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Fired for lack of sales results directly linked to the economy.

by Jeff
(Chicago, IL)

I was an outside sales representative for a temporary staffing agency. I was prospecting for companies that used temporary workers and negotiated contracts, bill rates, pay rates, etc. This particular agency's focus was about 95% light industrial, manufacturing, general labor positions that generally paid between minimum wage and $12 per hour. I worked by myself while physically out in my territory, and also by myself from a home office with minimal supervision. I started in this position in November of 2006 and was just fired in October of 2008. The amount of potential sales opportunities in this industry is very much directly impacted by how the economy is performing. Obviously, most industrial / manufacturing companies are probably not looking so hot over the last 6 months. Most of the people I was selling to were more worried about losing their own jobs than they were switching their temp agency vendor. Needless to say, I was not on pace to hit my annual revenue "quota" set by the agency, nor were over 50% of the other sales reps in the company. I was the only one fired for lack of performance. One month prior to my termination, my sales manager and I had a meeting in which he acknowledged the lack of performance and requested that I sign an agreement. The agreement stated various weekly and monthly tasks I was to perform, for example, I needed to set at least 3 appointments per week, sell 3 new accounts per month, certain amount of revenue per month, etc. If I did not meet this very specific list of criteria, then the company reserved the right to terminate me. I'm all about owning up to any lack of performance, but the criteria was virtually the same exact criteria the company would've expected of a sales rep 2 years ago. I did not feel the requirements were at all realistic considerring the economic downturn of late. Also, I am aware that not one of the other sales reps was successfully completing those same requirements, though a few of them got lucky with a large individual sale or two to make them appear to be performing. So when I did not successfully complete the tasks set before me by this manager, I was terminated exactly one month after signing this agreement. I felt like I didn't have a choice about signing the agreement and that I'd only be making a stressful situation worse by questioning the agreement in general. I was hoping it was just his scare tactic because maybe he thought I was sleeping at home all day long instead of working. I am aware that since my termination, there has not been any attempt by the company to make any new hires to fill my position. I know this because I stay in contact with a former co-worker / sales rep that is still with the company. In my mind, the economy had made it near impossible to hit the company's quotas and instead of them adjusting the quotas to be more realistic, or simply calling this a "layoff", they wanted to find a way to "fire" me as to not be responsible for unemployment benefits. I have always had the impression that if you are fired, you will not qualify for unemployment. I have never been on unemployment in the past, so I am not familiar with any of these guidelines. Final

note: I had two managers and the second manager not referenced above agreed to let me use him as a positive reference in my recent job search. I guess I would think that if it were so obvious that I deserved to be fired for "lack of performance", then why would they be so nice as to give me a good reference? Any ideas for me? Should I apply for unemployment since I have not yet found new work, and if so will I have to go through an uncomfortable communication with anyone from the company directly at any time during the application process? I'd rather not, if I don't have to. I appreciate your time and input.

Hi Jeff,

I think you have brought up such an important issue with regard to your statement that you believe the employer is trying to shake out employees instead of laying off. Having spent so many years on the other side I know you have hit a very relevant nail on the head. Of course, nobody will admit to this tactic, but it is done.

You should apply for unemployment. You have stated your case well. Job performance discharges are one of the more difficult to prove misconduct for.

It is necessary for the employer to prove willful misconduct, not inability to overcome the realities of the present state of the economy. Do not hesitate to use the economy either.

Did the employer make all employees sign a new agreement? If not, why you. If others were required to sign the new agreement and failed to fully attain the quotas, why were they not terminated.

Rules and requirements of a job need to be uniformly enforced. Selective enforcement weakens the employer's position if you can prove or even convince the person listening at the state.

I can never say how the state will initially decide, because I've noticed a trend in denials for job performance, which makes little sense to me. I do have theory about this being a kind of determent to stop individuals from pursing benefits with appeals and protecting the "fund" from depletion, but as I said, it's just a theory.

You may be denied, but pure job performance discharges should always be appealed by claimants when they feel "neglect of duties" cannot be proven. In contrast to poor job performance, neglect of duties is misconduct.

Unless someone has been laid off from their job, there is always a strong probability of someone having to face their employer at an unemployment hearing.

Just go ahead and do what you have to. Focus on the fact that you were doing your job to the "best of your ability", but due to circumstances beyond your control (the economy) you were unable to attain the "unrealistic goals" required by the employer and definitely include any information you know about lack of uniformity for all sales reps.

Sales people are getting fired all over the country right now. Employer's are using a number of different ways to reduce their payrolls without raising their rates too much. But unless they can prove that someone quit without good cause (which happens when the employer tries to change people from base + commission to straight commission) or have been discharged for a willful disregard of the employer's interest, they are relying of presumption that these people will find employment quickly and not pursue unemployment benefits.


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by: Tom Schaber

Jeff, most companies and sales managers for that matter choose who they want to let go and then fit the "probation" scenario to the person to be axed. Shouldn't be that way but it is. I am curious about your commission structure. What was it for you as a salesperson?


Tom, I removed your phone number .. for your sake and this is a fairly old post .. Most people don't opt for "comment email notifications".

But what you say is certainly true .. and it shouldn't be that way, but it is.

I for one, think the only way to combat what is .. is to become proficient at counter documenting.

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