Thursday, August 14, 2008

Read Between The Lines

This follows yesterday’s post about the importance of reading and documenting everything. Yesterday, I mentioned that some of the documents we should read carefully are emails, memos, instructions on performing work, job descriptions, and the personnel manual.

If you are under attack, those are the documents that are going to be critical in helping to build your case and explain what your issues are at work. That’s why you should get in the habit of dissecting everything someone has sent you in writing.

You don’t want to engage in psychoanalysis of every email or memo, however, you really need to look at the overall message someone is including in a email or memo to you or about you. People can be really sneaky, especially when it comes to composing email and memos. As with any type of writing, there’s much that can be communicated without being expressly written.

You need to develop the habit of really reading emails and memos, not just skimming them. For instance, if someone is writing about a missed deadline, take a good look as to how any information about your work on the project is characterized, if this person has chosen to write about you in the same email. Supervisors, managers, and coworkers come up with lots of sneaky ways to blame other people--particularly those junior to them.

Don’t be complicit in any false perceptions about your job performance, work ethic, punctuality, thoroughness, behaviors, etc.

If you notice something, even not something explicitly stated, address it. But, address it professionally and without calling the person out directly. Just send a clarifying email response that serves the purpose of being helpful, not defensive. When you’re working with The Black Factor, “You’re too defensive” and “You’re unable to take criticism” are words that will flow like water.

Finally, read for the contradictions. Liars always make one move to many and will often massage a story to the point of actually revealing some truth, when they are attempting to conceal it. Liars normally can’t keep all their lies straight. This includes liars with Master’s degrees and Ph.D.s. When they go off the rails, it’s not usually any prettier than when an ordinary pathological liar decides to start fabricating stories.

Always look for opportunities to show how your employer is saying something—in writing—that contradicts what they’ve previously said and/or (even better) contradicts their own written policies, such as the personnel manual.

The art to trapping your employer is to read what they’ve given you and sitting with the documents side-by-side to see where the inconsistencies are. It’s very rare to have direct evidence, such as being called the n-word, so you have to be your first detective and build a circumstantial case that proves your position.

No one will see any merit to your case unless you have gathered documentation that does more than force them to rely on he said/she said with you and an employer. Reading is an important part of getting some resolution at work or in obtaining assistance from an external investigator or lawyer. You have to be able to explain what happened and to prove it/show evidence.

Lawyers want a case to fall into their laps with most of the leg work complete. They don't want to spend time hiring other investigators, etc. You have to make it as easy as possible for someone to see why they should represent you. You can't go to a lawyer making claims you can't prove and then expect they will work for free trying to prove your allegations because you can't provide any documentation or testimonial evidence to support your complaint.

Be a detective and dig out proof of the truth. Much of this will be found in written evidence.

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