Termination for poor communication skills

Q: I was just terminated. I received no severance. I was
terminated and given pay for what vacation days I didn’t take. I was
told the termination was for my poor communication skills and how I work
with others. I know I am an introvert and that is why I became an
engineer. I prefer to avoid interactions with others. Instead, I like
to focus on my work and complete tasks. I thought I should have
received coaching or counseling. Can my employer do this to me?

A: Most employees in the US are employed “at-will,” which means
either the employee or employer can terminate the employment
relationship at any time and for any reason. Severance is typically not
legally required unless you have signed an employment agreement or are
covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

We all have strengths and weaknesses. One of your weaknesses may be
communication skills. Rather than avoiding social interactions, it may
be worth developing communication skills.

Think about how to be a good listener. Eye contact is important.
Maintaining eye contact during a conversation demonstrates interest in
what another person is saying. Non-verbal gestures and movements also
send a message. Do you cross your arms (which can sometimes signal I am
really closed or not listening to what you are saying)? Ways to
improve your listening skills including monitoring your eye contact and
your body language. If you have the capability, videotape yourself
during a conversation. Do you look receptive to what the other person
is saying or are you sending signals (maybe even unconsciously) that you
are disinterested?

Like other skills, communication skills can be improved upon. Take it
seriously. You don’t want to be terminated again on a skill that you
most certainly can develop.

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.