Hearing your boss start off a private conversation by questioning whether you’re right for your job can send a wave of panic through you. Your first instinct is to wonder if you’re about to be demoted, reprimanded or even fired. Quick thinking is vital to salvaging your job and getting your career back on track.
Listen to Your Boss
Pay attention to what the boss says about why she doesn’t think you’re right for your job. If she’s questioning your motivation or your attitude, these are things you can improve quickly. If she’s referring to your knowledge or abilities, you can address these too; it might take a bit longer, particularly if you need additional training or experience. Even though you’re likely to be shocked at the announcement, listen to what your boss says she needs, but isn’t getting from you, so you can quickly return with a plan for improving your performance.
Acknowledge or Dispute
If your boss is on target with her assessment, acknowledge where you’re lacking and ask for the opportunity to work on your deficiencies. “I agree my proofreading has gotten sloppy since I’ve taken on more editorial responsibilities. I know it’s an essential part of my job, and I’m striving to better manage my time so I can give it the full attention it deserves.” If your boss has a misperception of your work, professionally clarify the situation. “I can see how you might think my proofing skills are diminishing, because I’ve seen some errors in our published work as well. However, due to missed submission deadlines in other departments, some copy is going right to layout without being edited. I brought up my concerns about this issue in our last staff meeting.”
Ask for Help
If your boss tells you she doesn’t think you’re right for the position, but doesn’t terminate you, suggest renegotiating your job responsibilities and put an improvement plan in place. “I understand your concerns, but I love my job and I want to do everything I can to be effective in this position. Would you help me develop goals and objectives for improving my performance?” Your boss may have her own suggestions as well. Listen to her and convince her you’re committed to fixing what’s wrong and improving what’s right.
If You Get Fired
Often, managers use the “we need to talk” intro as a way to ease into a discussion of why a staffer is being let go. If you find yourself in the middle of a termination session, you may opt to let the job go, fight for it on the spot, or take time to digest your reasons for termination and then try to talk your way back into your job. The sooner you act, the better. Point to your significant contributions and ask your boss if you can do anything to change her mind, or if she’d consider putting you in a different role in the company. If the decision is final, leave with grace and dignity to maintain a professional image.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.