Document Efforts to Set You Up for Failure
If you're the victim of race-based mistreatment, you may have an even stronger suspicion that you are being targeted at work. Often, that targeting includes being targeted to miss deadlines, make errors or to encounter many other problems at work.
For instance, a supervisor may sit on assignments and give them to a worker at the last minute--ensuring that the work will be sloppy, incomplete, and/or will be submitted after the deadline has passed. Or, a manager may not give a targeted employee all of the instructions they need to properly complete an assignment. As a result, the work may be incomplete, fraught with errors, and have many other problems.
Setting employees up for failure is a common tactic used in the workplace. Someone who is determined to discriminate against a Black employee or who is trying to create a hostile/offensive work environment for that employee may see engaging in a set up as a legitimate means of lodging complaints against the worker. Or, someone may see engaging in a set up as a good cover for retaliation against a Black worker, who has complained of race-based abuses at work.
Regardless of the cause, there are some things you can do, whenever you suspect you are being set up at work:
1) Don't remain quiet. You only increase the success level of the set up by suffering in silence!
2) Address your concerns by email--FIRST. Don't speak to the individual about the problems with the work because they will likely sell you a crock of crap that will shut you up, while enabling their plan to continue. Just drop the person a quick email reading something like, "Do you have a minute to discuss the assignment? I have some concerns about how effective I can be in completing this new assignment, since the deadline is tomorrow and there's about a week's worth of work to be done." Or, "I have concerns about completing this work because it is clearly a two-person job..." Try to arrange a meeting as quickly as possible to show you have serious concerns that you'd like to discuss ASAP!
3) Document the impact of the set up--that you are being set up for failure. For instance, you want to make sure that you are clearly expressing that it is highly unlikely you can complete whatever task you are being asked to do. For instance, you might write in an email, "...even if I worked all night, there's no way I can get this work done, since I just received it and it's due tomorrow." If you have inside information, you may want to document that in writing as well. For instance, "I'm aware that the client requested this work last month. I'm not sure why I am just getting the assignment, but the loss of time to work on the project will negatively impact the quality of the work and will likely cause me to miss the client's deadline." Show what the result of the set up is. Don't wait for the huge negative impact that will be blamed on you! If you know that you will miss a deadline, a week ahead of time, document it--a week ahead of time. Say that you can't get it done, you will make a good effort, ask for assistance, etc. Think things through and cover your a**!!
4) Document that you are ready to offer solutions. For instance, in an email stating you have concerns, you might write something like, "I believe Cristina is looking for work. Since this is clearly a two-person job, is there a possibility she can assist with the assignment?" Or, you can ask if part of the assignment can be given to junior staff, while you focus on the main pieces of work. Think of solutions that will work for your circumstances. Don't set yourself up to look like a whiner or complainer, which may be the resulting attack against you!
5) If you are told you can't have assistance or any remedy for the issue and you know you will likely fail in areas related to quality of work, deadlines, etc., speak to someone with more authority and ask for assistance.
6) Save all emails and voice mails addressing the issue. Send copies of the emails to your personal email account for safekeeping!
7) Provide updates about where you are on the task. This stops the argument that your supervisor, manager or task leader had "no idea" that you were falling behind, might miss a deadline or were having issues with the work.
8) Do the best you can on the task, but don't drive yourself crazy or into the hospital. If you are being set up, the point is that it is impossible for you to get the assignment done in the first place! Don't kill yourself. Document everything!
9) Get ready to be blamed. Keep your documentation in order. Save hard copies of everything, including instructions.
10) Get ready to defend yourself. Show that you identified issues--early on--and that you asked for assistance. Show that your requests were denied.
You can only do but so much to stop a set up. Sometimes all you can do is document it and defend against it. Be on your toes and keep writing. Just keep shooting off emails indicating the issues and offering solutions, such as requests for extensions, assistance from staff, etc. This will play in your favor, if you are written up for any performance deficiencies or if the incident creeps into your yearly review. If you can show that you did everything right and were ignored, that's going to go a long way in proving you are without fault on the issue.
If the problem continues, contact HR.