Being “Managed Out” –
Part 1: The 7 Basics
“The most difficult part of any relationship is ending it well.”
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ACTUAL CASE HISTORIES: Over the past few years we have worked with an ever-increasing number of clients who have been “managed out” of their jobs. While most people have a general idea of what “managed out” means, few have more than a vague notion of how it works, and how it can be best addressed and, perhaps, counter-acted.
The process referred to as being “managed out” is nothing new, but what is new is (i) its increased use, or more accurately, abuse, and (ii) the risks it may pose to an employee’s career, finances, reputation, even health.
I often counsel clients that there exist two general ways to end a marriage: (1) a disgraceful divorce, in which the parties are combative, each making hurtful claims against the other, or (2) a dignified divorce, in which each tries to understand the other’s concerns, and tries also to accommodate those concerns. Being “managed out” of a job is like a disgraceful employment divorce.
This is Part 1 of a 3-Part Blog Post on the Subject of Being “Managed Out.” It is intended to help you understand three key points: (1) what being “Managed Out” means, (2) how to recognize if it is happening to you, and (3) how to stand up to resist it, or find another best way to respond:
Part 1: “Being ‘Managed Out’ – The 7 Basics”
Part 2: “Being ‘Managed Out’? – The 10 Telltale Tactics”
Part 3: “Being ‘Managed Out’? – What to Do, in Five Stages”
A Preliminary Note: In reading our “Managed Out” posts, please don’t come to believe we are not fond of Managers, Senior Managers or Executives. That’s not at all the case; in fact, they comprise most of my clients, and have for over 40 years. Just as there are “good employees” and “bad employees,” so, too, are there “good and bad” managers. We always hope our firm’s employees, and our firm’s clients are on the honest, straightforward and respectful end of the spectrum. We know and always bear in mind that no one is perfect.
LESSON TO LEARN: – “The Basics of Being Managed Out”
1. What is meant by “Manage Out?” Despite searching through several dictionaries, we have not found a single definition of “manage out” or “managed out.” The phrase commonly refers to a process of manipulating facts, events and circumstances to create a false basis to wrongfully terminate an employee from her or his job by one or more of (a) mistreating the employee in so harsh, demeaning and dispiriting a manner so as to coerce the employee, seemingly without choice, to resign in frustration, anger and disgust; (b) manipulate facts, events and circumstances so that the employee is perceived as deserving termination for poor performance or serious misconduct, or both at the same time.
2. When does “Managing Out” Usually Happen? Simply put, “managing out” typically takes place when a Manager strongly desires to terminate an employee despite his or her being a well-performing and responsible employee without there existing a proper, legitimate or legal basis to justify doing so.
So, the Manager may resort to dishonest and fraudulent means, illegal, and deceitful measures, thinking that they will “get away with it,” often with the assistance, support and/or direction of Human Resources, Employee Relations, Legal staff and others.
3. What are the Most Common Reason(s) Managers “Manage Out” Certain Employees? While there are innumerable reasons employees are “managed out,” we have found over the decades that there are six (6) most common reasons “managing out” takes place:
Common Reason “i” – Your Manager views “Managing Out” the way Many Others View Evading Taxes: a way to get what they want that is quicker, easier, and more convenient than getting what they want by being honest, straightforward, and respectful of people, rules and laws. This may sound near comical, but it is, in fact, what seems to be the most common of all reasons Managers sometimes choose to “manage out” employees they find “inconvenient” for one reason or another.
Common Reason “ii” – Your Manager is a “New Arrival,” especially if hired from outside the organization. Some people refer to this context as “New Captain on Board, Existing Crew Walks the Plank.” It is extremely common for a newly-hired Manager to want to bring into his or her new team of friends, former colleagues, or long-term comrades to serve him or her with unquestioned loyalty. If you have a new Manager arrive, watch out very carefully for the “managing out” efforts described below.
Common Reason “iii” – Your Manager is Intimidated by Your Success, Business Relations or Achievements, and thus sees you as a potential competitor one day for his or her job. In this context, getting you to quit – that is, to “remove yourself” quickly, quietly and with little if any severance – is often the tactic chosen. It is in this context that the more productive, personable and professional you are, the greater is your risk of being “managed out.” So, if you are perceived to be one who is positioning herself or himself for likely future advancement . . . you should best beware.
Common Reason “iv” – Your Manager wants to, or has been Directed to, Reduce Headcount by “Any Means Necessary . . . “ When economists, investors or Senior Management expect that economic contraction may likely take place in coming months or years many employers decide to act preemptively and surreptitiously to reduce personnel overhead, without admitting it publicly. Thus, twenty people may lose their jobs by being “managed out,” but there is no public word of “layoffs,” and minimal if any severance expense, even though layoffs are taking place.
Our clients who are HR professionals have shared with us that in this context Managers are often provided by senior management (a) headcount reduction targets, (b) headcount reduction deadlines, and (c) very limited or no severance monies in their budgets, thus setting the stage for Managers, with little choice, having to resort to “managing out” employees to meet such quotas and deadlines.
Common Reason “v” – Your Manager Views You as “Too Honest,” “Too Loyal to the Company,” or “Too Smart.” It is very common that employees who express hesitancy or even opposition to dishonest practices, to improper conduct, even to illegal acts at work, are subject to being “managed out.” This often arises to a kind of retaliation which is almost surely in violation of company policies, government regulations (city, state or federal), or even the law.
Common Reason “vi” – When you are only one, or one of only a few, of “your kind.” Whether it is a matter of gender, race, religion, pregnancy, disability, national origin or otherwise, some people are just “not comfortable” with diversity, or have deep-seated resentments against “your kind.” While it may be that people are less comfortable with others from different cultures, different backgrounds, or those with different looks, to act upon that “discomfort” is improper, in violation of most companies’ policies, and surely illegal under city, state and federal laws. For example, if in your city people of your ethnic background comprise 27% of the adult population, and you are the sole manager out of 200 who is of “your kind,” something just doesn’t seem right.
4. Can’t any “At Will” Employee be Legally Terminated for Any – or No – Reason? Plain and simply: No. First, as noted above, the “reason” cannot be in violation of regulation, law or policy. Second, termination cannot be accomplished by (a) breach of agreement, (b) fraud, (c) destruction of a person’s reputation, (d) extortion, (e) violation of corporate policy, or any other number of wrongful practices. Any person who says otherwise is simply misinformed.
- The law prohibits termination of an employee, even if an “at will” employee, on the basis of many “prohibited” reasons. These include (i) in retaliation for reporting wrongdoing, (ii) as illegal discrimination or harassment, (iii) for exercising a legally protected right, such as taking a parental or medical leave, (iv) because the employee has refused to assist in commission or coverup of a crime, (v) for pregnancy, (vi) on the basis of race, (vii) due to disability; (viii) for refusal to help the Manager steal money from customers; (ix) a refusal to have intimate relations with his or her Manager. Sometimes these or other improper or illegal reasons are the basis of, or part of, the motivation for an employee being “managed out.”
- In addition, many employers’ policies prohibit termination of an employee for dishonest, unfair or reasons without basis in fact. If employees generally know such practices to take place, it often results in damage to employee morale, decrease in employee retention, and diminished employee loyalty. The resulting thought is often, “If it can be done to her and him, it can – and eventually will be – done to me.” Yet, so very often that is exactly what “managing out” is all about.
5. Being “Managed Out” is among the Most Emotional of Employment Experiences. Being “managed out” is a very, very difficult employee experience. It is personal, corrosive and destructive. Commonly, it includes these three elements: (i) coercing – even openly suggesting – an employee resignation to avoid harm to reputation, (ii) creating a negative perception of that employee, her/his performance or her/his conduct, and so deserving of termination, (iii) “gas-lighting” that is, creating doubt in the employee’s own mind of the quality of their judgment, and (iv) harm to sleep, appetite, rest and close relations, thus wearing down the health and emotions of the employee being “managed out.”
It is quite common that we hear of clients in this process starting to lose their hair, suffer weight loss, inability to sleep, skin eruptions and other physical manifestations of anxiety, depression, even thoughts of suicide. Thus, “managed out” employees are among the least able to stand up for themselves, as by its nature and by its intention, it is so “disabling.”
6. Why Don’t Managers just Terminate Employees Honestly and Openly When They Want or Feel The Need to? As noted above, improper reasons are often in violation of law, regulation and company policy. So very often, Managers who “manage out” employees can’t do so in more honest ways and with honest, open measures because there simply is no factual basis to do so, that is, when the employee in question is (a) performing well, and (b) conducting herself or himself appropriately, and so (c) there is no good or appropriate reason to terminate him or her.
But the real reason, and the increasingly common reason, is an unbridled arrogance, a misplaced belief that they will not “get caught” doing so, and thus will not be held accountable. As my mother, an immigrant who came here on a boat, taught me: “If people don’t feel accountable, it’s unlikely they will act responsible.” And unbridled arrogance is often inflated by the reassurance felt by having an “army” of enablers from HR, ER, Legal, and Compliance.
7. Do All Managers “Manage Out” Employees? No, not in the least. But some do, in some instances, and in our experience, the process is becoming more and more common. Candidly, many of my clients – almost all of whom are senior executives and managers – have shared with us that “managing out” an employee (a) can be easier and quicker than the process of termination when adhering to company policies, (b) is often suggested by Human Resources personnel, (c) guided by Legal staff and/or (d) directed by senior managers.
It seems that “managing out” certain employees is at times viewed by employers as (i) expedient as to process, (ii) efficient as to time and energy, (iii) of lesser legal risk, and (iii) less expensive. Thus, it is of little wonder that managers increasingly yield to both temptation and suggestion, and thus revert to managing out employees, despite it being a process based in dishonesty.
How do you know if you’re being “Managed Out?” It’s rather simple: “Actions speak louder than words.” Look to how you’re being treated by your Manager, and in particular, for what we call the “Ten Telltale Tactics,” which will be presented shortly in our Blog Post Part 2: “Being ‘Managed Out’? – The 10 Telltale Tactics.” To read it, just [Click Here.]
How Can You Stand Up and Push Back to Being Managed Out? Blog Post Part 3: Steps to Take to Stand Up and Push Back at Being Managed Out. To read it, just [Click Here.]
All of these Self-Help Materials will be Available for Purchase Soon:
Being Managed Out 1: Model “Tactics–Used Journal,” with 21 Likely Tactics
Being Managed Out 2: 3 Model Memos to Send to Each of Your Manager, Colleagues and Clients to Make a Record of the Tactics Used and to “Change the Narrative”
Being Managed Out 3: Model Memos to Your Manager to (a) Suggest Meeting to Seek Resolution and (b) Confirming Mutual Understanding that the Relation is Repaired
Being Managed Out 4: Model “Elevation Memo” to Higher Management to “Reverse the Dynamic” and Propose “Best Goals” (Whether Staying or Leaving)
Being Managed Out 5: 134-Point Master Checklist for Standing Up to Being “Managed Out”
P.S.: If you would like to speak directly with us about this or other subjects, we are available for 30-minute, 60-minute or 120-minute telephone consultations, just [click here.] Evenings and weekends can often be accommodated.
In Summary . . .
Employees being “Managed Out” is nothing new. What is “new” is the increased incidence of the process, and the depth of damages often caused by it. In light of its potential harm to your career, reputation, finances, even health, it is not to be taken lightly. Rather, you should always be on the lookout for, and aware of, the tactics commonly employed in managing out employees. Like any “disease,” the sooner you “diagnose” it, the sooner you can “treat” it, by taking necessary precautions, making necessary adjustments, and taking necessary steps to protect yourself. And if you do identify and address the problem early, chances increase that you can achieve a better outcome, whether that be remain in your job, transfer, negotiate a separation package, find a new job elsewhere, or whatever may be best for you and your loved ones.
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Best, Al Sklover
SkloverWorkingWisdom™ emphasizes smart negotiating – and navigating – for yourself at work. Negotiation and navigation of work and career issues requires that you think “out of the box,” and build value and avoid risks at every point in your career. We strive to help you understand what is commonly before you – traps and pitfalls, included – and to avoid the likely bumps in the road. Understanding the common indicators of being “managed out” and how to respond to them is one way to do just that.
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*A note about our Actual Case Histories: In order to preserve client confidences, and protect client identities, we alter certain facts, including the name, age, gender, position, date, geographical location, and industry of our clients. The essential facts, the point illustrated and the lesson to be learned, remain actual.
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