Changing Boss’s perception of poor performance only chance to save job

Dear Joan:

I have worked for my company for ten years and I have been the Office Manager for almost two.  I recently got a new General Manager, who has been making accusations on my payroll procedures. Quote: "You know, if you are caught fudging numbers you will be terminated," unquote. 


Also he has made the statement that in his last job they had an Administrator who done the same duties I done. So my question is, can I be demoted without cause?


The numbers for the warehouse have been very low, so is it possible he could use that the job duties are lighter? I just need to know my legal rights.



Considering what your new General Manager has said to you, I would be more concerned with getting fired than with demotion.  And rather than focusing on your legal rights, start focusing on what you can do to save your job.


Playing the “legal rights” card makes you look like a victim, rather than someone who is taking responsibility for doing your job well and correcting any misperceptions your boss may have.


If your boss thinks you are “fudging numbers,” it’s an offense that can (and probably will) cause your termination. If your company can substantiate this claim, you will have no recourse. In any case, you need to get to the bottom of why he would think this and take steps to correct his perception, or make changes to your process—whichever is necessary to clear this up.  In addition, it may be wise to ask your manager if he can give you feedback regarding any other areas where he may consider your performance weak.


You need to go back to your manager and ask him why he thinks you are “fudging numbers.” Don’t do it as an attack, but as a sincere request with concern in your voice. Say, “I’m very concerned that you would think I would do such a thing. What am I doing that is giving you that impression? I’m very happy to walk through my process with you, so you can see it for yourself. If I am missing something, I am more than happy to change it, if it will make me more accurate.”


Then listen to what he has to say without interrupting. If you jump to justifying what you are doing, you will appear to be defensive and resistant to change. That will only paint you into a tighter corner, convincing him that you are a problem. If you end up getting fired over “fudging the numbers” you will not get a good reference and could have difficulty finding another job.


If he has insinuated that an administrative person could do your job (therefore implying that your job is unnecessary) you may not be demonstrating your worth. In other words, does he realize the amount of work you do and does it justify a full-time job? Do you do more than just enter data? Do you have other responsibilities besides payroll? What responsibilities and accountability do you have? Is the volume and scope of your work larger than that of his former assistant? It’s your job to make him aware of all that you do and the value you add.


Switch from defense to offense. Offer to meet with him and show him what you do. It isn’t enough to just tell him you work hard, or that you have a lot to do, or worse-- complain that he is picking on you. He needs to see you are worth the money and the full-time job you are occupying. Especially during slow times, which your company is now experiencing, every manager is forced to see where cuts can be made…and office support is often first on the list.


The fact is that your employer can terminate and demote employees, and reorganize duties. The law only has leverage when there is evidence of harassment or discrimination, which doesn’t seem to be the case here. In your case, it sounds as if he is focusing on your performance and on whether your duties warrant a full-time position—both of which are within his right to assess, in order to effectively run the business.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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