Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Stay Focused and Remain Credible

Most people, who’ve become a target at work, can tell some real horror stories about how far a supervisor, executive or a company—as a whole—was willing to go in order to deny them a promotion, set them up for termination, etc.

They can also tell you stories about how bold many workers at a company are and how they often eagerly participate in activities with a supervisor or on behalf of the company. The level of complicity is staggering, when it comes to the networks that are built with the sole purpose of getting rid of an employee, trying to get the company out of legal jeopardy, etc.

I worked at a company that was found guilty of retaliating against a Black manager. The company was found guilty of illegal behavior that included creating false documentation (e.g., falsifying timesheets in a malicious attempt to show the manager had been absent without official leave). This employer also went as far as creating documentation of fabricated and malicious performance deficiencies that did not exist. All of this false documentation served the sole purpose of trying to create a pretext (read: a legitimate reason) for why supervisors, HR staff, and others were targeting this Black manager. Luckily, it didn’t work.

But, sometimes it does.

Regardless of whatever kind of shady activities any coworker, supervisor, manager, director, executive, etc. is engaging in at work, it’s up to you to maintain the high road by remaining truthful about your situation on the job.

Let the liars lie. Let the schemers scheme. You can’t control anyone, but yourself. So, when people are lying on you and scheming against you, your best bet is to be very observant, to keep your ears open, and to document everything.

Here’s the deal. Any internal or external investigator or an attorney is going to try to get to the truth of what has taken place at a company. Part of finding the truth will include phone interviews, face-to-face interviews, discussions with witnesses, an examination of evidence (charts, instructions, emails, memos, etc.) and other factors. When everything is said and done, someone will be determined to be truthful and someone’s allegations will be found to be without merit.

Don’t let that person be you!

When people are lying about you and destroying your reputation and career at work, it is tempting to try to hit back at them as hard as they are coming at you. But, you can’t sink to the level of dirty water. Think about it…

Unless you are working at some little rinky-dink company, your employer is likely going to have a lot of manpower and other resources to commit to bringing you down, slandering your reputation, setting you up for failure to justify negative employment actions (including termination), and to pretty much do whatever is ordered by those in authority.

You don’t and won’t have those kinds of resources and support. So, the best thing you can do is to be aware of your rights, to document everything, to keep lists of witnesses to back up your story, to tape record conversations, to save important emails, memos, instructions, offensive phone messages, etc. as a way to prove that you are being subjected to illegal mistreatment.

Never submit to the temptation to stretch the truth or outright lie. One fabrication revealed by a 3rd party (investigator or attorney) will shatter your credibility and make you look like a flat out liar and troublemaker. Lies can turn the case in favor of your employer, who might have been found guilty of misconduct...if you’d stuck to the facts!

It’s hard enough to get people to believe race-based complaints. So, do not give your employer ammunition and don’t set yourself up to be disbelieved based on a white lie or a major lie. Instead, focus on revealing the lies being told by a coworker, supervisor or anyone else at your job, who is engaging in a cover-up or who is targeting you solely based on your race. Put your energy into refuting your employer’s claims that nothing happened or that your performance, attitude or behaviors somehow justified negative employment actions.

Also, remember that, when it comes to race, there are some White people who will give another White person the benefit of the doubt, even in the face of serious evidence of race-based misconduct. There are also some Black people, who do not believe that racism exists--except in the minds of race-baiting Blacks, who they think like to be vicitms. You don't know who you will encounter and what perspective they are bringing to the table.

Assuming a 3rd party investigating your complaint is not the most open-minded person on the planet, your job is to make it hard for that person to ignore the facts and to ignore the truth of what has happened at your job. If a 3rd party says that they have found no evidence of race-based discrimination or harassment, you can file an appeal (usually for an internal or external investigation). During the appeal, it may be revelaed that errors or biases wrongly impacted the findings in your case. But, again, your truthfulness will go a long way to showing your case has merit.

Remember: Keep your eyes on the prize. Stay strong. And, speak truth to power!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was curious on how someone could appeal a Fair Employment and Housing decision if they do not agree with that agency's findings. Is the "right to sue" route the only option or can someone appeal within the agency?

6:05 AM  
Blogger S. Mary Wills said...

I've worked with the Office of Human Rights. If these agencies operate in a similar manner, you usually would have 30 days to appeal the decision directly to the agency because you have a right to disagree with their determination. That appeal would be dictated by whatever procedures have been established. The appeals process (timing, how to request, people involved, etc.) should be outlined in the findings/determination. They have to tell you how to appeal.

One other thing, you can't submit any new evidence or witnesses during an appeal. They will be looking more at if procedures were followed, etc.

They are not going to do the investigation over from scratch.

If you decide not to appeal through the agency or if you missed the deadline to appeal, you should be able to go the right-to-sue route. That also has a time factor involved. So, you would need to get moving.

11:15 AM  

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