Question: I feel I have been experiencing an ongoing series of persecution and verbal harassment by my boss. When I have filed complaints, Human Resources only seems to look at my performance, and never deals with the substance of my complaints.

At the last meeting I had with my boss and Human Resources, they made me sign a summary of their “expectations.” Before the meeting started, I asked them if I could record the conversation on my telephone, and they agreed.

They didn’t ask for a copy of the recording at the time, but now they are demanding I give them a copy of it. I don’t think there is anything incriminating on it for either side. Am I required to give them a copy of that recording? 

Scott 
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Answer: Dear Scott:

Bottom line is this: you are required to give them a copy of the recording, if you wish to keep your job.

a. As a general rule, an employee must comply with reasonable work-related requests made by his or her boss. Whether or not the recording of the meeting was made with the knowledge of all those whose voices were recorded, it was a recording of a work-related meeting, and contained the voices of your boss and Human Resources manager. As such, I think their request – for a copy of the recording – would seem to be a reasonable request or, at the least, not an unreasonable one. 

b. Failure to comply with a reasonable work-related request could be considered “insubordination,” and thus, grounds for being fired. Unless some good reason exists not to comply with a reasonable work-related request of your boss, an employee can be fired for non-compliance. If, for example, the recording got mixed together with a confidential conversation you had with a priest, or an attorney, you could withhold it on those grounds. However, the facts you presented in your question do not present such a good reason not to comply.

c. Most importantly, there’s no reason not to comply. You have noted, yourself, that no good reason exists to withhold from Human Resources and your boss a copy of the recording. When there’s nothing to lose in complying with the request, well, there’s nothing to gain from refusing the request. Don’t give HR and your boss a reason to focus on your behavior – that’s the problem you’ve been facing all along. 

d. Diversionary disputes are a common workplace negotiating tactic. I see the demand that you hand over a copy of the recording to be just one more instance of Human Resources’ refusing to focus on your complaints, and instead making your behavior “the issue.” Don’t let that happen. Put your complaints – in detail – into writing, and consider sending it in an email to both the Head of HR and the CEO. It’s important to “choose your battles.” Take a stand where there’s a reason to do so. Don’t get into arguments you can only lose. Don’t let them make you lose focus on your issue – your boss’s conduct toward you.

We offer a Model Letter to assist you in filing a Complaint of Discrimination, Harassment, Hostility to Human Resources. If you’re interested [click here].

Keep focus, and don’t lose sight of what’s important to you. And keep your spirit up, as well. 

Best to you,
Al Sklover

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