled to any of this — and I don’t want to act like a stereotypical Millenial and demand things I don’t deserve.

I know better than to call them and fight this. It’s not going to do anything, it’ll only make me look bad, and despite having a degree in politial science I’m actually not a fan of gaming a system for financial gain. But he’ll call me a quitter if I don’t at least try. What should I tell him?

Tell him that you’re an adult now and that while you appreciate his input, you’d like him to trust that you know the situation best and that you’re going to make your own decisions about how to handle it, and that you plan to move on and focus on what’s next. If he calls you a quitter, say, “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

But for your own background, here are some thoughts on your situation, in no particular order:

Regarding severance, some companies give it and some don’t. You can’t make them do it, especially if you don’t have any leverage that would make them want to — i.e., if they were concerned you were thinking of suing for a legitimate issue, such as harassment or discrimination, they’d have an incentive to give you severance in exchange for you signing a release of claims. But you acknowledge that you were clearly fired for performance, so I don’t see a justification for pushing for severance here unless there are relevant details not in your letter.

As for telling you that you had a month to improve before getting fired, but then firing you after two weeks — I don’t know the specifics of what happened, but if your performance wasn’t showing improvement during those two weeks, or was even getting worse, or if there was a major mistake made during that time, there are certainly cases where it would have been legitimate for them to short-circuit the improvement plan and end things early.

And last thing: Even though it might have felt differently in the moment, it’s important to remember that no one can “make you” sign something. You could have refused, or you could have insisted on a copy before signing. That’s not always something you realize when you’re new to the work world, but it’s something to remember for the future — and it’s something you might point out to your father if he continues raising this.

More importantly, though, your dad doesn’t know all the details, and he seems to be judging this situation as your dad not as an employer — which is natural, but you need to be firm about being an adult and handling this yourself.

{ 78 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte*

    It sounds like your father might be pushing some of his disappointment about the situation onto the company. Which is kind of an appropriate fatherly thing to do, but it’s coming right back in your lap as “You got fired wrong.” Do you have the kind of relationship where you can say, “Dad, I already feel bad enough about being fired–it just makes me feel worse when you tell me I did that wrong too. Can you just encourage me about the future instead?”

    1. Jessa*

      Exactly. Da thinks he’s being helpful. Even if he’s driving you berk please try to remember that little bit of it.

  2. Jessa*

    What Alison said on signing things, this is not just work advice. NEVER sign anything you don’t get a copy of. Doesn’t matter what it’s for. And in an office, well walk it over to the copier yourself if you have to.

    Also, never sign anything you have NOT read thoroughly. I know “small print and all that is annoying.” It does NOT matter. Anyone who wants you to sign something and won’t give you time to read it, is shady. Or stupid. Or both. And I say stupid because most honest people don’t want to give the near appearance of shady. And rushing someone to sign something without letting them read it sends up big red “SHADY” fireworks.

    Especially since “I didn’t read it,” is no defence in a contract case of any kind. Whether it’s a lease or a contract to buy a car or a job offer contract.

    1. Omne*

      I was at a closing on the sale of my house and I started to quickly read the documents. The closer was amused because, according to her, most people just sign at the little flags and wait for their check. She was even more amused when I found an error….

      1. Liz T*

        My *tattoo artist* was surprised that I had a question about my waiver, because no one ever read it. The waiver was a page long–how do you not read the contract before getting something permanently etched on your body?????

    2. Jamie*

      This. You have to read – otherwise you have no idea what you’re agreeing to.

      And way too many people think contracts are a take ’em or leave ’em proposition. I can’t remember the last time I just signed a contact for business that I didn’t remove clauses, add conditions, or clarify stuff. Then they agree or come back with their own revisions.

      Not everything in life is negotiable, but more things are than are not.

      1. Tina*

        A coworker of mine sat on a jury that involved a former employee suing a law firm. When being questioned during the trial about some documentation/contract he had signed, he actually admitted that “no one ever bothers to read those things”. Have to laugh, I’d certainly hope my lawyer was reading everything! (He did lose the case.)

        1. Jessa*

          I am not surprised “I didn’t read it,” is no excuse. Unless you can show serious, serious duress, and that’s almost impossible to show. You gotta read stuff you sign.

  3. Eric*

    I’d suggest, however, that it is not too late to go back to your old boss and ask for a copy of whatever it was that you signed. I imagine there is a good chance they would give it to you.

    1. fposte*

      Sure, but don’t do it to placate Dad–do it if you want it.

      I think Dad may also be getting at the point that Alison also was making about having more agency than you realize–you can ask for a copy of what you’re signing, you can refuse to sign it, you can ask for severance (even though I wouldn’t advise it in this case). I think he’s going way overboard (especially if he’s calling you a “quitter” for not turning things into a fight), but the underlying notion that it’s okay and even advisable to ask for stuff rather than waiting for it to be given to you is worth considering.

  4. Runon*

    Does your dad get that you were fired for performance? (And even if you told him he might not hear it.) I think the best thing to do now is move forward. Start to look for a new job that is within your scope of expertise.

    (And apply for unemployment, you’ll be eligible in most states.)

    1. OP*

      He knew I was let go for attitude reasons, that I was unhappy and it showed, but he thought it was a dumb reason to fire me when there was no problem with my actual numbers or productivity.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Attitude is actually a really big deal and a legitimate reason to fire someone if they don’t improve after being warned; no one wants to work with someone who is unpleasant to work with, seems not to want to be there, and/or is having a negative impact on other people.

        1. OP*

          No I think it was totally reasonable, but my dad didn’t. should have been more clear on that.

          1. Joey*

            Your dad is clearly not seeing this clearly. Just think though, what good dad would admit his daughter first had a bad attitude which is a reflection of him, then that it was bad enough to be fired?

            I bet your dad would do the same thing if it were one of his employees. A bad attitude can be far worse than lots of performance issues because it can impact so many people.

          2. Daisy*

            I think it’s perfectly reasonable for your dad to take your side on this. But it’s also reasonable for you to ignore it. When I break up with a guy, my parents are always like, ‘what a bellend! He’s making a huge mistake! You’re too good for him!’. And it’s nice to hear, to know they’re on my side, but it doesn’t mean I go to the ex and say ‘Turns out, you’re wrong! Here’s why.’ I think this is like an ex situation. He may have employer experience, but here he’s thinking with his dad-hat on, not employer- hat. It’s not an objective opinion.

            1. Anonymous*

              LOL, I had to Google “bellend”. I never heard that before and I have an extensive vocabulary of filthy words :)

          3. Anonymous*

            I think your dad is just being a dad. You mention that he hires and fires/is an employer, but that’s not that hat he’s wearing when he’s talking to you about this (even if he think it is). Appreciate your dad for wanting to have your back, but take advice from people who are more objective about the situation, not from your dad.

            My dad is not one to sugarcoat things and when I got out of college and started working, the first time I complained about something related to work that had to do with an “is this legal” type situation that AAM gets asked about all the time, he explained to me about at will employment and gave me that same info AAM gives folks here on those type of questions. So I knew from early on in my career that – though it’s not ‘right – at any job, my boss could walk in and say “I decided I don’t like you and you’re fired” and there would be no severance, and I could be walked right out of the building (all usual caveats about protected classes and such). I am continually amazed about how many people don’t know that and think severance is required or that an employer needs a ‘valid’ reason to fire you or has to put you on a performance plan or give you a warning first…nope nope nope nope.

  5. Christine*

    My parents would probably react in a similar way, but they would never call me a quitter. That’s definitely not appropriate nor it is encouraging.

    As for the OP: I’d want to know more about why the PIP was cut short, given that you were assured about the status of your job. I’m afraid I’m with your dad on this one.

    1. OP*

      Well it was based on an incident that occured a week before I was fired. But after that I got really worried and that’s when my manager said my job wasn’t in danger, and that I had at least a few more weeks to turn things around. But he probably reported what I did to the higher ups, either out of concern or in compliance with the plan and they made the decision to terminate my employment. I’m not sure if my manager was lying so as not to hurt morale, or if he really didn’t think I’d be fired for it.

      1. nyxalinth*

        I had something similar happen once, OP. I took it as ‘lying jerks went back on their word’ at the time, but I’m older and wiser now. I think this is likely how it happened in my situation too, though in my case there wasn’t a recent mistake. It was more “You have a month to turn it around” (three days later) “Oh wait, sorry, no you don’t. Bye.”

  6. Anonymous*

    When I first started working, Dad was a great reference for me of what was expected in the workplace and how to handle different types of situations, though I don’t remember him ever being pushy about me doing things his way. (I have an awesome Dad. I need to call and tell him.)

    1. Jamie*

      My dad died long before I entered the work force, but I use his life advice at work all the time. I would give anything to be able to thank him and tell him how right he was about so much.

      On behalf of all of us who wish we could call but can’t – call him.

          1. Jamie*

            Me too – but 19 years. What’s that about? Isn’t that kind of thing supposed to get easier?

            1. Joanne*

              A family friend of mine once said that it was like living with a chronic illness – the pain never goes away, you just get used to having it.

          2. Jazzy Red*

            16 years for me, too. And 13 years since my mom died. I’ve been very emotional lately and missing them both more than ever.

            I guess you never *do* get over it.

            1. Esra*

              Thanks everyone.

              It’s been a pretty rough couple of weeks, but I feel grateful that I was able to visit him the day before he passed. We had a good talk, so there weren’t things left unsaid.

              I think any parent is so happy to hear that you think they did a good job, and you appreciate it.

            2. Anonymous*

              I called him. He said thank you to everyone. We had a nice chat, and we realized he’s been retired over 20 years. I can’t believe it was so long ago that I used to check in with him. Good thing I had him, because there was no AAM, and though Mom could do just about anything, her work advice was horrible. (“Just tell the company president that it would be fair if you could have more vacation because you work so hard.”)

              Anyways, Dad appreciated the call.

            3. fposte*

              Getting late in the thread, but I wanted to express my sympathies as well. It’s hard to imagine how large that absence is until you’re facing it.

              1. Jen M.*

                That’s for sure!

                I’m just now entering the “taking care of my parents” phase, and not a day goes by I don’t a) think about this very thing, because it’s inevitable and b) give thanks that they are still here!

                For those of you who have already lost them, I’m so sorry. :(

      1. Ellie H.*

        Thanks for the reminder Jamie. I just called my dad to say hi, and thanked him for all the life advice he gives me. I often give him a hard time about giving me unwanted advice, and don’t want to take it, and he teases me about how unreceptive I am and how unappreciated he is, but often after I have taken a few days to think about it, I end up following at least some parts of it or using the advice to guide some other kind of decision.

  7. W.W.A.*

    I just want to mention that it seems like the LW is taking responsibility for whatever happened. Often letters of this nature are full of self-pity or excuses.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Agreed! The tone of the letter is one of taking responsibility and that is great to see, especially in someone who is young and new to the workforce. I predict this LW will have a successful career going forward as she/he is willing to take responsibility for their actions or lack thereof.

      1. OP*

        or I won’t because I’m clearly a horrible, terrible, awful who resents people who micromanage her and treat her like an incompetent moron.

        1. Ruffingit*

          OP, I did not mean to imply that you were at fault here completely. I truly meant to compliment you on being willing to take responsibility for your poor attitude at work that may have led to the firing.

          No one enjoys micromanaging or people who treat you like you’re incompetent. As you move forward in your career, you’ll find that you’re better able to handle these situations and/or recognize them from the outset so as not to be in a workplace that has those problems.

          Hang in there. Believe me when I tell you that I’ve been there. It’s not easy. But it does get easier the more experience you have in handling these types of workplaces. Best of luck!

          1. OP*

            Thanks, Ruffingit. And I haven’t bad a bad attitude in all my jobs, and my attitude was fine in the beginning of this one. I think my boss’s management style brought out the worst in me, but I don’t wanna blame him.

            1. Ruffingit*

              I totally understand. I have had some jobs with managers that tested my ability to hold on to my sanity and to curb my homicidal urges toward them. So I’ve been there. It’s not easy.

              1. Chinook*

                Now that would be a great response to why you left a job: “If I had stayed much long,er my homicidal rage at being micromamanged would have overcome my common sense and I decided that looking for a new job was preferable to prison time.”

                1. Jean*

                  It’s also highly unprofessional (in most fields except butchering or medicine) to have bloodstains on your work clothes.

                2. Kathryn T.*

                  “Why did you leave your last position?”

                  “Because that Luminol stuff picks up everything.”

            2. Jazzy Red*

              OP, I was thisclose to being fired for my attitude a couple of years ago. On the way to my director’s office, I suddenly wanted to keep my job, so I groveled and apologized, and made a huge effort to change my attitude. I was surprised when he decided to keep me on, but I never liked or trusted him. I might have been better off being fired, but now it’s a moot point.

              The fact that you own up to your attitude actually shows that your dad did something right. He’s wrong about this other stuff, though.

            3. Elaine*

              OP, same thing going on with me. I’ll work my heart out for someone, until they continually show a lack of respect for me and my professional abilities, and miss the big awesome things I’ve done to nitpick “mistakes” that didn’t even happen.

  8. Ruffingit*

    Some parents have a very hard time letting go and realizing that their children (who are now adults) do not need constant instruction and advice about what to do in any given situation.

    My father is an absolute gem, but he has a very hard time not seeing me as an inept child. I’m 37 years old with graduate degrees and this is still how he sees me. It’s sweet, but there is a point where it gets out of hand and you need to be willing to step up and set boundaries.

    In my case, there was an issue that my dad was concerned about in my life and he kept harping on it. I finally told him “Dad, I appreciate that you care and I have heard your concerns. This matter is no longer up for discussion.” He tried to bring it up once after that and I just calmly said “I will not be discussing that” and to his credit, he let it go.

    Point is, it’s important to set boundaries. You’re an adult now. You may be a young adult, but you’re an adult nonetheless and there is no reason for you to be harangued by your own father, no matter how good his intentions.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Thank you for saying that. I have a parent who uses the Marie Barone “But I do it out of LOVE!” defense. No. Just no.

  9. Citizen of Metropolis*

    All the advice given so far is excellent, but I would like to point out one thing: standing up for yourself is not being entitled. It’s being an adult. My best boss ever made a point of teaching me that no one would after me better than I would look after me, and he was right. Never be afraid to advocate for yourself, no matter what the circumstances. From your letter, it sounds like you wound up in a situation that was a really awful fit for you. Now that you know what that feels like, you’ll be better able to avoid it in the future.

    I agree with your father that it was low of the company to refuse you a copy of any document you signed; the only truly ethical response would be to insist that you take one. I know that its difficult and unpleasant right now, but I think there’s a good chance you will be better off away from them.

    1. fposte*

      She doesn’t say that they refused her a copy; she just says she didn’t get one. There’s no indication that she ever asked.

      1. OP*

        well since I was getting fired and they wanted me out ASAP I wanted to get out of the office quickly and quietly. you know, like a good girl.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hmmm. If that’s the case, it’s not really reasonable to blame them for not giving you a copy; yes, they should have offered one, but you should have asked. I’m not blaming you for that; you’re presumably new to the work world and don’t have a lot of experience in this stuff, but it does mean that you can’t really blame them for not giving you one, since they presumably would have if you’d asked.

          1. OP*

            I thought people had security called on them if they didn’t go quietly. I didn’t want that to happen.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              You simply say, “Could you please make a copy of this for me to take with me?” and wait for that before you sign. That’s normal and reasonable. It’s not making a scene. If for some reason they refused (highly unlikely), you’d say, “I’m sorry, but I’m not comfortable signing something I don’t have a copy of.” You can also say (in either case), “I’d like to take this with me and review it before signing.”

        2. fposte*

          I thought the signed document was the PIP itself–was it something when you were actually getting fired?

          And figure out exactly where that “like a good girl” voice is coming from and seriously interrogate it, because it’s giving you really unhelpful advice (and I think that it may be related to why you were unhappy there); firstly, you’re not a girl, and secondly, “passive” is not the same as “good. Asking “May I have a copy of that for my own records?” is a perfectly fine thing for a good employee to say.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes. I can’t tell if the “good girl” remark was sarcastic or not; if so, sarcasm on work stuff — even internally — is not helping you, OP. If it was sincere, I second fposte’s advice above!

            1. Liz T*

              I took it as a mild self-chastisement–that she’d unthinkingly, reflexively done the passive thing because she felt bad about getting fired.

        3. Meg*

          Ahhh I’m so sorry but that phrase “good girl” sounds creepy. It reminds me of Alison’s post a few days ago about using the phrase “big girl job” and how it undermines women’s role in the workforce. For what it’s worth, you don’t owe it to your company to be a “good girl” – you owe it to them to be a competent employee, and a reasonably non-crazy ex-employee.

          And my feminist rant is over.

          1. Yvi*

            I read that part as extremely sarcastic and reflecting the OP’s awareness of her having been brought up to act like a “good girl”. But sarcasm and the internet is a tricky mix.

  10. CFinn*

    I was in a similar situation but it was a bit more extreme – I was largely gaslighted for mistakes my supervisor had made before I started the job. I was given a short term PIP and after a week I had hit all the requirements. On Wednesday I got positive feedback from my boss that I was doing “much better;” they fired me that Friday. In the firing meeting the Big Boss cited reasons for my firing that never happened (i.e., “blowing off a meeting with Other Big Boss” – Id never had any meetings scheduled with him, ever).

    What I did was schedule a meeting with HR to express my concerns about how my training, probationary period, and firing were handled. They were concerned and asked if they could relay that information back to my boss. I have no idea what impact it had but it did give me closure.

    1. OP*

      see I thought of touching base with HR and discussing what happened, but HR works for the company, so they’re gonna side with the company, not someone who’s just been fired and has no business contacting them.

      1. Original Dan*

        Good insticts. HR is not there to help you, they are there to protect management and the company.

        1. Joey*

          True, but they frequently have to protect the company at the expense of management.

        2. -X-*

          But sometimes HR is taking a long view of what’s good for the company: figuring out how to improve who they keep and who they let go. At a minimum, a good HR like that would make sure the manager doesn’t make the same error future, even if they are unable to help you/the OP.

          Protecting a particular manager in the short term can be bad for the company in the long term, and good HR can see this this distinction.

  11. Jamie*

    Just want to give a parents perspective on this. I am sorry this is making it harder for you, OP, but it’s impossible to be objective when it’s your baby (no matter how old those babies get).

    One of my sons had worked at a national sandwich shop chain and was let go the day before Christmas Eve because the owner sold the franchise and he fired everyone – only hiring back a few and didn’t want any high schoolers. I understand business – it couldn’t be personal as he said maybe 3 words to my son. Doesn’t matter…I will not go to that place again no matter how good their subs are.

    Two of my kids are looking for work and despite all of Alison’s unerring logic on the subject I am convinced they are the best candidates possible (certainly the most handsome!) and far superior to anyone else they are interviewing. Doesn’t matter what job it is – there is a little part of me that is outraged when they aren’t selected.

    Here’s the thing, though, I KNOW that I’m biased and lacking all objectivity on this. So when I give advice it’s the same as I’d give here to a stranger – I’m very reasonable because I want them to understand how stuff works and of course I know the world doesn’t love them the way I do…so I want to help them achieve via merit and earning it hence my reasoned suggestions.

    But inside? Yes, my baby should have gotten a years severance for a part time job, and a bonus because he was so cute in his little hat when he worked there.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that you certainly shouldn’t let your dad push you into any action which goes against your better judgement and it would be better for you if he took a more professionally neutral approach…but cut him a little slack because if he didn’t love you so much he wouldn’t be so outraged on your behalf.

    1. Rachel*

      This is exactly how my parents have been during my recent stretch of unemployment, Jamie, and I found it kind of cute, but frustrating. Dad wanted to know about every interesting opportunity I applied for, because clearly I am fabulous and was going to get an interview. I just wanted to get the apps out and ignore them until someone contacted me about an interview. And he wanted to hear even more after the interviews, when I wanted to pull what is always recommended here: write the thank you note, and then put it out of my mind until they decide to get back to me. I love that my parents were my biggest cheerleaders, but at times it made things even harder, because I was constantly told that I was wonderful and why wouldn’t people want to hire me? And then not getting hired. The cognitive dissonance there was tough for me.

      I’m starting a new job tomorrow, so this is all moot and instead my parents just want to celebrate when I visit them over the weekend for an entirely unrelated event.

      1. Jamie*

        It’s so hard when you want to help but I don’t ask. I’m happy to talk if they bring it up – but even though they are both still in school and we’re talking about part time jobs it’s still a touchy subject for them. I’m one of those people where being asked about stuff I don’t want to talk about makes it much worse, so I try not to do that.

        Unless what you don’t want to talk about is who ate all but 1/2 tablespoon of Rocky Road from Baskin Robins and put the container back. That topic I’ll beat like a dead horse…and I can’t even blame how they were raised since that’s clearly my fault.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          It makes me feel bad to have my parents help; I’d rather do it myself, but sometimes I just can’t. In my recent unemployment, my mother pointed out this: I was really trying, and she did not mind helping someone who was trying. She would NOT help my cousin, who does nothing yet expects handouts from everybody.

          If I ever have kids *groan*, I would like to let them know that. It’s okay to need help once in a while.

  12. Anony*

    AAM, thanks for the advice on knowing that one does not have to sign something on the spot. It is certainly good to know for future reference.

  13. Anonymous*

    I once refused to sign something, knowing I had the right, but that employer added a charge of “gross insubordination” to their file as a reason for my firing. Just saying–that can backfire.

    That said, I agree with AAM here. Also, if you were FIRED and not laid off, I don’t feel the company should be obligated to give severance. It would be different if they said they were laying you off.

    It’s a crummy situation, either way, OP, and I hope things are better for you going forward.

  14. Shelby's Mom*

    Managers and HR drones will never admit it but many firings these days, especially for older, more tenured employees are the result of discrimination (age, sex, race, etc) but are done under the pretext of some non-discriminatory reason like poor performance.

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