Stealth Performance Management – When you don’t see it coming…


 It’s cloak and dagger stuff. Or at least, this type of behaviour went out of fashion during the dark ages of autocratic and control freak management. However be warned, not everything is what it seems to be and you should always twist your head sideways  from your computer to see what’s around the corner. Maybe you can’t see it coming…

In my book, how to find a Job in 6 weeks, I discuss the importance of trying to hold onto your job and resolve issues that may plague your portfolio from time to time. That is because its better to be gainfully employed when seeking work rather than unemployed and having to provide a half baked reason why it was imperative you resign from your job. In this context though, we have to be fair also and understand that some actions are beyond your control, and despite every good intention you may have, when your manager decides to go stealth and apply unethical means to push you out the door, that becomes a difficult proposition for anyone to contemplate.

I had a call from a colleague that was distressed about a conversation he had with his boss. He was called into a discussion at short notice disguised as a chat. He was told, its just a chat, and not a performance discussion, however, they wanted to discuss some aspects of his work. If it’s not a performance discussion then why is someone else in the room taking notes? This is when the lines get blurred and stealth management sets-in. The discussion did not go well and my colleague was dragged into a performance review unknowingly. Several aspects about his work performance were raised. He was caught unaware and did not see it coming. There had been no prior performance discussion or concerns raised by his boss.

The best way to protect yourself against stealth management is to follow some guiding principles;

  1. Ask you boss if you are having a performance discussion?
  2. If the chat metamorphosis into a performance discussion you have a right to stop the meeting
  3. You also have a right to have the performance concerns addressed in a formal letter with examples and evidence of poor performance so that you may respond accordingly
  4. You need to check if there is a policy for managing performance, performance improvement plans, in your business and whether your boss has followed procedure
  5. If you do meet again for a formal performance discussion you have the right to a support person
  6. You may need to seek advice from a lawyer or employee advocate to understand your rights during the process
  7. Stay calm and don’t panic during the initial chat, it will hurt you and you will feel let down,however you should maintain your composure.

If you follow these basic principles, your boss will recognise that his conduct in managing the process is now being questioned. Your boss is not above procedure and needs to tow the line also. It just so happens that every once and a while they think they can apply pressure techniques outside a fair process and get away with it. Who knows, maybe they have done it before and got away with it?

And don’t be hard on yourself, sometime these carefully orchestrated events are hard to detect, and we don’t see it coming…






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