Don't Question Me!
A few years ago, a White coworker misread an email I sent and stormed into my office accusing me of circumventing her authority. She was sweaty and red-faced and DEAD WRONG. But, she carried on and on accusing me of embarrassing her and challenging her authority, etc. I let her ramble on, looking at her like the idiot she was. Then, I asked her if she read the email from the bottom/last email to the top. She had not. I asked her to go back to her office to do so. But, before she left, I let her know that she just wasn’t that important to me. Yes, if she wanted to engage in a conversation about authority she didn’t have (she wasn’t a manager or even my manager), then we had to get real. I told her point blank that she was not that important to me and that I did not work on Falcon Crest or on some other nighttime soap opera. I asked her not to project her behavior onto me. I told her that I did not conduct myself in that manner.
She went back and read the email and came back to my office—red-faced—to apologize. I told her, “It’s just not that serious. I don’t have time for games like that.” Again, she wasn’t even a manager and she wasn’t my manager. Yet, she saw something in the email that falsely led her to believe that I was trying to do her job or was questioning her or whatever her dumb mind came up with. And, she became enraged.
I think she was upset by who she perceived to be challenging her, more than by the perceived challenged. She had 4 Master's degrees, which she always bragged about. And, she dind't appreciate this younger Black woman, who was junior to her, actually having the knowledge to participate effectively in an email exchange with members of the contracts office. She didn't know who I thought I was. Yes, she might not have liked anyone challenging her. But, my race escalated her emotional response. How do I know? My feelings were confirmed, when she later admitted to being raised by Mormons that disliked Black people! So, I know race was an issue in her upbringing. And, I was a member of the race that was disparaged in her household. I can't make this stuff up, folks!
So, imagine how some managers will respond to Blacks that are legitimately questioning their authority, language, policies, actions, etc. That brings us to requesting an investigation of a racist supervisor, manager, etc.
If you are requesting an investigation of a supervisor or manager or anyone in a true position of authority over you, you should request the investigation through Human Resources. Period! Don’t go to that person to give them a heads up out of respect, fear, etc.
Legally, you have a right to skip the chain-of-command, if the perpetrator is part of your chain-of-command and has violated your workplace rights. Therefore, I would recommend that you bypass your supervisor or manager, as they are the harassing party in your complaint. Human Resources will notify your supervisor or manger of the investigation, which is the appropriate way for the process to work.
If you are filing a complaint against your supervisor, be sure to present an evidence list and a witness list. Remember, your employer is more likely to immediately believe a supervisor over a worker. So, the burden of proof is on you! You have to show that misconduct has taken place. Your evidence list should contain a quick summary of documents, charts, instructions, nasty/offensive emails, etc. that can help prove your case.
The witness list should contain the name, title, and other information related to anyone who witnessed harassment, bullying, etc. By submitting evidence, instead of just making accusations, you will help your company take your complaint and request for an investigation more seriously because your evidence will demonstrate that you can prove the allegations are true. Don’t forget…the scariest kind of proof, for any company, is evidence that is explosive (e.g., written documentation, such as emails) and evidence that can be presented by a witness.
Having witnesses correlates to having someone who will be able to provide testimony, on your behalf, regarding the incident. This person can provide testimony not just for an in-house investigation, but for a legal trial, if things get to that point.
When submitting evidence, it’s important to be strategic. Don’t ever give anyone in Human Resources and/or corporate management everything you have to prove your case! You may need to hit your supervisor or employer hard—at a later time. Don’t tip your hand too soon. Present compelling evidence, but always hold out. This will stop your employer from being able to create false documentation, administrative forms, etc. that appear to counter your legitimate evidence.
Don’t sell your employer short. If the company is desperate to disprove a case or thinks it is in legal jeopardy based on employee claims of discrimination, etc., your employer may engage in manipulating timesheets, creating fraudulent documentation of fabricated performance deficiencies, etc. Don’t help them make up their lies! Hold out some information and use it to box them into a corner, to prove future lies, etc.