(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,
I was recently advised that my employer posted my current job at a casino on Craigslist. I looked and it's true. I know that they still need me in order to keep the casino open, but when they find someone I'm sure I'll be tossed. The company I work for was just purchased. I hold a director status and know of their plans to wipe out half the employees, who have a new 90-day probationary period. Please, what do you think I should do or what rights do I have?
The most important thing is to get your resume up to date and step up your networking because you're going to find yourself unemployed very soon. I wish I had something more cheerful to share with you, like, oh, here are the magic words to say that will allow you to keep your job. But unfortunately none exist.
Let's clear up some misconceptions. Employee 90-day probationary periods without an accompanying contract, such as through a union, are a waste of time. You are still an "at will" employee after those 90 days, which means the company can fire you for cause -- or no cause. The difference is that companies usually have procedures that managers must follow before firing someone, such as performance improvement plans or coaching, that they are not required to do in the first 90 days. And if any company asked my opinion (which they should) I would say, never, ever say you have a probationary period of any length. Why? Because if you don't set the terms of that period correctly, the courts can declare that you've made a contract with the employee.
Of course, your employer doesn't need to fire you immediately because it can fire you later. (They don't call me "evil HR lady" for nothing.)
You're a director, so you know the company's hiring and firing plans, including those that pertain to you. You're going to need a new job, and this bit of news puts the ball in your hands. Your employer still need you for this transition. If not, it would have fired you already. There also doesn't appear to be a good internal candidate for your position, since the company felt the need to post it on Craigslist.
You have two options: wimpy and bold.
Wimpy option: Keep working. Do your job as best you can. Look for a new job. Save money. Prepare yourself emotionally for the moment you get your walking papers. When you are fired, handle it graciously and move on.
Bold option: Print out the Craigslist ad. Walk into your boss's office and say, "Hey, I found this on the Internet. It looks like my position. Let's talk."
That will likely produce some sputtering, but that is irrelevant. What you need to do is communicate the following:
-- You understand the company wants to replace you
-- Your employer needs your help
-- It will be best for all concerned if you are an active participant in the transition to a new director
-- In exchange for being helpful in this transition, your company should offer you severance. (I don't know what is standard in your industry or how much money you make, but as a director I'd ask for at least six months. Better to aim too high than to aim too low.)
In theory I like the bold option, but there are many reasons to take the wimpy course. If you are prone to crying, can't handle confrontation or are so anxious about this that you'll come off looking worse, then the first might be best. Additionally, if you've already got some leads on a new job, there's no reason to rock the boat at the current job.
Additionally, with the bold option you do run the risk of the company saying, "Fine, today is your last day. Don't let the door hit you on the way out." Unless it has company policies expressly prohibiting this, this is likely entirely legal. (Keep in mind, I am not a lawyer, I do not play a lawyer on the Internet and it's been a full 13 years since I taught LSAT prep classes.)
If you want to be bold, but have a wimpy streak, take the bold option via email. This allows everyone time to think. (Although be prepared for your boss to immediately appear in your office after he gets the email.)
In short, your situation is unpleasant. But at least you know what is going on with your position, which makes you better off than you were yesterday.
Have a workplace dilemma? Send your questions to EvilHRLady@gmail.com.