Monday, September 08, 2008

Tips for Dealing With Problem Coworkers and Managers

Following my last few posts on unqualified White workers in the workplace (inspired by the nomination of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for Vice President), here are tips for dealing with problem coworkers or managers of any type:

• DOCUMENT EVERYTHING! There isn’t any incident to small to document, when you know you are dealing with a problem employee and manager. If you have a verbal dispute with someone or if you are subjected to verbal threats, document those events. Documentation could mean anything from (1) writing down everything that was said (with date, time, where it took place, witnesses, etc.); (2) sending an email to the person asking them to confirm or clarify what they said or expressing your rational opposition to what they said to you; (3) reporting the person to a supervisor, manager, executive; or (4) lodging a written complaint with Human Resources. The point is, get every incident in writing;

• Report what’s going on! Don’t suffer in silence. Federal law shows an understanding that employees may be afraid of retaliation, but there is also an expectation that employees complain. If you are afraid of going to your supervisor, you can speak to someone else with authority at your company. That person is legally bound to report what your concerns are, if you feel you are being harassed, etc. Even if you feel you will be ignored or if you are being ignored, don’t stop reporting what is going on because this is the best way to prove what you are being subjected to at work;

• File everything away in chronological order. This will save you a world of trouble, when you need to organize the information and/or present it to an attorney or outside investigator in a way that makes sense and gives the exact manner in which events took place;

• Keep a list of witnesses! Always think about proving your versions of events. Write down the name(s) of anyone who witnessed mistreatment and abuses at work;

• Keep all emails, instructions, memos, etc. from the individual causing you problems at work. This can help show that you followed instructions, that you were being subjected to a hostile environment, and can help you show that someone is lying about their current version of events or suddenly faulty power of recall;

• Read the employee handbook! You can’t fight any workplace battle without knowing your rights. By understanding the policies and procedures, as well as the anti-discrimination, harassment, and retaliation information, you are putting yourself in a position of strength. Use the handbook to expose the coworker or manager as violating company policy and, potentially, Federal statutes. Reading the employee manual could arm you with quotes to use against the coworker, manager or company, as a whole because the manual will dictate how the company has defined they will respond to or address certain issues. If the company isn’t following its own guidelines, you can call them out on it and you can point that out to an attorney or outside investigator;

• Be professional and courteous! Always remember that you are in the workplace and conduct yourself as such. Remember, dirty water seeks its own level, so don’t sink to the level of a racist, an ignoramus or other workplace cretins. You will be much better off if any claims that you are unprofessional, rude, mean, etc. can’t be supported by your own written correspondence or conversations that were overheard by other staff;

• Save offensive voicemail messages! Use a recorder to save the message. Have trusted coworkers listen to the message, so they can confirm what was said. Also, save voicemails containing instructions, so you can prove how you were told to complete an assignment; and

• Always blind copy yourself when you send a sensitive email or memorandum! By doing so, you have a record of the list of recipients, and the date and time the correspondence was disseminated. You will also have proof of the exact content of your email in case someone adds text into your document that you did not include in your original message. I’ve seen this done!

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ms. Willis your blog is the most practical i have read. thanks so much for the step by step advise. everything you talk about is exactly what i am going through. false allegation and character assisinations for not doing things. i am going to print and use it when i write my investigation. what are the power words to use for feeling degraded and humiliated when i witnessed other people of color being abused? thanks

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Danelle said...

I couldn't agree more with Anonymous. Your blog is the best out there, thank you so much for your great, level headed information. Anger sometimes does get the better of me, and you have helped me to temper it with knowing what to do professionally. Thank you!!!

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent blog. Documentation can go so far. I was in a situation where I did document and kept a copy and remained professional; but still ended up resigning because the situation got worse. The abuse, got worse. I am still looking for a job now. Your merits are not based on tangible results and flawless record; its based on "likability" and "familiarity". In companies that have mostly white people in them, promote more white people despite others having more qualifications for the job. The black female or male is usually the last to be considered. If you are intelligent, have above average common sense, have integrity, results oriented, and professional - they hate you more. All of a sudden, because you've done better, you are labelled the "uppity negro/nigra". There were 2 black people where I had worked. If one came up to speak to me, we would get dirty looks and attitude from others - it felt like being on an effing plantation! I was selected by clients and staff from other divisions to represent the company in Scotland. The Branch Manager and immediate manager were so pissed, that they made comments on how I was selected because of favouritism! That's basically saying that I was selected because I am a black female. The company that I had worked for was horrible, and nothing ever did come easy for me. Other colleagues would purposely not refer clients to me, but I still exceeded target results. If I won in branch competitions, based on my results - the supervisors would either question its validity or suddenly change the rules to give the prize to their "friends". When I challenged the way I was being treated, I was labelled a troule maker. If I had appointments with clients, the branch manager would be walking up and down the branch yelling "Where's (name)!". I would be in another office doing a mutual fund deal and the shared office calendar would reflect this. The client could hear the commotion, it was so degrading. I hope these people get their karma soon.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there any research on these issues? I am a doctoral candidate and would like to follow these issues in order to build upon them.

7:04 PM  

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