In this month of Emancipation and Independence many of us may feel inspired to tell that incompetent, overbearing, micro-managing or abusive boss of ours to ‘gth’. Many of you are working with bosses whose sole purpose in life seems to be to belittle you and make your life a living hell.
But before you give your boss the boot, there are a few things to note that might help make your departure beneficial to you.
It is possible to walk off your job, without giving notice, and still claim against your employer for damages on the grounds that you were unlawfully terminated. However, in order to mount such a case you must first prove that your employer’s conduct was so reprehensible that you are entitled to consider your employment terminated. This is known as constructive dismissal and is a very tricky area of industrial relations as each case is judged on its particular facts.
Although I know Trinidadian bosses can be very creative in finding ways to de-motivate and alienate staff, I chose just a few scenarios which could, depending on all the surrounding circumstances, amount to an unlawful termination by way of constructive dismissal.
(i) If your boss, without warning and without provisions for such changes in your contract, unilaterally cuts your pay, demotes you and/or changes your hours of or place of work;
(ii) If your boss fails to provide you with a safe or suitable place of work;
(iii) If your boss disciplines you in a manner that is disproportionate to the committed wrong;
(iv) If your boss constantly humiliates you in the presence of your colleagues and/or junior staff.
If the problem you are having with your boss is in fact insurmountable then you are not helpless, workers have power and here are some ways you can use it.
Document the Issue: Write a formal letter of complaint and, in a concise and polite manner, detail the issue which you are currently facing while requesting an improvement. If nothing is done then continue to write. These letters will prove helpful to you should the matter escalate to tribunal stage.
Report the Issue to your Union: If you already belong to a bargaining unit then report the issue to your Union representative. If you do not belong to a Union then you may want to join a Union who can advise you and write to your employer on your behalf. The Industrial Court can only be accessed through a Union so it is wise to begin your relationship with them sooner rather than later.
Work in a Group: If your colleagues are having a similar problem then join together to address it. As a group, it would be easier to approach Management as they would now view your matter as a universal issue rather than as a personality clash.
Request an Impartial Mediator: Workplace mediation is becoming commonplace. If you have a boss who is open to it, then you can sit down with an impartial party and discuss the issues you are having with a view to improvement. If after this your boss returns to their old ways then your case for constructive dismissal is even stronger.
There are of course other options to consider if you’re still not sure you want to be immediately without a paycheck. You can request a transfer to a different department or building or you can access employee counseling which can help change your perspective.
If you have a permanent job and mouths to feed you may want to secure another job first before leaving since securing a settlement from your employer may take some time.
Believe me I know what it’s like, I’ve been there twice in the past couple years. Walking away from your job can be a solitary and frightening journey; but it can also be extremely invigorating.
Some food for thought, in this season of freedom. Power to the People!