Hired for one task but forced to do another

Dear Joan:

I am in a difficult situation for which I could use a little advice. I am an employee of a small non-profit that delivers human services telephonically. I have been an employee since its beginning, almost two years. During that time I have had one review (after one year’s time) which was positive.  
My supervisor, the Executive Director, and I met today for our usual monthly meeting. She expressed disappointment in my performance.  Because we are a new operation, my job has been very fluid and many of the tasks I have been asked to perform are outside of the skills I have. Because of that, I have essentially had teach myself how to generate statistical reports, workflow analysis and monthly performance reports on software I have never used before.
When I was hired, I thought my primary focus would be within the area of my expertise (training staff to deliver employment services). My supervisor’s main complaints are that I have had errors in my work including the Board of Director’s meeting minutes and some of the reports that I have generated.
I have requested that others proof my work before I submit it, because a second pair of eyes is better at picking up errors. She is opposed to me doing this because the staff should not see what goes on at the meetings until she has had an opportunity to review the minutes. In addition, the statistical reports are very complex and there have been duplication in the data that I have missed because of systems way of pulling data. There have also been misspellings, all of which I have to accept responsibility for.
I have apologized, told her I will try to meet all of her expectations, but I don’t believe that will make a difference. At this point I think that I am at risk of losing my job.  I am an older worker (scheduled to retire within the next 2-4 years) living in an area where the job market is not good right now. I have a spouse who is disabled and unable to work.  However, I believe I am seeing the handwriting on the wall and that I will not measure up to her expectations even though she has requested that I develop a plan for improvement that I must present to her in two weeks. 
I am scared and anxious and really wonder if I should resign my position, however, I do not know how we could ever make ends meet.  Do you have any suggestions for what to do?
You are doing tasks you weren’t hired for, so it’s no wonder you are struggling. Training staff and preparing highly detailed and technical reports are almost at opposite ends of the skill spectrum.
It sounds as if your first year of employment went fine. You received a good performance review. But now something has changed. You are being asked to do tasks you never claimed to have the background and technical experience to perform.
I agree that you are on a negative path that could lead you right out the door. Without additional training or support from someone with technical knowledge you probably aren’t going to satisfy your manager. However, I’m concerned that your boss changed the rules about what your job responsibilities should be and I’m perplexed about why she would do that. 
Rather than quit before she can fire you, I suggest that you play the hand you’ve been dealt a little more assertively. What do you have to lose?
Gather up whatever evidence and data you have regarding the job you were hired to fill. For example, if you save things the way I do, you may have the original want ad you replied to, or your acceptance letter. You may have a copy of that performance review you mentioned. You may have a job description. Scrutinize that information to find evidence that you were hired to do a different job. Look for things that will point to the fact that you took the job based on expectations you could meet.
Then go to your manager and share the information and say (without threatening), “I was hired to do X, Y and Z. After my first year doing those things I got a good performance review. Since then my responsibilities have changed dramatically. I’ve never pretended to have the skills necessary for doing statistical work. I have never been trained on these computer programs. My current job doesn’t resemble the job I was hired for. It’s for someone with a different background.”
Then listen to what she has to say. Ask why you are being given technical work instead of doing what you were hired to do. Your goal is to force the point that switching responsibilities looks like they are trying to set you up to fail. If you can win this point—or make them own up to their part in all this—you will be in a better position to either get your job responsibilities altered, or at least get some severance pay if you are let go.
If you are fired you can receive unemployment, which might be necessary given your personal circumstances. However, if you ask if your departure can be called a “resignation” you may be in a better position to get another job. If you have made the
case that the company switched your responsibilities they may be willing to negotiate and give you a different job in the organization.
You may also want to consult an employment attorney that focuses on employment law from the employee side. Because I don’t know all the details it’s impossible to determine if your age is a factor. I’m not suggesting you even have a case, but it’s worth discussing the circumstances in case you do.

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, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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