What to do when your boss wants to fire you

I received this letter this week about someone who’s boss wants to fire him and asks what he can do. Here is his story:

I am 63 years old, have owned my own business for more than 20 years and was forced to take a job for a large company four years ago when the economy took a nosedive and my business became non-existent. My problem exists with my boss who I cannot please – no way; no how.

In the four years I am there, he has only given me one positive annual review with a minimum raise. He had constructive criticism for the first three years that helped me improve but since last year he has been on my back for the last 4-6 months RELENTLESSLY!

He has written me up four times; the most recent April 17, 2014 when I was also suspended without pay for 3 days. I was never given a copy of the first two letters. The third report had erroneous information that he claimed “was witnessed” yet never occurred.

This last letter/suspension cited an incident in which I believe he was to blame as well as my doing something I was never advised he didn’t want me to do. When he handed me the letter (a week after the incident for which he never advised a letter would be forthcoming) he made the remark, “I’m going to stay on your back until you either quit or I terminate you!”

The basis for his dissatisfaction is stated as unsafe behavior and repeated safety violations. For the last six months he is always watching me – comes by my work area at the end of break and lunch to make sure I return on time and always inspects all of my work before, during and after completion – looking for any kind of error. No other employee under him has to work with such scrutiny.

The day I returned from suspension I was put on a project that was difficult and complicated and required concentration. It has been slow going but so far so good. The morning of the second day he called me in to his office and reprimanded me because the “job was taking too long”! If I rush I’ll mess up…. It’s hard to work under his watchful eye, knowing he wants me to screw up!

I spoke to HR yesterday and asked for a transfer to another department and was told we would discuss it more on Tuesday after she has a chance to research the matter. I’m afraid that entails her discussion with my boss and whether or not he will approve it.

I have several questions, the first am I entitled to a copy of the first two letters of reprimand? Second, WHAT DO I DO? He is in the second tier of management and I’m afraid no one will stand up to him….. I don’t stand a chance. Third, in the two letters that I have there are discrepancies to the truth – if I try to bring that to someone’s attention, who’s going to listen? Fourth, if I don’t get the transfer, do I let them fire me or quit? Fifth, would I be entitled to unemployment compensation?

Please give me some guidance. I am at my wits end. Thank you for your time. – BB


You have found yourself in a complicated situation and you are not alone. I speak with many people who feel trapped. Let’s work down your questions one by one and see if I can find some options for you to consider.

Are you entitled to copy of your reprimands? While the obvious answer would be yes, the correct answer is it depends. If your company has an employee manual or policy that outlines the disciplinary process, it will include how write ups and warnings are handled. Get a copy of it and review it or go to HR and ask the question directly, “What is the discipline policy? What are the steps and how is it administered?” Once they tell you, if applicable, ask “What do you do when the policy is not followed?”

My suggestion, don’t get into a debate. Just get information. Decide what you want to do when you are not under pressure.

Second question, what do you do? No one can tell you what to do; you have to decide what to do yourself. The question I would be asking is…Why are you still there? Why do you feel trapped? There are many other companies to work for. Granted it might be harder to get into one or you may have to make some allowances but consider how the stress is affecting your overall quality of life. If you are there because you love the company except for this one boss, then you have lots of work to do to turn it around.

Third question about the two letters that have discrepancies – what do you do? Challenge them? I recommend people never to sign a document that is untrue or if you are under duress (hopefully you did not sign off on it). You can sign you received a copy of it. Going back to question one, if there is a discipline policy, there is often a way to contest or appeal a decision. This is the process you would use to offer your information into record.

If a clear disciplinary process does not exist, then you have to decide if fighting it is worth your energy. If it is, then write-up a response and give it to your manager and HR. Will they revise their stance? They may or may not. Based on what you have shared about your relationship with your boss, he definitely wants you out so he is probably backed into his corner squarely.

Fourth question about asking for a transfer – this is a good option and could be a win-win for you and the company as long as the relationship has not been damaged beyond repair. There is nothing to say about letting them fire you…if your boss wants to fire you, he will make it happen. Most states follow at-will employment where the employer can terminate a relationship for good or bad cause or no cause at all. There are some exceptions depending on what state you live in. The best place is to consult your local unemployment insurance office for details.

You always have the option to quit – your employer is not the trap.

Fifth question – will you be eligible for unemployment? That will depend on your state and how they handle unemployment claims. States have different definitions for discharges based on good or bad cause. Some states are lenient on providing benefits; others make distinctions based on good or bad cause. Check with your state unemployment insurance office.

About Lynn Dessert (440 Posts)

Lynn Dessert is an ICF trained certified NLP Coach specializing in Executive Career coaching based in Charlotte NC. She works with individuals and organizations to maximize personal effectiveness skills—a cornerstone to career advancement. Lynn is the author of What To Do After Being Fired and The Secerts to Successful Job On-Boarding. Start your discovery process by contacting her at 704.512.2852 today.


  1. Jessica says

    What is the point of this answer? It didn’t answer the person’s question at ALL, instead all the answer did was say “That is depending upon your state” if the person cannot give legal advice on the Internet, then what is the point of even writing anything. Instead the person answering the question should of said

    I am sorry I am either not a lawyer, or am a lawyer and don’t want to give information for free so go screw yourself. At least it would of made a person laugh, what the author wrote was trivial, and most questions where left unanswered,..What a waste of time it was for me to read this garbage, I did not learn anything more then I already knew.

    From a unimpressed reader.

    • says

      The good news is I was not trying to impress you. The person who wrote this question asked me to answer it knowing that the answers would be general because when I answer questions in a blog, I do it for free. If you want my expertise, you pay for it. You would know that if you read any further than your nose. (How’s that for humor and truth?) And by the way, he wrote me back thanking me for setting him straight about how to keep his job – which is a better solution than trying to figure out how to get unemployment.

  2. Arnold says

    I have a situation where I quit my job after constant harassment ( non which meets the EEOC ) and do believe was harassed and manufactured claims because I caught on quickly and brought it to attention within the health system that we needed to address the false reporting of hospital infections to medicare and regulatory agencies. I was concerned for the infection prevention dept and the hospital as well as patients. I was very productive, improved processes, detoured an outbreak and admired by hospital departments. I was written up once due to a colleague with friends did not like my personality . I tried to transfer. My job was threatened and so I quit to avoid another write up as I planned to transfer or re apply (liked the system) just scared of the Infection control dept. The boss said that i could resign in good standing if I quit . They lied and placed me on conditional re employment . They knew I intended to reapply in another area. The system covers several counties in my area. Unemployment was denied because I quit. In essence, it was political and the boss was angry ( did not state but implied) because I would not submit false infection data and brought serious errors to light. It makes it difficult to find employment now and GA is not a right to work state. Any suggestions? Thank you

    • says


      This is a tough lesson. In any situation where there is conflict, distrust or attempts to convince someone to do something that is not your best interest, have them put their intent in writing. Asking the right questions at the right time is critical and often not easy to do when you are under stress. My advice – find a way to move on to something else, it may be hard, but the road you are on to gain re-employment is hard too.

  3. Deb says

    Unfortunately I face a similar situation where I am told weekly that there are complaints from unnamed students and other faculty. I am not told who has lodged complaints and I am specifically told I cannot speak to anyone about the complaints. Interestingly I had 3 stellar years until I ” blew the whistle” on my boss and he was fired. The remaining administration now has a clear agenda to write up false information to justify terminating me. My question is should I involved the employment commission or wait to see if it blows over. I cannot eat at work or sleep but am afraid if I involve an outside entity that it will make things worse. Just looking for some comments on the matter. I am desperately seeking alternate employment but am the breadwinner in my household.

    • says

      Deb, I am sorry to hear you are in this situation with your employer. When a complaint is raised about someone, there is an investigation. HR/Management will ask the person who the complaint was logged against to refrain from talking to the other person or persons (even if they know them). The organizations wants to to hear both sides without the situation becoming further aggravated. When people are upset, dealing with conflict effectively is a challenge and often blows up into situations that are worse. Your best approach is to fully understand what the complaint is – regardless of who said what – and address that issue head on. Provide proof or examples of where those allegations can be proven wrong. You will have better results focusing on a fact based approach. Good luck!

  4. Dan says

    Document everything… How you are unfairly treated… How you are held to a higher standard… Document times, screenshots of other employees work if possible for comparison… Your progress at improvement and your desire to not give up… Ultimately if they end your employment and try to involuntarily terminate you based on insubordination than you have a good case to fight for receiving unemployment.. Honestly I would leave as quick as possible. These sort of warning signs don’t usually spend well

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