29 November 2023
Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a Minute?” This week: being managed out, a new young boss and sick leave certificates.
I inadvertently read a document at work about how management are planning to hire a more experienced and educated person to fill my role. To allow them to do that, they have to make me resign, so are making my role as tedious as possible. I am not involved in any staff meetings and my role has been largely ignored for the last few months. I cannot discuss this with my boss, as I am not supposed to know about their plans with the new hire. I am livid because the job pays well and is close to home. I am considering seeking legal advice, but I also feel like staying – just to watch them concoct other ways to force me to leave – however the situation is starting to affect my mental health. What would you advise?
Firstly, how “inadvertent” was it when you “inadvertently read” this plan? If it was truly accidental – left on your desk mistakenly, or somewhere you couldn’t help but see it – I would raise it with your boss. Explain you saw it, reinforce you didn’t intend to (clearly), but now that you have, ask how you can work together to either offer the extra support your boss needs or find another role within the organisation. If you went looking for this document when you shouldn’t have, then this approach is not an option. It seems trust had probably broken down between you and your employer (from you and them) some time ago.
Yes, of course, you can get legal advice if you feel they are forcing you to resign. However, a much better solution for your mental health would be to have a conversation with your boss about how you are feeling. Without needing to let them know about the document, you can explain you feel you are not being included as you once were, and you feel your role is being ignored. Be proactive in making yourself as valuable as possible to your employer and ask what you can do to help reinvigorate the support you provide. Ultimately, this will help you stay working in a company that otherwise seems like a positive arrangement for you.
I am at retirement age and have worked with my employer for 20 years, always reporting to a member of the senior leadership team. The person I have been reporting to now says their workload is too much, so my position will now report to a peer of mine, who is young with little experience in my area. I have never had work performance issues and previous senior executives and staff have thanked me for my work. My pay will stay the same, but my confidence has been slashed. How can this humiliating restructure happen?
This restructure is only humiliating if you frame it that way. I know that is probably tough to hear but please let me explain. First, it seems unlikely the restructure would have happened as a result of anything you have done personally. It is clear your performance over a long time has been exemplary and there is a lot of trust held in you and your capabilities by your employer. That is undoubtedly why it was felt the restructure was a safe change to make. Second, as you head towards the end of your career, this is an opportunity for you to mentor and help your peer who is no doubt just beginning theirs. You will cause your peer to have their confidence slashed if you see reporting to them as an insult. I would focus on thinking of this as an opportunity to truly leave a positive legacy and to help your colleague as much as you can.
My son is an apprentice, employed through an agency, and takes very few sick days. When he has, he’s gone to a pharmacy to get a certificate. The agency refuses to accept these forms, insisting that he gets a doctor’s certificate instead, even for one day off. This means that he has to wait to see a doctor and pay $50. Because of this, he often doesn’t bother to get a certificate and the company deducts a day of his recreation leave. Are they acting legally?
There is a difference between a medical certificate (from a qualified medical practitioner) and an absence of work certificate (from a pharmacy). Many employers will only accept a medical certificate from a doctor, which sounds like the situation with your son.
If your son is a member of a union, working under an award or Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, there may be different arrangements, so I would recommend your son investigate what his specific requirements might be to ensure the agency is acting lawfully.
To submit a question about work, careers or leadership, visit kirstinferguson.com/ask (you will not be asked to provide your name or any identifying information. Letters may be edited).