Please note: the answer has been considerably improved since this question was posted here is the link to the version this question was referring to: https://workplace.stackexchange.com/revisions/22076/1

Since no one else has stated it yet - this situation reads like your manager is laying the groundwork to fire you. In your position, I would expect that in 30 days, you'll be called into your manager's office and will be fired. Yes, even if you improve, and no, there's probably nothing you can do at this point to change that. At the very least, your manager has already made up his mind that he wants to fire you, and will seize any excuse to do so.


As such, the only option you have is to get a new job, before you lose this one. (It's often said that the best reference for a job is currently having one, so if you wait until after you're fired, you will find it substantially more difficult to get another position.)

The question asks basically what can the OP do to save his job because quitting(and presumably getting fired) is not an option for him.

The answer says there is nothing you can do, and jumps to the conclusion that the manager is a dishonest person out to get him and there is nothing the OP can do. The question predictably hit the hot list and the lemmings that came along quickly decided they liked this defeatist answer that is not helpful, and really shows no effort to back it up.

I would also point out that dispite the posters claim: "Since no one else has stated it yet"... an answer that was posted several hours earlier includes this possibility, while providing a possible strategy for the op saving his job.

Here is the truth of your situation. You have one foot out the door, and if your manager was allowed to, you would probably already be gone. Your manager went through a lot of work to get to this point. His expectations for you are low and he is not likely to give you any slack at this point.

He has no intention of helping you, the point of this exercise is to either forge you into a quality employee or break you. You will come through this either stronger, and with a better understanding between the 2 of you what the expectations are, or you will be gone. If he gives you an impossible action item at your meeting tomorrow just realize that is his out if you step out of line. It is the proverbial axe over your neck. It is there to make you feel uncomfortable and to remind you that your future with the company is in his hands.

  • 4
    @Chad I do see your point, in that the OP said that quitting wasn't an option. On the other hand, if HopelessN00b is correct, that's coming whether it's an option or not. Isn't it better that the OP be prepared and jobhunt now, which is the gist of HopelessN00b's answer?
    – user18445
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 17:41
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    For what it's worth, @Katherine, the whole "outsider votes overwhelm the norms of the site" thing is mostly a myth - just like that thing about lemmings and cliffs...
    – Shog9
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 18:13
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    This meta discussion is very related.
    – enderland
    Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 22:36
  • 1
    @shog9 - this site made it here and built up the content that it did and became successful because we followed the path laid out by Jeff and Joel. We spun off programmers not because we wanted a place to have discussions but because we wanted a place where we could get questions about career growth and office politics answered, not because we wanted to have discussions about it. The influx of new users is going to change our culture some, but if we let them drag down the standards this place will look like onstartups in a year. Or worse redit. Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 14:17
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    So don't let them change it, @Chad! Right now, you - the folks who've brought this site this far - wield all the power. You can't dictate what folks vote for, but you can certainly dictate what sticks around, contributing reputation and privilege. Yes, that requires making some hard choices on borderline cases, but it is what the system was designed for, and allows bootstrapping a much larger active community from a smaller one even in the face of dissent; NPR didn't want to hear that, but Progse learned it well.
    – Shog9
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 15:05
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    Most comments deleted. Normally I'm pretty hands-off with long comment threads on metas, because meta is for discussion, but the exchanges here were getting rather unhelpful. Please remember that we can disagree, even passionately, while still remaining civil, 'k? Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 16:33
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    @MonicaCellio, I find it very unhelpful actually that you deleted a comment by PaulDonny which succinctly stated the reasons why some of us upvoted the answer referred to above. It was also the top upvoted comment in this post. I find what you did to be more akin to a political move than cleaning up useless comments...
    – daaxix
    Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 21:30
  • @daaxix I deleted 30 comments that had gotten rather out of hand, and I tried not to use selective deletion to give one "side" an advantage (which would be political, unlike what I did). I also sanity-checked this with someone else before deleting, by the way. The best place to respond to a question is in an answer, which I hope that either you or Paul will do. Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 1:47
  • Um @daaxix I just checked the deleted comments and there are none from Paul here. Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 1:50
  • @MonicaCellio, perhaps I misremember and it was someone else's comment. In any case why are you deleting comments on meta?...
    – daaxix
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 8:06
  • @daaxix, comments, regardless of where they are posted, are temporary post-it notes. And just because this is meta doesn't mean that comments don't need to abide by the be nice rule.
    – jmac
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 0:10

7 Answers 7


Is this a “Bad” answer

Yes absolutely.

Let's assume there is a 95% chance the asker of that question is going to get fired. The answer in question tells the asker, "that 95% is actually 100%, don't even bother trying to address the 5% chance."

The problem is... the question is regarding the 5% chance. The answer doesn't address this part at all, with possible exception of restating what the asker already says (which is hardly an answer).

For what it's worth I hardly believe it's 95% myself since all we have seen is the perspective of the asker. There is no indication of previous conversations, attempts both parties have made to clear up communication, etc.

A parallel which will make this clear:

I went to the doctor today and they said I have a pretty serious illness. The doctor recommended that I do some things I don't really understand, what should I do?

Is a good answer to this question:

  • "You should prepare your will because the doctor told you you are going to die. There's nothing you can do to save yourself, sorry!"

Because that is nearly exactly the situation Chad mentioned. The only difference is that everyone is an "expert" on Workplace issues and no one would presume to be an "expert" on medical issues from an external perspective like this.

  • 6
    Your parallel is completely inaccurate. The doctor is not trying to convince someone else to kill this person by telling them half truths. If that was the case, and the doctor's killer ultimately held the decision whether or not the person was to die, than I would probably say that the person is highly likely to die. That is closer to the situation that the OP described.
    – Paul Muir
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 17:19
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    @PaulDonny how is it any different? A situation with some assertions is presented - with negative implications. In one case, answers would focus on the chances for success (the doctor situation). This answer however focuses exclusively on the negatives and ignores any chance of success.
    – enderland
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 19:14
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    The doctor in your scenario does not appear to be actively attempting to kill the patient. In the poster's scenario his boss does appear to be actively attempting to get the OP fired. There is a huge difference. Now, if the doctor is prescribing fatal doses of medication to your patient, it would be closer to the scenario in the post.
    – Paul Muir
    Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 22:19

Guess I may as well weigh in...

The whole reason I posted this answer is because every other answer (yes, even yours, @Chad ) was incorrect, and actually dangerous to dalbaeb, and I didn't want him to have to rely onbad advice, because he didn't get any good advice. And yes, those answers are all bad advice because they all start from the assumption that the poster can save his job, when it's pretty obvious he can't. The only good advice in this situation is exactly what I suggested - find a new job, because you're getting fired. It's harsh and unfortunate, but it's true. As I also suggested, if the OP is hellbent on not leaving his current position, the approach is to get other job offers, but not accept just yet... so he can take one of them when he's fired in a month.

No other answer (at least at the time I posted mine) refuted that dangerous assumption, and are all harmful because they don't help dalbaeb prepare for the vastly most likely outcome, which is that in a month, he's fired. I didn't address any other outcome, because they're all so unlikely as to not be worth considering. By the exact same token, no one suggested that the OP but lottery tickets and hit a multi-million dollar jackpot so he doesn't need a job, which is probably even a little more likely to happen than the OP saving his job through improvement.

I'd be willing to update my answer if the OP asks why I'm so certain he's being fired, but that wasn't the question, and I thought it was so painfully obvious that it didn't need saying - based on the number of upvotes the answer got, it seems safe to say that 60 or so other people thought it was obvious too. Frankly, I also didn't want to muddy things up, or take focus away from what is by far the most important thing to dalbaeb - that his boss has already started the process to fire him. More than everything else combined, that's what he needs to be made aware of, and that's what he needs to prepare for.

Having said all that, I do think that rather than relying on this question and answer for that function, it would be better to have a canonical question along the lines of "what are some signs my boss is trying to fire me," and an answer laying out what to look for... which would include, but not be limited to, almost everything that happened to dalbaeb.

  • 2
    Hello HopelessN00b, as an exercise, let's just assume none of us know 100% what the answer is but that there's a certain probability of the person getting fired and needing to look for work. Assuming the details in the question suggest this is likely, would it make more sense to do both... dust off the resume yet at the same time try to improve at work?
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 0:00
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    I'd like to see even one person saying, "I work in HR. I would, if my company decided definitely to fire someone in 30 days time, tell that employee they are required to 'significantly improve in order to avoid further disciplinary action'". That is what the HR guy said/endorsed in the written warning. There's a difference between HR believing someone will fail (and hence a PIP is a path to fire them) vs deciding to fire them whether they improve or not. The manager is clearly hostile but for your answer to be correct the HR guy is also lying. That seems to me plausible but not obvious. Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 0:10
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    @jmort I believe I did with: So, definitely keep your boss happy and work on "improving" according to the plan he gave you, because this will at least give you a little room to breathe, but outside the hours of 9-5, you should be pounding the pavement hard and procuring a new job (and over your lunch hours, too). Not as prominent as some would like, but as I said, I didn't want to draw focus from what I believe is the most important thing in this situation. The other answers to that question also do a great job of suggesting how to improve, leaving me with no value to add on that topic. Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 0:12
  • Of course there are plenty of people who upvoted you who clearly share your view. That being the case it doesn't really matter whether I'm right to be uncertain about what HR is planning, since the top-voted answer is supposed to be whatever the most people agree with, not what is correct :-) Fundamentally if the OP comes back in 30 days and says "I was fired" then neither of us is proven correct or incorrect. If OP comes back in 30 days and says "I was not fired" then you are certainly incorrect and I'm correct. So your claim at least has the virtue of falsifiability. Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 0:12
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    @SteveJessop The HR guy doesn't have to be lying - why would the boss tell HR that his plan is to fire the guy, regardless? When I've seen this go down, more often than not, HR is not in on it, but generally, to fire someone these days, you need HR to sign off. Which is the whole purposed of a PIP like this - get HR sign off for employee's future termination. Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 0:16
  • @HopelessN00b: It's not clear to me that it is the manager's decision. Looks like HR told the manager, "you cannot fire this person unless X". We don't know what X is, but another thing I'd like to see is someone say, "I work in HR. We tell managers to administer a PIP and we don't follow up whether the employee satisfied the conditions in the PIP before signing off on the firing. Low-level managers can do what they like, we're just here to file the paperwork!" Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 0:17
  • @HopelessN00b - Hey, I made an edit on your behalf. I basically added in headings (and an opening sentence on the last paragraph) to make that part stand out. feel free to put all that in your own words. Hope this helps.
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 0:19
  • 1
    @SteveJessop Well, maybe, maybe not. The poster didn't say, so we can't know... though at least in my experience, hiring and firing power ultimately lies with the manager, rather than HR (even if HR usually gets a veto). When we get right down to it, everyone's making assumptions here, and we have to, because we're never going to have perfect information, so we just have to do the best we can with imperfect information, which almost always means filling in the blanks with assumptions and personal experience. Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 0:22

Workplace SE is about answering questions about problems in the workplace. These problems, in order to be answered completely in Q&A format, must have plenty of detail in order to fully answer the question. Our help center guidelines on how to answer clarify that alternative solutions are acceptable, so long as assumptions and limitations are addressed:

Answer the question

Read the question carefully. What, specifically, is the question asking for? Make sure your answer provides that – or a viable alternative. The answer can be “don’t do that”, but it should also include “try this instead”. Any answer that gets the asker going in the right direction is helpful, but do try to mention any limitations, assumptions or simplifications in your answer. Brevity is acceptable, but fuller explanations are better.

emphasis is mine

One might interpret these guidelines to mean the following:

  • Alternative solutions are acceptable, with full explanations

  • Answerers should address why the asked-for solution isn't viable, and should strongly consider explaining how to proceed with the asked-for course of action even if it isn't the best course of action.

Answer does address how to try and keep the job

In this example, the answerer did address what the asker should do to increase the likelihood of not being terminated, even though the answerer doesn't feel it's possible. However, it may not have been clear. Thus, I edited the post to add in some headings and a topic statement in the last paragraph to make it more obvious what the suggested alternative is and separate it from the unbiased, unassuming answer. I always suggest using headings in posts where people need to separate alternatives from the actual no-assumptions-answer to the question.

If the answerer had left out the paragraphs after the "Hope for the best", then I'd be more inclined to agree that the post doesn't meet criteria for being an answer.

Interpretations of "don't do that, try this instead"

We do hold answers to a slightly higher standard here, simply because with this topic, solutions to problems can't always be tested before their implemented, such as on other sites. So perhaps a good way to break down guidelines for alternative answers is as one of the following phrases:

  1. "don't do that, try this instead. But if you really have to do that then here's what you do..."

  2. "don't do that, try this instead. But what you're trying to do isn't feasible because of X, Y, and Z."

Many answers on Stack Overflow follow this format, such as when programmers ask how to do a certain thing, and an answerer says, "Hey, you really don't want to do that because... but if you want to do that anyway, here's how...", so this isn't really a new concept. In this case, the answerer did that, but it just wasn't 100% clear. Hope this helps.

  • In this example, the answerer did address what the asker should do to increase the likelihood of not being terminated, even though the answerer doesn't feel it's possible. - Actually he did not address this he basically just said do what you can. Being that the OP of the question did not know what that was I do not see how anyone can say that "Just do what you can" is a reasonable attempt to answer that question. Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 13:40
  • The other problem is it really does not explain why or back up the assertion that the OP is going to be fired regardless of what they do. Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 13:41
  • I do see where you're coming from. There's an interpretation of what the answerer is seeing, but perhaps it's not so clear how he came to that conclusion, even though there's a detailed description of what the asker should do. It's the whole teach to fish vs give a fish scenario. In the interests of clarity, would you be able to put yourself in the shoes of an answerer who thinks the person is 95% likely to be terminated and give an example of a statement that would satisfy the back it up rule? Sometimes seeing examples help us all see where we're coming from.
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 14:09
  • 1
    would you be able to put yourself in the shoes of an answerer who thinks the person is 95% likely to be terminated and give an example of a statement that would satisfy the back it up rule I did that its currently the number 2 rated answer... and honestly if the OP had said 95% sure or even 99%, I would be ok with this answer. This one is 100% you are getting fired. That needs back up to 100% that is a higher bar when you go to the absolute Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 14:17

Chad asked me to share my views in chat as a mod.

To me, this is a great example of when the community is best-equipped to handle it.

  1. Person posts answer that makes statements/assumptions some community members disagree with
  2. Community discusses issue and refers the answerer to that discussion
  3. Answerer updates answer to address concerns

Ideally, when an answer like this that is primarily okay (it contains helpful information that relates to the question and is well-written) but has a glaring mistake to members of the community (in this case that it assumed there was no chance of keeping the job), the community will leave a friendly comment explaining their concerns along the lines of:

Hey Hopeless, welcome to [workplace.se]! Generally speaking, we discourage just quit answers and prefer that answers address the question being asked. While you may be right that the job is doomed, is there any chance you could [edit] your question to address how to increase the chance (no matter how small) of keeping the job? Thanks in advance!

In my experience, posters tend to be happy when our users participate positively in improving content, especially with a friendly comment that explains why someone objects to their post, and how to fix it (sort of like our best answers explain why and how).

While meta questions are great too (and encouraged!), you (the general you, not just you specifically Chad) are likely to get better results if the meta question is objective and doesn't try to lead to a conclusion, and lets the community freely discuss it.

So the process could have been handled a bit more smoothly on this one, but hey, it's a learning experience, and we ended up with a good result. Net win for the Workplace, right?


I believe, personally, that while this does not answer the individual specific questions that the OP asked it gives the best overall advice for the situation that the OP is in.

I would like to see more depth to the answer and bullet points about making the remaining time at the company as fruitful as possible to attempt to leave the company on a good note but anything that recommends anything less than looking for other employment would be a horrible answer in my eyes.

This answer is a lot closer to what I would like see though.

  • Any reason for the downvotes other than disagreeing with my opinion?
    – Paul Muir
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 16:29
  • 1
    see: Being More Aggressive about "Just Quit" Comments/Answers. Per my reading, discussed answer is either just-quit kind or dangerously close to that. Quoting self from one of comments there, ...Any answer of just-quit kind, if not backed up with a compelling defense, is guaranteed to get my downvote - on the grounds of being insufficiently responsible (per DV tooltip: "This answer is not useful")
    – gnat
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 16:30
  • 3
    The post in no way says to quit. It says to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. It states that the OP should follow the plan given and build a safety net in case things go bad. Not once does the poster mention leaving the job.
    – Paul Muir
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 16:35
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    Just an FYI on meta disscussions upvotes and downvotes are not an indication of post quality just a vote of agree or disagree. Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 16:38
  • @PaulDonny "I would expect that in 30 days, you'll be called into your manager's office and will be fired" - as I wrote, this reads just-quit or dangerously close to that
    – gnat
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 16:40
  • 1
    There is nothing here to back it up except the OP's opinion. Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 16:41
  • 2
    @gnat I see that as setting reasonable expectations for the OP. If the manager is at a point to be falsifying records than I would expect that their plan for improvement should at the very least expect to not work there too much longer.
    – Paul Muir
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 16:44
  • 1
    @PaulDonny I would possibly buy that if it was presented with greater care. As written, it doesn't read so. In regular answers, I wouldn't nitpick about details like that, but just-quit ones make an exception
    – gnat
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 16:48
  • 2
    @gnat I did mention in my post (Look at it up there) that the OP should add more into it than just that. However I do feel as though it is an acceptable answer as it sets the expectations correctly in my opinion. While there should be more to answer the Questions, it answers the situation correctly in my eyes.
    – Paul Muir
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 16:50

As this is meta, I think the whole entire point of StackExchange is that you provide an answer, people come by and advise whether or not this is a good answer or not, and then they vote on it accordingly. Unless it's spam, inappropriate, or not an answer (in which cases it's generally my experience that it'll get downvoted to oblivion anyway), I see absolutely no reason why any moderator should feel the need to flag it.

I get that some people don't appreciate the tone and would rather focus on the chance (which, I agree with the author of the post, is a small chance) that the OP is not merely set up to get canned. However, there is something in the answer - namely, I think, it's no-nonsense approach - that caused an awful lot of people to upvote it - and I think it ought be left as is as a result.

I get that this isn't the answer that some of you would leave. Well, welcome to democracy, and welcome to StackExchange. The most popular answer isn't always the one you agree with (it isn't always the right one; however, it's also my experience that the wisdom of crowds words really, really well on this site).

  • Answers are still expected to meet the standards for an answer on the site. If I were to ask a question on SO about how do I solve an issue using Java, then someone comes along and says well Java is yesterdays language use python instead, even though the python solution might work, its not a valid answer to the question. Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 15:43

As far as I can tell, it was a bad answer at the moment you asked that meta question. Of the issues you listed, my primary concern about it is that it opens with a very questionable statement: "no one else has stated it yet" (referring that "this situation reads like your manager is laying the groundwork to fire you").

The way I see it, it was already stated in another answer that was posted few hours prior to that, the one you also quote: "You have one foot out the door, and if your manager was allowed to, you would probably already be gone".

It is worth noting that the troublesome statement has been edited out of the answer later, about when you posted this on Meta, so the readers who don't look into edit histories of the posts will probably find it okay.

However I can't unlearn what I know and I keep asking myself, if answerer missed such a simple and easy to verify thing, what else could they miss? chances for the asker to keep their job? opportunity for asker to improve?

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