Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"I dare you. Go ahead and write that down!"

-- Everyone says you’re an extremely negative person.

--Everyone says they’d rather not work with you.

--Everyone says you’re snooty.

--Everyone says…(choose your poison)

Have you been on the receiving end of an “Everyone says…” at work?

Well, I have. At my previous job, everyone supposedly said they couldn’t get along with me and I was told that everyone in the company (yes, inside AND outside my department) believed that I was angry and defensive. But, that’s not where things ended. Eventually, when it was clear that every comment being made about me was personality-based and not work-related, which violated company policy, I was suddenly told that “everyone” thought I had a problem managing my time and projects and that “every” task leader I worked with said they never knew what I was working on and that I didn’t complete my assignments on time.

This was only 9 months after receiving a great performance evaluation that said I was “team oriented,” “a joy to work with,” “pleasant,” “provided updates,” etc. Not only did a recent performance review contradict what was being said about me, but it turned out that my employers were forced to make a stunning admission in an external investigation. Yes, even I was shocked when they admitted that “Only one person could be found that stated…”

Why the change of heart? No, they didn’t investigate and realize they made a mistake when accusing me of performance deficiencies. They just straight got caught up in a lie. That’s because I would and I will not let anyone make blanket assertions about me that are completely untrue or that have been exaggerated to forward someone’s personal agenda/vendetta against me.

And, that’s the moral of the story.

Just because some so-called authority at your company (read: your supervisor/manager, director, etc.) proclaims that “everyone” at your job holds a certain negative opinion of you, it doesn’t make the proclamation true.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of what is alleged to be a tag-team accusation, start doing some serious questioning of whoever is making the assertion. You should:

--Find out who is allegedly saying these things about you. Ask for names.

--Even if names are provided, ask for the context of the comments or charges against you. In what situations are you alleged to have behaved inappropriately?

--Ask for those making accusations against you to put those comments in writing! Then, ask to see the written comments. If your employer says they don’t want to break the confidentiality of those mounting the charges against you (assuming they won’t provide you with the names of your accusers), tell them to remove the names from your copy of the accusations. They can simply strike through any names with a black magic marker, which will allow you to see the specific allegations being made about you without revealing the names. Always remember, just because someone is willing to put something in writing doesn’t make it true, although your employer may argue the opposite. People have agendas. I’ve worked with a Black coworker who bragged about making false accusations against her Black manager.

Some may wonder why you want negative comments about you in writing. Well, if you know the accusations are false, you will want to start gathering evidence. This is especially true for repeat accusations and accusations of an egregious nature. Make them write it down.

Everything that isn't documented amounts to he said/she said and will need witnesses to corroborate what happened. It's always dangerous to have to rely on people to tell the truth, when their job is at stake. Even though retaliation is illegal, it doesn't stop everyone from engaging in retaliation. So, to eliminate he said/she said, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING.

You'd be surprised how often accusations go from being major to minor to a miscommunication or misunderstanding (e.g., I misspoke, I didn't mean to say it like that, etc.), when you ask someone to write it down. People don't want stuff to come back to haunt them later. It's one thing for an employer to create false documentation, but it sometimes gives them a bit of a shiver down the spine when you're the one essentially saying "I dare you. Go ahead and write that down." They'll be forced to wonder what you're up to and why you're not afraid of getting a hard copy in your hand. Trust me, stories can change when you decide not to settle for verbal attacks and false allegations.

--Go through all of the allegations and refute them, line-by-line. Professionally attack the lies and half-truths. Be thorough. Anything you don’t address might come back to haunt you later. Do not lie! Just present a factual response.

--Always find out what specific policy(ies) you supposedly violated. If you are being reprimanded with some sort of employment action (demotion, transfer, pay cut, etc.), you should ask for a copy of the written policy that supports the decision. If you are not provided with a copy of the policy, from the current version of the personnel manual (not something your employer throws together), ask for a copy to be given to you—immediately. Ask what criteria were used to decide on the penalty you received. Ask that your employer justify the action—in writing!

--If you feel your punishment was extreme, find out why lesser remedies (oral or written warning, etc.) were not seen as a resolution to the problem.

--If you believe you were the victim of outright lies and an orchestrated campaign to get you in trouble, make an official request for an internal investigation. Provide any evidence you have and identify how any of your accusers are linked. For instance, the person who first reported you is the subordinate of someone you have problems with and that person has close ties to someone else who is making false accusations, etc. Try to tear down the house of cards by pointing out any inconsistencies that you can prove.

Hopefully, if you’ve been having any problems with staff, you’ve been documenting what’s been going on. Compile all of your evidence and use it to clear your name. If not, your case may come down to you say vs. they say. This will likely not come out in your favor, since your employer can argue that “they” have corroboration. They may not have evidence, but they are telling the same story.

Try to find anyone who can support your version of events and get a written statement from them. Think about staff who can write a very glowing character reference for you. Troll through your recent performance reviews for any statements that contradict what’s been said about you. Build a case in your favor. No one will do it for you!


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