When love turns sour at the workplace

Do you remember that time you sat in the boardroom facing your soon-to-be boss during an offer negotiation and you both went over what your job expectations were, the pay, and what other additional benefits you would receive after probation? You could not wait to join your new employer I bet!

One year down the line and things have become murky and extremely salty. Your enthusiasm has slowly deteriorated, your boss can no longer stand you (the feeling is mutual actually!) and you barely look forward to coming to work. The questions: What happened? Where did the rain start beating you?

The above scenario is the reality for most employees, especially in private firms. The work relationship starts great and in no time, everything turns toxic. How does it get here? You may ask.

There are a variety of reasons this happens, top among them the unmet expectations and the inability to blend into the new work culture. Every employee joins an organisation with different expectations, from great pay, exciting work and of course, a wonderful work environment. Employers on the other hand have expectations in terms of results.


Sometimes, however, these expectations are not clearly stated from the onset and people operate on assumptions. Employers fail to discuss salary with employees and instead they are told to just start working and ‘we’ll discuss’.

Additionally, success measures for the role are not well defined and the employee is expected to figure it out along the way.

There is also the aspect of employers making promises they fail to keep; for instance, an employee is promised a revised salary at the end of three-month probation that does not materialise because, suddenly, the employer cannot afford it.

When all the above and more are combined, there is likely going to be dissatisfaction from both parties as everyone starts to feel like they have been played.

How then can employers and employees avoid or minimise all that drama and focus on delivery of company objectives?

First, you need to be honest with each other from the point of engagement. Both parties must be clear on what exactly the employee is being engaged to do. What is the role? What will be the responsibilities attached to this role? How will results look like in this role?

Providing a clear job description is of importance. In addition to this, having a clear reporting structure is vital to avoid confusion when giving and receiving instructions.

The matter of clarity in salary is also important and that is why salary negotiations exist. As an employer, avoid promising what you cannot offer just so that you can bring the employee on board.

As an employee, ensure that all promises made in this regard are done in writing. If it is not written, it did not happen! This gives you an opportunity to refer in future, should there be doubt that the matter was ever discussed from the onset.

I cannot emphasise the importance of work environment in this case. This encompasses so many things but for purposes of this, I will speak about micromanagement. If you have worked with a boss who constantly tells you what to do, how and where to do it and you barely have the opportunity to think for yourself, you get the drift.

You begin to wonder why they even hired you in the first place since it is obvious they can do the job themselves. Regardless of how much you are paying an employee, it is important that you let them do their work independently.

This does not take away supervision, however, providing an environment where employees can use their skills and feel like they are contributing to the business is desirable.

When the love runs out, the best way to handle this is to separate. Employment is voluntary and that means that either party has the right to terminate the agreement in line with the terms of the contract.

Ms Wamonje is a HR practitioner and consultant. Blogger at www.humournresource.com

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