Fired for poor communication skills

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Q: Can I be fired for bad communication skills after working at this company for two years and having been a foreman with no bad reviews, excellent goals and maintaining attendance?

A: Companies terminate employees for a number of reasons.  Some of them include absenteeism, tardiness, insubordination, not following company rules or a problem with work performance.  Other reasons can include a downturn in business or a change in the business strategy.

It sounds like you were terminated for poor communication skills.  Some work skills are easier to measure than others.  A numeric goal is often easy to measure.  For example, assembling 100 widgets in one day.  Other work skills are more challenging to measure.  Communication skills are one of them. However, poor communication skills can certainly interfere with job performance.  Usually a foreman or supervisor requires even stronger communication skills than an individual contributor.

Most employees in Massachusetts are “at will,” which means the employee can end the employment relationship at any time.  The same is true for the employer if the relationship is “at will.”  I am assuming though you are “at will,” even though you have not disclosed that info.  You are not “at will” if you are covered under some type of employment contract, including a union collective bargaining agreement.

If you were a foreman, your communication skills are probably critical since you were responsible for supervising and directing the work of others.  A significant part of supervising others is listening and then responding.  Also you may have had to request others to handles tasks in a tactful and professional way.

Yes, an employer can terminate you for poor communication skills.  Many employers will issue warnings before a termination, but they are not required to do so.

Think about whether a foreman role is the right role for you.  Some of us are better as individual contributors.  You want to avoid duplicating the same situation again.  A supervisory role is energizing to some but draining and even aggravating to others.

Finally, give some thought on how to explain your termination when you are interviewing elsewhere.  No one wants to hire an employee who is angry or hostile.  You can share that with your family and friends, but avoid bringing that emotion into an interview.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.

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