Question: I am the Director of Community Education for a non-profit organization. I love my work and am very dedicated to it.
Last week I left a meeting without telling anyone why I was leaving. The next day my boss sent an email to all staff, and even to program funders, stating that I resigned. That is 100% untrue. In fact, our meetings are always recorded, and the recording of that meeting can prove I did not resign.
When I saw the email, I went into my boss’s office, and sat down and discussed what happened. He asked me to go home for a few days while he thought about it. What are my rights? Should I ask for a severance package? Can I sue my boss? I don’t know what to do.
Bronx, New York
Answer: It sure looks a lot like your boss is trying to get you to leave the agency, one way or the other, and has even resorted to dishonesty to do so. That’s a real problem, and a problem that requires you take certain steps to stop him, and take them as soon as possible. If you do not take action, you will probably be out of a job, probably denied unemployment insurance, and probably without any chance for severance, either. OUCH!!!
(1) First and foremost, you need to take a clear, firm stand – in writing – that “I did not resign.” Right now, your boss has told people you have resigned. I would strongly urge you to send an email to your boss in which you clearly and calmly write, in your own words, “I want to make it totally clear that I have never resigned, and any statement by anyone that I did so is either mistaken and/or false. I am still on the job, have no intention of resigning, and plan to remain on the job.” If I were you, I would send that email to everyone your boss sent his email, and perhaps others, too, such as the non-profit’s Board of Directors.
(2) Second, you need to get yourself back to the job, as soon as possible. By staying at home, you are allowing your boss to say to people either “You see, just like I said, she resigned,” or “She has abandoned her job, which is a kind of resigning.” Action speaks louder than words; make your actions say, “Here I am, and I’m doing my work.”
(3) Third, since your boss seems almost desperate to remove you from the agency, I suggest that you need to do your best to get him, and perhaps the Board of Directors, into an open and honest discussion of your status at the agency. If there is a personality clash, get it resolved as best as possible. If there is some thought that you are not doing a good job, get that resolved, as well. Find out what the apparent problem is, and try to resolve it, if you can. Otherwise, your boss is surely not your friend, and he will probably sooner or later get his way.
Just do yourself this one favor: don’t walk out of any more meetings. That will only give your boss another opportunity to hurt you.
Maybe a transfer to a different boss would be a good idea. Maybe an understanding that you will look for a new job elsewhere – and have a year to find one – would be a good idea. It may be that this is not the best place for you. If so, perhaps a severance package is the best course of action for everyone.
What the best result is for you, I’m not sure. But I am sure that the current situation is not good for you AT ALL. You need to get back to work, dispel the false notion that you resigned, and start a productive conversation on alternative courses of action that are better for you.
Get going, as there is little time to waste. My very best to you.
Best, Al Sklover
© 2009 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.