Being “Managed Out”? – Part 2: The 10 Telltale Tactics

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Are You Being Managed Out? –
Part 2: The Ten Telltale Tactics

“To err is human. To blame it on someone else shows Management potential.”

– Unknown

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ACTUAL CASE HISTORIES: Nearly everyone has observed one or more of their colleagues being “managed out,” or perhaps have themselves been “managed out.” But few people know either (i) how to recognize if it is underway, or (ii) know how to effectively counteract the process, that is, know how to “push back” against it.

This is Part 2 of a 3-part blog post. It is intended to help you recognize – sooner than later – the most common “managing out” tactics if they are being used against you. What many people say about health can be said about being “managed out”: “Early detection is key to successful treatment; ignoring a problem tends only to allow it to grow worse.”

Part 1 of this 3-part blog post, posted on September 21, 2022, was entitled, “Being Managed Out – The 7 Basics.” It set forth 7 basic components of the “Managing Out” process:

  1. What is meant by “being managed out?”
  2. When does “managing out” usually happen?
  3. For what reasons do managers “manage out” employees?
  4. Can’t any “at will” employee be legally terminated for any – or no – reason? Simply put, No.
  5. Being “managed out” is among the most emotional employment experiences.
  6. Why don’t managers just terminate employees honestly and openly?
  7. Do all managers “manage out” employees? No, not in the least.

If you missed Part 1 – The 7 Basics of Being “Managed Out,” and want to read it now, just [click here.]

In this Part 2 of our 3-part article on “Being Managed Out,” we address the question: “How do you know if you’re being “managed out?” The answer is to look out for the “Ten Telltale Tactics” being used against you. Part 3 will then offer practical steps you can use to successfully address being “managing out,” perhaps even to counteract it, that have proven helpful to our clients, and may prove helpful for you.

A Preliminary Note: In reading our “Managed Out” posts, please don’t conclude 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.

HOW YOU CAN TELL IF YOU ARE BEING “MANAGED OUT”? Remember: “Actions Speak Louder Than Words.”

Just read the list of the “Ten Telltale Tactics,” below, and look for a familiar one, two or more of the “Ten Telltale Tactics” most frequently used by Managers to “manage out” and remove employees by: (a) a coerced resignation, (b) concocted misconduct, (c) fabricated performance issues, or otherwise. If you recognize one or more of them happening to you, begin to promise yourself that you will not stoop down, or back off, from dealing with it, but instead prepare to stand up to the process underway. Understand, though, that these are not the only tactics used in Managing Out, and they do not necessarily take place in this order:

1. Sudden, Unexpected Allegation(s) of Misconduct for Petty “Offenses” including Things Everyone Does. Without question, this is among the most unsettling, and thus, sadly, effective tactic used in managing out employees – even those of unquestionable good conduct and performance, unimpeachable character and proven dedication to integrity. That is because being terminated for any kind of alleged misconduct can tarnish a reputation for a lifetime. It may even result in loss of a professional license.

Actual Event: Brad, Managing Director, Market Strategy, of a mid-sized asset management firm, received a telephone call from a Vice President of Compliance. He was advised that it had been detected by the firm’s “threat detection” software that Brad had sent an email on the company’s email system to an “outside party” that contained “proprietary information.” The “outside party?” A Business School student who had previously contacted Brad inquiring about good seminars and conferences she might attend to learn more about a Marketing Strategy career. The “proprietary information?” A list of upcoming public seminars and conferences put together by a Junior Analyst for the firm’s Market Strategy staff. No client information, no strategic plans, no original research or analysis.

Nine days later, Brad was summoned to a conference room in which sat his Manager and an HR Rep. He was told, “Brad, you have to make a choice, right now: either (a) resign immediately, or (b) be fired for misconduct.” It’s like being given the choice between (a) poison or (b) firing squad.

That’s the way “Managing Out” often goes. Who among us is perfect? Who among us has not “taken” a paper clip in our briefcase? Who would not feel a need to run away from such unsettling allegations, find a new job elsewhere? Many of us would do anything asked to avoid a career and reputation ruined in this way. “Managing Out” can happen just this way.

2. The “Sounds of Silence.” One of the tactics often used to “manage out” is a decrease in communication “traffic” of all kinds, including (a) from your Manager, (b) from your colleagues, (c) even from your reports, (d) encouraged or even directed by your Manager, (e) even at times in response to your own communications to them. Being left off email distributions lists, not being invited to meetings others expect or even require you to attend, and no longer being invited to quasi-social company events, are among examples of this “silence treatment.” Others, internal and external, will often notice your recent absences before you do. We sometimes refer to this as “North Pole Relocation.” Sometimes “Out of sight, out of mind, out of job.”

3. One by One, Responsibilities are Reduced: Step by step, drip by drip, your responsibilities are handed over to others without advance warning, with no good explanation, and “highly visible” assignments are taken from you, as well. You may even find yourself no longer reporting to your Manager, but instead to one of your own reports, who now reports directly to your Manager. One of the most cutting of all “managing out” tactics is for meetings to be arranged directly between your Manager and your reports, without your attendance or even notice. You might even feel a touch “lonely.” With so few responsibilities, and kept out of important meetings, why are you still there? If you’re thinking that way, rest assured, others are, too.

4. Being Spoken to with Discourtesy, Disdain, Disrespect, both Publicly and Privately: This tactic is as simple as it sounds, but causes so much more self-doubt, anxiety and stress than most others. They are often accompanied by cutting remarks, belittling comments, questioning your job qualifications, or even your character, both in private or in public. The list of these “thousand cuts” goes on and on. Sooner or later, the urge to respond in kind can overwhelm your self-control . . . but that is when you might say or do something you’re surely going to regret. And, too, the thoughts of “What did I do wrong?” begin to eat away at your self-confidence and self-esteem.

Actual Event: Paolo had been the recipient of so many insults hurled, racial taunts, threats of being fired, filthy comments about his husband, being lectured at large meetings for not providing information he was never asked to provide, and the like, that he was losing sleep, unable to eat, and prone to tears. When, on a Sunday, he received an email sent by his Manager, copied to his entire team, questioning his honesty without any basis . . . that was “it” for him – he shot back with a resignation, effective immediately. It was only because of the number of witnesses to this treatment, his resultant medical issues and his Manager’s openly bragging of his intentions to drive Paolo out of his job, that we were able to negotiate a reasonable departure package for him.

5. Denial or Delay of Necessary Resources: It’s hard to be successful when you are not permitted to be. A few examples: You and your reports are required to interview a minimum number of job candidates each month, but your recruitment budget is inexplicably never approved. Your team’s work requires translation of materials from four foreign languages, but your team is denied any funds to hire translators. This is especially disconcerting when your colleagues, faced with similar objectives, face no such difficulties.

6. Denying You Credit You Deserve and/or Casting Blame at You that You Don’t. Your team had a great year. A company-wide congratulatory memo is disseminated . . . but fails to mention your name. Your Manager failed to pay attention to the terms of a contract you never had any part in negotiating, and thus overpaid a vendor . . . your Manager then sends out an email to you, and to other department heads, castigating you for his own failure, and insisting you be more careful in the future . . . or face termination.

7. Sabotage of Your Performance: Here are some actual illustrations: (a) The number of your new projects is doubled at the same time your operating budget is halved. (b) Somehow, each time you have an important speech to make in Denver, Seattle or Boston, your travel arrangements are not attended to, or you are required to attend a meeting in New York on the same day. (c) You are directed to attend a large meeting with Senior Managers to observe and take notes, but when you show up you learn, to your surprise and dismay, that you are scheduled to be a keynote speaker and make a 30-minute presentation on a subject about which you are clueless.

8. Halting Investment in Your Career Development: There is unquestionable significant value in continued career development, whether in the form of online courses, tuition reimbursement, and/or time to attend seminars or webinars, networking activities, participation in professional organizations and even assumption of new responsibilities in new areas. Reasonable time for these activities, and an employer’s financial support of them, are commonly subject to a Manager’s approval. When a Manager repeatedly ignores your requests for such approvals, it may be a sign of disinterest in what you have to offer, or could learn.

Actual Event: As a Senior Director in Pharmaceutical Sales, Eliana was subject to a new federal regulatory rule requiring that she pass a new licensing test within six months. Despite submitting her approval form to her Manager several times, her Manager never seemed to have the time or inclination to sign the required papers. As a result, Eliana missed the exam registration deadline, making her technically unqualified for continuing in her job, without apparent recourse. She faced termination. Fortunately, but unfortunately, too, she ended up with only a temporary demotion. Still, not a good career move.

9. Openly Suggesting You Consider Finding Another Job: It may seem that your Manager suggesting you look for another position elsewhere might be a compliment, as in “You can surely do better than this job, with your very significant skills, devotion and industry relations.” Or it may seem antithetical to the deception and duplicity common in the process of being “managed out.” And, it may be expressed in the best of faith. But, it is quite commonly an early sign of more difficult times to come.

10. Performance Assessments that Include Blatant Mistruths, Gross Exaggerations, and Deceptive Mischaracterizations: This tactic is almost always “near the end” of the “managing out” process, one of the final tactics to be deployed. It is a red flag, a loud bell, a near-sure sign that your Manager is already planning and carrying out your departure. It is one that needs to be carefully and with great effort “pushed back” against. Perhaps the most “telltale” tactic of all is imposition of a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) that is (a) extraordinarily vague and subjective, (b) requires completion of tasks in impossibly short time periods, and/or (c) are accompanied by other duties that make working “36 hours a day” necessary.

These are not the only telltale tactics used to “manage out” employees, just the most common ones. And know that these tactics do not always take place in this order.

Coming Soon, Part 3: “Being “Managed Out”: How to Stand Up, Push Back.”

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 . . .

Being “Managed Out” by your Manager often begins without any kind of warning. Indeed, the process can get almost completed before you know it has started. If you have just the smallest “inkling” that it is taking place, you’re probably right, and it is not to be taken lightly. In that event, 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.  

For these reasons and others, it is prudent that you be familiar with the common indicators of being “managed out.” Consider the “10 Telltale Tactics” used in Managing Out employees. From them, you can conclude with greater accuracy whether you are being “managed out” by your Manager.

In Part 3 of this 3-part blog post – coming soon – we will offer practical steps to successfully Stand Up and Push Back to being “Managed Out,” perhaps even to prevail against it, that have proven helpful to our clients, and may prove helpful for you. Stay tuned . . .

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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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