Key Takeaways

  1. Seek Clarity: Ensure you leave the meeting with a clear understanding of the expectations and changes required from you.
  2. Ask for Specific Examples: Request concrete instances of where your performance didn’t meet expectations to better understand the feedback.
  3. Document Everything: Taking notes during the meeting shows commitment to improvement and helps you remember the action points.
  4. Understand the Timeline: Clarify how much time you have to improve your performance.
  5. Request Support: If you’re unsure about how to meet the expectations, don’t hesitate to ask for additional training or resources.
  6. Plan for Follow-Up: Proactively schedule a follow-up meeting to demonstrate your progress.
  7. Express Gratitude: Acknowledge the opportunity to improve and thank your HR and manager for their feedback.

So you’ve been summoned to a surprise meeting with HR and manager.

Not the kind where your eyes glaze over from boredom.

No… chances are good you’ll be completely alert in this meeting. With eyes fixed straight ahead, perched on the edge of your seat and possibly fighting the urge to vomit.

Now I understand things aren’t always black and white, but there’s literally no gray in this situation. Being invited to a performance based meeting with Human Resources is never (and I don’t use that word often!) never a good career move!

But it does make you lucky. And no I haven’t lost my mind.

Think of it like this: The days of employers exercising progressive discipline (think like a verbal warning, a written warning and then termination) are gone.

Instead employees are often fired with no warning or chance to adjust their behaviors. In today’s work culture, while it may not feel like it, being invited to a performance based meeting with HR is literally a gift.

A gift with a big sticker that says, “Handle with Care!”

How to Deal With a Surprise Meetin with HR and Manager

If you want to make it through this meeting without losing your lunch, your dignity and possibly your job, there are several key things you literally must do:

  1. Get Answers. This isn’t the time to be shy or “think” you know what they want you to change. Do not, I repeat do not leave this meeting until you truly understand what they want differently from you.
  2. Request Examples. There’s no better way to “see” what behaviors they want changed than to get examples of where you missed the mark. But some words of caution here: under no circumstances should you disagree, rationalize or argue with the examples. Assuming an argumentative or defensive position will likely end the meeting and your career.
  3. Write it Down. Not only does taking notes help you focus on something besides the fact that you want to hurl, it’s a sign of respect. Putting pen to paper shows HR that you “heard” them, are serious about making improvements and acts as a non-verbal commitment. All great things! And news flash, it also helps you remember what you need to work on!
  4. Set the Timeline. Once you’ve identified what you need to work on, the next critical piece is to learn how much time you’ve been given. Sure hearing that you’ve only got three months to turn things around puts the pressure on, but it’s also critical information you’ll need to build out your action plan.
  5. Ask for Help. If you aren’t sure how to make the requested improvements, ask for some job training or perhaps even personal coaching. I know Captain Obvious right?!? But you would be simply amazed how often employees in trouble refuse to ask for help because they think it highlights that they don’t know how to do their job effectively. Hello, if you’ve been summoned to HR, they already know it!
  6. Set Next Steps. While you’re likely thinking you just want to get the hell out of there and never go back, that’s exactly the wrong move. Instead before leaving the meeting, ask for a follow up meeting. Yes I want you to go back to HR……but the next time it’s on your terms (well kind of!) and with a plan. (Watch for a future post to discuss this in detail.)
  7. Say Thank You! Remember it’s 2016. The days of workplace loyalty are fading. To make matters worse, it’s likely you’re an “at will” employee. In case you aren’t familiar with the term, it means your boss doesn’t need a reason to fire you. So yes, if someone is giving you a chance to change your behavior and keep your job…say THANK YOU!

Keep in mind: if you are summoned to HR to talk about poor performance, you have a “chance” to save your job. So treat the meeting as a gift with a “Handle with Care!” sticker and use these tips!

Calling all HR Professionals, share your stories with us so we can laugh and learn. What’s the craziest thing an employee has ever done in one of these meetings?