Monday, July 21, 2008

Red Flag Words That Can Create Idea You've Had a Pattern of Bad Behavior or Performance

In order to figure out if you are being documented at work as a poor performer/under-achiever or as a behavior problem, one of the things you have to look at is whether or not you are being documented--in writing. It's bad enough to have false allegations made face-to-face, but it's another more troubling problem to have those lies put to paper. Written documentation of so-called poor performance or behavior issues can lead to written warnings, probation, suspension, demotions, and even termination.

If you believe you are being documented with a false pattern of problems, if you believe minor behavior problems are being exaggerated (regarding the length of the so-called problem and/or severity of the problem), and if you believe you are being set up for employment actions, you need to decide how you are going to respond. Any false allegations can come back to haunt you. For instance on performance evaluations.

One of my coworkers received a memo that attributed the typographical errors of other staff to her. It was known that she did not make these mistakes. However, she was told, in writing, that this lack of quality control was unacceptable and that she caused the company embarassment with the client, time, and money to correct the mistakes.

My coworker continued to be accused of making such errors because it helped show a pattern of negative behavior that was later used as part of the justification to place her on probation and threaten her with termination. She ended up receiving various performance deficiency memos that were nothing but a laundry list of false claims made out to look like substantial problems she'd been having for a lengthy period of time. She was also made to appear to not be showing any improvement on correcting the false behavior.

I wanted to list, as I've done in the past, a series of words or phrases that should make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Some of the red flag words and phrases include:

• “Consistently” or “often” or “frequently” or “repeatedly” or “chronically” or “habitually,” etc. - The point is that you have allegedly demonstrated a pattern of making the same mistake or exhibiting the same negative behavior, such as demonstrating a bad poor attitude, arriving to work late, missing deadlines, etc.

• “I’ve noticed…” – For the same reason as above.

• “Many people…” or “Some people…” or “A number of people…” or “Everyone” - The point is to show that there is corroboration for the accusation. It’s not just one person’s point of view that you have a problem--everyone or many people allegedly believe the same thing. People making this statement, generally won’t name names, they’ll just make a blanket statement about so-called mass perceptions about you.

• “I’ve talked to you in the past about…” - The point is not just to criticize you, but to show that you have shown no improvement in some negative behavior that was previously brought to your attention.

• “I’m concerned by…” or “I’m puzzled by…” or “I’m troubled by…” - The point is to show that there is something extremely off-putting or unprofessional about your behavior and that it likely represents a potentially major problem.

• “If you would have…” or “If you had only” or “I thought that you…” - The point is the “you” part of the sentence because the writer is stating that you are solely to blame for something going wrong.

These are just examples of some subtle ways that you can be documented for performance deficiencies at work. If the allegation isn’t true, this represents a potentially devastating problem; in terms of your ability to maintain a positive reputation and any impact the misrepresentations may have your performance evaluations, etc.

Receiving one criticism may not be a big deal, even though it could represent someone’s effort to document you. It’s the form that the criticism takes that makes a written complaint have the potential to be extremely damaging to your reputation. It’s one thing to be told that you have missed a deadline, but it’s another to be told that you “consistently” miss deadlines.

Please note: An insolated incidence of criticism usually has no right to appear in your performance evaluation, even if it did involve major issue. Normally, any atypical behavior is included in the notes/comments of a performance evaluation. Therefore, if an incident was isolated, your review should not be tainted to make it appear as if this was a recurring problem. It can be noted on your evaluation, but your review should be reflective of your consistent and normal work performance.

Always read your email or memos carefully. Look at the words that precede and follow criticisms! Understand when you are being documented and you can get on the offensive and, hopefully, derail the train that’s headed in your direction. Respond to the email with facts. Don’t attack the sender; simply clarify what you believe to be false about their criticism. But, don’t be defensive.

Black people have a fine line to tread between explaining something and being called defensive. Apparently, White people explain and Black people defend! So, briefly make your point, professionally, and move on!

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Blogger msladydeborah said...

I just had an experience with this type of situation.

A former supervisor of mine wrote on my evaluation that "I needed to learn how to be respectful of my co-workers."

I challenged her on this because I knew that she really was taking a personal swipe at me. I asked to see her documentation that backed up her claim. There is none. She seemed surprised that I would dare to ask for it.

The only person who was complaining was her. She tried to get my co-workers to co-sign her statement. Not one of them did. The supervisor did not have any written documentation to back up her claim. Yet she felt that I had to sign off on my personnel evaluation.

I ended up finding a different position. I felt it would just be a matter of time before that false claim grew like Pinnocho's nose.

The information that you shared here only confirmed that my basic feelings were right.

1:57 PM  
Blogger AiR FoRcE 1 said...

This is excellent. Two years ago I felt I was being forced out of my compnay. A lot of what you said was stated especially the "everyone". I handled it calmly because I knew they would make me out to be the angry black bitch. I humbled myself and had a meeting with the "everyone" whom I figured could've been involved and asked a pertner to join the meeting. When "everyone" stated that they never had problems with my work I requested that the statement be scratched from the record. I'm still with the company and haven't encountered a problem sense.

9:45 AM  
Blogger H2O said...

You know what's weird? I just went through a similar situation where MGMT told me that I was viewed as a "negative" employee. It wasn't anything I did persay, but it was the way that I kept to myself and didn't really get involved in the office chatter.

I asked them "Have there ever been any issues with my performance or my workload as far as the company goes?"

My answer was "no you're doing a great job!"

My reply "well that is all I am really concerned with, I hope I don't sound insubordinate when I say this but I am not paid to be social I am paid to do work, if there is no issue with the work I complete then everything should be fine, now if you want me to chit chat then add a few extra dollars on my salary and I'll hold daily discussions!! Your perception is not my reality."

Never had that problem again. I wasn't about to start talking to everyone for me to then be called a social butterfly and a hinderance to the performance of others, I was taught better than that...

Check out

10:28 AM  
Blogger S. Mary Wills said...

I was told that everyone in my company had a negative perception of me and that they didn't want to work with me--anywhere throughout our 7 locations. Yet, I was being asked to work on projects in 5 different departments. It was the worst lie to tell about me.

Then, my supervisor went even further by saying that a specific VP said she didn't like my work and thought I had a negative attitude. So, I asked her--point blank. She said my supervisor came to her fishing for her to say something negative about me and she didn't say anything because she liked working with me and was always seeking my help. So, my supervisor ended up attributing false statements to a VP and got busted!

7:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of the people in my workplace are racists. Some are savvy in hiding it while others are just blatant with their view. My boss expects me to be friends with them & to participate in social events. Naturally I am withdrawn & like to keep my own company. I mean, how can he expect me to feel warmth towards racists who reject me? Am I an animal without feeling?

9:19 AM  

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