Friday, January 09, 2009

Fighting False Documentation

I’ve seen my fair share of false and malicious workplace statements--especially false statements from coworkers. For instance, I’ve read statements written by members of management that were signed by the coworkers of a person being targeted for harassment or retaliation by an employer. The collusion being engaged in by management and the employees would always end up being far reaching with all parties willing to swear on a stack of Bibles that the statements were true and were provided without any amount of pressure from the company.

Yet, behind the scenes, money often changed hands. I’m not talking about hundred dollar bills literally being passed from hand to hand under a conference room table. But, I am talking about special increases, unprecedented and unjustified bonuses, significant and unjustified yearly salary increases, awards, promotions/title changes, and unprecedented market reviews (salary comparisons) that resulted in certain employees (those making false statements) being found to be paid less than the market dictated--and, thus, getting salary bumps.

You’d be surprised how many coworkers are willing to put themselves in the middle of illegal corporate misconduct in order to assist an employer in taking down an innocent employee. I guess that’s one way to show loyalty to the boss and one way to get your hands on money you haven’t earned through your work performance.

In addition to false statements by coworkers, I’ve also read false statements written by employers about an employee. In some cases the false statements were written about my Black coworkers and in other cases the false statements were written about me. I’ve noticed many similarities, when White employers decide to falsely target Black employees. Much of what is written about Black employees, when it comes to false documentation, falls into stereotyping the employee, character assassination and personality attacks, and an overreliance on blanket statements that have no supporting documentation or other evidence to back up the claims. For instance:

-- A Black employee may be labeled as a behavior problem that falls into stereotypes of African Americans (e.g., being angry, defensive or unprofessional);
-- A Black employee may be labeled as having communication issues (e.g. being rude, negative, argumentative, hypersensitive, etc.);
-- A Black employee may be labeled as insubordinate;
-- A Black employee may be labeled as being disliked by a number of people or many people in their office, department, team, at the company, etc.; and/or
-- A Black employee may be accused of problems they didn’t directly cause or of performance deficiencies that do not exist.

Sometimes people really need to be written up and sometimes the write up is just a load of bullsh*t!

When it comes to race and racism in the workplace, many Black employees may find themselves falsely documented for any variety of reasons. Regardless of the reason for being documented by a supervisor, manager, coworker or the company—as a whole—I’d like to provide you with these tips. When it comes to reading and addressing a false written statements:

1. Always be as anal as you possibly can, when reading the statement. Analyze every word that is written. If you have been provided with a false statement, you should remember that great care has gone into preparing the document. Each word was chosen for a reason—on a conscious or subconscious level.

2. Analyze the wording in the documentation and attack, wherever you see an opening. For example, if someone writes that you “appeared” to be angry or you were “perceived” to be argumentative, demand clarification. How exactly did you appear to be angry? The perception of anger is subjective, could be seen differently on a cultural level, etc. Similarly, you should find out what made the person label you as argumentative. How did the individual define that? The person writing the documentation should specifically outline how you supposedly manifested your anger or what specific behavior demonstrated that you were being argumentative or difficult.

3. Always use direct quotes from the false statement in your response and follow the direct quotes with a hard-hitting response that shows the quote to be false. You want to attack the credibility of the person writing the statement. One of the best ways to do that is to attack their basic believability by showing their words can’t be trusted, that they are careless with their words and judgments, and that they will commit things to writing that can’t be substantiated in fact.

4. Do not allow blank statements to go without response! Ask for specifics about questionable or vague accusations—in writing. Make the individual commit to details. Always keep in mind that asking questions often forces people (even very educated people) to commit to telling even more lies. The more lies they tell, the harder it is to continue to keep the story straight. Therefore, it could become easier to refute their claims about you because they’ve strayed from their initial talking points and lies.

5. Provide written evidence that contradicts the false claims in the statement. For instance, if you’re accused of being disliked by coworkers, produce emails from coworkers thanking you for being pleasant to work with and a great team player. If you are being falsely blamed for problems on a project, even though you followed the instructions you were given, provide a copy of the instructions and show how you adhered to those procedures.

6. Point out anyone referenced in the statement, who has an axe to grind or is in some other way falsely accusing you of performance issues. Provide specifics that refute what this person is saying about you.

7. Prepare a response that refutes the false statement against you line-by-line. It is much more powerful to attack your attacker following their warped logic and lies. This also allows a third party to essentially hold the two pieces of documentation (the false statement and your response) side-by-by and to make a judgment on the credibility of the arguments.

8. If you haven’t already done so, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING from the moment you realize you’ve become a target. If someone is willing to put lies to paper and to place an employer at risk, by engaging in illegal behavior, they will likely not let up until they succeed at their goal (forcing you to resign, getting you fired or demoted, etc.) Once it’s been established that you are a target, start thinking of covering your butt and saving all the evidence you need to seek an internal or external remedy to your problems.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a victim and currently still fighting the race and retaliation factors from my former job. They've pulled every illegal underhanded trick to fire me including the false documentations. Black folk need to be educated in areas like this in order to protect their jobs and themselves. This crime is on the rise. I've received the right to sue from the eeoc and will win in court. To bad my former job was deceived by my flesh.

1:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is very ironic, I'm an individual that spoke out amongst a group of "timid" indiviudals in a major corporation about wrong doing as well as inadequecies. And yet from the corporation that "symbolizes" the good of humankind the individuals that only speak amongst themselves are still in employment. Your document (as well as others I've read) has given me an eye opening experience. Thank you1

8:09 PM  

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