Monday, July 07, 2008

Snoop Around The Printers

I had a conversation with a friend, last night, and learned that she found some interesting pieces of evidence to use against her supervisor. You see, her supervisor has been creating a hostile and offensive work environment because my friend was complaining about conditions at the workplace. So, her supervisor has been going out of her way to antagonize my friend and has even told her that she will be evaluated on things such as her “soul” for her performance review.

In the midst of all this scheming, the supervisor inadvertently left a document at the printer containing her plans for setting up my friend for termination. This included creating documentation to put in her personnel file, as well as the intent to hold a fraudulent meeting to discuss the fraudulent performance deficiencies. That would be followed by a meeting, a few days later, to terminate my friend.

In other words, the supervisor was going to put memos and other written evidence into my friend’s personnel file, was going to meet with her to discuss her so-called performance problems, and then was going to tell her that she showed no improvement or deteriorated in the areas of concern that were addressed. Even though she was making fraudulent claims, she wasn’t even going to pretend to give my friend a chance to improve. The termination was all planned out to happen over the course of about 1-2 weeks.

All this information was just lying around on the countertop by the printer.

This is not the first time that I’ve seen members of management careless enough to leave incriminating evidence just lying around the office in plain view of staff. That is why today’s suggestion is….


If you’re having problems at work, you should be acting like a private investigator. You should be seeking any information you can use against a coworker, supervisor or anyone else who is discriminating against you, harassing you and/or retaliating against you.

If you’re at the printer, sneak a peek at everything coming off the printer. Even if someone is there, you can pick up the document, look at it, and hand it to them if it belongs to them. If it doesn’t, you can still look at it and place it on the countertop. You are simply waiting for your own file to come out and you have no choice but to look at the files being printed in order to claim what’s yours.

If documents have not been claimed and they are piled around the printer, take a look at every last document to see if there is anything about you or that is helpful to you.

I have gathered evidence by snooping around at the printer. Here’s how it went down.

I was accused of violating email protocol and company etiquette because I pointed out a problem on a project I worked on. The reason I was attacked was because a young, White woman was supposed to be promoted and I had pointed out a major problem with her management of a project that was going to hinder my supervisor’s ability to bump her up to the next job and salary level.

This young woman sent an email that was laying the groundwork to blame me and two other staff members for problems we’d encountered that were no one’s fault and had more to do with the poor concept of the project as opposed to poor execution of the project. I responded to the email by pointing out issues we’d been discussing in our meetings regarding why we weren’t going to be able to accommodate the client’s request and complete this project in a manner that would make the client happy. I wasn’t rude or anything. I just explained the preexisting issues that were omitted from her email.

I put in writing what I knew the team was going to be blamed for later. In other words, I beat this young, White woman to the punch. By design, there hadn’t been any documentation of the problems on the project. But, this White woman was telegraphing her escape from blame. She kept sending emails that were clearly meant to take herself out of the loop and were written as if she had no clue as to the obstacles being addressed to her and for which she was providing no leadership. She thought we were going to be scapegoats. But, once I put the issues in writing, it was impossible for her or my supervisor to say that they weren’t aware of the issues and they couldn’t say she was a good manager because she failed miserably to coordinate the project, manage client expectations, etc.

I was attacked for this email by my supervisor and the director of my department, who barged into my office, closed the door, and told me to apologize for the email. I refused to do that! I was told my email was wrong, unprofessional, rude, and violated email etiquette/company protocol. All because I explained why my team would not meet client goals and I explained the issues we were facing!!

As this issue was being disputed, I no longer worked in support of this project. So, I didn’t have any idea what was being said about me or the direction that the project was going in.

But, one day I was at the printer…

I was minding my business waiting for a document...

All of a sudden…

a document comes out that proves that everything I said about the project was true. All of the concerns I raised came to fruition. I grabbed the 2-page document and raced around the corner in the opposite direction of where I knew any of the women involved would be walking from. I folded the papers, put them in my pocket, went to another floor, made 10 copies of the document, put them in a folder, went back to my desk, put the copies in my purse, and went about my business!!

The document proved I was right! I said the deadline could not be met no matter what we did. And, I explained why. And, this document said the deadline couldn’t be met for the reasons I stated. And, the document said that a no-cost extension was going to be requested from the client to allow more time to complete the work.

And, the document said that there was a lack of resources that made it very difficult to collect the data we were instructed to compile. This is also what I explained, quite professionally, in my email.

There were many other points I made that were backed up by this document I was never supposed to see! So, while my employer was still suggesting that I was out of line and way off base regarding issues on the project, I now had written proof that I was absolutely correct. And, the proof was being sent by those attacking me for making false claims. These supposedly false claims were being verified as fact in an email and memo to our site director. That was one more nail in the coffin for my employer!!

Another story I can share, is having a coworker harassed by nasty memos and emails being intentionally left at various printers for staff to see. The memos and emails talked about this woman not knowing her job, not being liked by staff, not being liked by clients, and possibly being terminated due to incompetence. These documents included claims that she overcharged clients by working slowly and not knowing her job. And, included sarcastic comments that if you wanted to “chew through hours,” you should assign this woman to a project because she would waste time and couldn’t get anything done.

These documents were left everywhere on our floor. There is no way they weren’t intentionally left out. They were at various printers. More than one person was printing and leaving the files unclaimed. Everyone was talking about it. It got back to the woman. As a result of this behavior and other factors, she resigned about 2 months later.

In this case, documents were being left at a printer to cause someone a hostile and offensive work environment. This wasn’t an accident, where someone printed something and forgot to go get it! Despite all of the negative claims in the documents being left everywhere, no one was meeting with this woman to cite performance deficiencies. She was just having the "wagons circled around her." That was the running joke in the hallways. "Oh, they want her to leave." What this woman could have done was use the documents to show how the workplace was becoming unbearable and how she was being intentionally humiliated in front of her coworkers. She could have turned these documents into evidence.

So, my reminder for the day is that everyone should remember to be a snoop.

It is amazing what people will leave all over the office. If you see paper lying around, pick it up and take a look at what’s there. If it’s useful to you, make sure nobody is watching and just walk about with it. Put it in a file, quote from it, show it to your lawyer, forward it to EEOC or another investigatory agency, etc.

Put someone else’s carelessness or intentional malice to work for you! Snoop…eavesdrop…and do whatever it takes to build your case!

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Blogger Thomas Jackson said...

Ms. Wills,

I had a different issue come up with a client I'm working with. An employee who filed a complaint and quit thinking that doing so under the ruse of intolerable harassment, decided on the last day of employment to print off all of her e-mails to take with her.

At some point, the printer ran out of paper. The employee must have thought all her documents printed, when in fact they had not.

The next day after her last day, her former supervisor came in, reloaded the paper, and out came dozens of unprinted e-mails.

The bad news is the e-mails showed that the employee conspired to create a false claim with others.

No matter who you are, or what side of the table you're on, be sure what you printed is completed printing.

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you think you are being targeted, be sure to forward all email to your private email account such as hotmail or yahoo. That way you can print at your leisure & be safe!

6:34 AM  

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