What Does “Get Coached Out” Mean at Work?

Getting “coached out” is an expression that refers to an employee being gradually pushed out of their job through frequent coaching and performance management. It usually happens when a manager wants an employee to quit rather than firing them outright.

Coaching out can be seen as a backhanded tactic used by companies to avoid potential legal issues or severance pay associated with firing. However, some argue it can be an ethical approach that gives underperforming employees a chance to improve.

This comprehensive guide will examine what coaching out involves, the reasons companies do it, the pros and cons, laws related to constructive dismissal, and steps for employees who find themselves being coached out.

What Does “Coaching Out” Mean?

“Coaching out” refers to a series of actions taken by a manager or employer to encourage an underperforming employee to voluntarily resign from their position. It may involve:

  • Frequently scheduling one-on-one coaching sessions pointing out the employee’s shortcomings.
  • Setting unrealistic expectations or impossible tasks meant to set up the employee to fail.
  • Excessive monitoring and micromanaging of the employee’s work.
  • Denying promotions, pay raises, or training opportunities.
  • Isolating the employee from team activities and communications.
  • Threats of demotion or termination if immediate improvement is not seen.

The coaching is typically very direct, overly critical, and intense. Theemployee feels singled out and that their manager is pushing them to quit.

Signs You May Be Getting Coached Out

Watch for these common signs that your manager may be trying to coach you out:

  • A sudden increase in scrutiny and criticism of your work, even for minor issues.
  • Constant feedback about how you don’t meet expectations.
  • Impossible deadlines.
  • Removal of job duties and responsibilities.
  • Exclusion from important meetings and decisions.
  • Verbal warnings about your performance.
  • Encouragement to consider leaving or transfering.

If one-on-one meetings with your boss leave you stressed, anxious, frustrated, or even in tears, you may be getting coached out.

Why Do Employers Coach Employees Out?

There are several reasons an employer may try to coach out an employee rather than fire them outright:

Avoiding Wrongful Termination Lawsuits

Firing an employee without clear documented performance issues leaves employers vulnerable to potential wrongful termination lawsuits. Coaching out provides a paper trail showing repeated attempts to address poor performance before termination.

Avoiding Severance Pay

Some companies have policies requiring severance pay for fired employees based on tenure. Coaching employees to resign voluntarily avoids paying severance.

Preventing Unemployment Claims

Employees who quit voluntarily typically can’t collect unemployment benefits. Constructively dismissing an employee through coaching prevents them from filing for unemployment.

High Cost of Recruitment and Training

It costs significant time and money to recruit and train new employees. Providing coaching and encouragement to resign allows a poor fit employee to leave while avoiding turnover costs.

Maintain Workplace Morale

Firing an employee, especially for performance issues, can negatively impact office morale. Coaching them out quietly prevents affecting team productivity and motivation.

Pros of Coaching Out Employees

While coaching out can certainly feel unfair or backhanded to employees, some argue it has benefits when done ethically:

Gives a Chance to Improve

Coaching frequently about deficiencies provides an opportunity for poor performing employees to try improving before losing their job.

Avoids Rash Decisions

Setting up a coaching plan prevents managers from firing someone reactively in frustration over a single mistake or incident.

Lowers Litigation Risks

The coaching documentation provides evidence of ongoing performance issues should the termination end up in court.

Reduces Office Tension

An employee leaving voluntarily avoids the team animosity that can occur when someone is abruptly fired.

Saves Company Resources

Providing coaching is less costly than a potential wrongful termination settlement or unemployment claim.

Prevents Unfair Terminations

When done properly, coaching out protects against firing employees for illegal reasons such as discrimination or retaliation.

Cons of Coaching Employees Out

However, coaching out also comes with ethical issues and potential pitfalls:

Stress and Anxiety

Feeling excessively critiqued and micromanaged creates tremendous emotional stress and anxiety for the employee.

Lose Valued Employees

Good employees with temporary performance issues may become discouraged and quit when they could have improved with support.

Damages Morale

Seeing colleagues constantly criticized and pushed out chips away at team morale and commitment to the company.

Productivity Suffers

Employees being coached out become distracted trying to defend themselves, causing work to suffer more.

Breeds Resentment

Remaining team members resent the company for the unethical tactic and poor treatment of colleagues.

Opens Litigation Risks

The practice is considered a constructive dismissal, which can still prompt lawsuits.

Violates Ethics

Employees deserve direct, honest communication about performance issues. Coaching out is misleading about the intent to terminate.

Reputation Impact

Word spreads about the practice, damaging the company’s ability to recruit and retain talent.

Is Coaching Out Considered Constructive Dismissal?

In most locations, coaching an employee out is considered constructive dismissal, meaning pushing someone to resign against their will. This gives the employee the right to take legal action as if they were fired without cause.

Canada, Australia, the UK, and most U.S. states recognize constructive dismissal. Some considerations:

  • The coaching must make working conditions intolerable for a reasonable person.
  • The actions must indicate the employer is trying to make the employee resign.
  • The employee should object to the employer’s actions and seek a reversal.
  • Simply struggling with a challenging new boss or project does not qualify. The employer must demonstrate a deliberate intent.

Employees should document all coaching criticisms, unrealistic demands, and disciplinary actions. Evidence is necessary to prove constructive dismissal versus typical performance management.

Consulting an employment attorney is recommended to understand rights in the specific situation before choosing to resign.

FAQ About Coaching Employees Out

What should I do if I think I’m being coached out?

Document everything, continue communicating with your manager, request a different supervisor, seek support from HR, and speak with an employment attorney to understand your rights. Don’t resign impulsively without exploring options.

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Is coaching out illegal?

Coaching out itself is not illegal, but may cross into constructive dismissal territory which can prompt lawsuits, especially if discrimination is involved. There are ethical concerns about the practice.

Should I quit if I’m being coached out?

Don’t resign impulsively. Talk to your manager, HR, and a lawyer first. In most cases, being fired allows you to collect severance and unemployment benefits, which resigning forfeits.

Can I collect unemployment if I was coerced to resign?

If you have evidence you were constructively dismissed, you can file for unemployment and appeal if initially denied. Documentation of the unreasonable treatment will support your claim.

What can I do if coached out due to discrimination?

If you find evidence you were coached out due to your age, race, gender or other protected class, this is illegal discrimination. Consult an attorney about your options for a lawsuit.

How can I prevent my manager from coaching me out?

Improving performance deficiencies may stop the coaching. You can also request a transfer or different supervisor. If issues persist, contacting HR and/or an attorney may be necessary to address the situation.

Steps to Take if You Are Being Coached Out

If despite your best efforts it appears your manager is attempting to coach you out, consider these steps:

  • Document everything. Keep a detailed log of coaching sessions, criticisms, unrealistic demands, threats, and disciplinary actions. Email summaries to yourself or print copies.
  • Speak up. Have candid conversations with your manager and HR about what you are experiencing and seek their help to resolve the situation.
  • Review company policies. Understand your rights related to required warnings, severance, and appeals processes.
  • Get legal guidance. Schedule a consultation with an employment lawyer to discuss options and have representation.
  • Polish your resume. Quietly get your resume updated and begin networking to be prepared if the situation escalates.
  • Don’t resign impulsively. Resigning immediately cuts off severance eligibility and unemployment benefits.

Stay professional and do your best work while navigating the situation. With the right evidence and support, you can overcome the challenges of being coached out.

Summary of Key Points:

  • Coaching out is when frequent criticism and performance management are used to pressure an employee to resign.
  • Signs include increased scrutiny, impossible tasks, isolation, and threats about job security.
  • Reasons employers coach out include avoiding lawsuits, severance pay, unemployment claims, and office politics.
  • Pros are a chance to improve and avoiding rash terminations, but cons include damage to morale, litigation risks, and ethics violations.
  • Coaching out is usually considered constructive dismissal, giving grounds for legal action.
  • Documenting details, communicating openly, reviewing rights, getting legal counsel, and polishing your resume can help if you are being coached out.

With awareness and a proactive approach, employees have options even when faced with a manager trying to coach them out of a job unfairly. Being pushed out can feel demoralizing, but it’s possible to navigate the situation while upholding your rights and self-confidence.

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