Question: I have a personality clash with my boss that is affecting my performance and, I fear, could get me fired. My boss assigned me a project I did not know how to do; when I asked a more senior staff member for help, I was told that I had been asked to do my boss’s job. The other staff member mentioned this to my boss’s boss, and my boss was chided for it.
Since then, to my boss I have been persona non grata. My boss has called me “stupid,” “presumptuous,” and “a bitch.” I was accused of being almost two hours late to work on a day I was actually on time. I had to prove I was on time.
Afraid for my job, I asked HR for help. In the meeting with HR and my boss, my boss called me “childish, “stuck up,” and “retarded.” Right after that, my boss violated company confidentiality policy by telling at least three other people what happened in the meeting, loud enough so I could hear it.
I am afraid to apply for any other positions in the company, because I am sure he will defame my character to the hiring managers. I have been told by HR that I am not allowed to talk about this to other employees.
What can I do?
San Mateo County, California
Answer: Your boss sure is a “piece of work!”
First, it seems from your letter that you have been reporting what has happened “using your lips,” and by that I mean “with the spoken word.” You are strongly advised that in any report of any importance, especially of things like this, you must make reports “using your fingers,” and by that I mean “by the written word,” namely email. Email makes a precise record of what you reported, who you reported it to, and when you reported it. I am concerned that the HR representative may have a different recollection of what you reported, and what happened in the meeting with your boss, and other things, too. Worse, your HR representative may claim to have no recollection at all.
Second, in making your written, email report, I suggest you raise the following issues:
a. Apparent Violations of Law: Your boss appears to have clearly violated California and federal laws regarding gender discrimination and hostility. Calling you “a bitch” is clear proof of that. It shows your gender was on his mind, and that he has hostile feelings toward women. I hope you have witnesses to that.
b. Apparent Violations of Company Policy: Your boss appears to have openly and brazenly violated company policy regarding confidentiality. It is also probably a violation of company policy to have you do your boss’s work.
c. Apparent Attempt to Interfere with Your Work: The hostility you are facing is hurting you, and your performance. Your boss is apparently trying to get you to quit, or to make up a reason to fire you, clearly against company interests.
d. Apparent Fraudulent Conduct: From what you have written, it seems your boss has intentionally made misstatements about your conduct, especially about your being late, which in many companies is good reason for firing. That is fraudulent.
e. Apparent Defamation: Defamation is saying or writing false, damaging things about a person. When your boss told people you are “retarded,” “stupid,” “incompetent” and “lazy,” he surely did that to you.
f. Apparent Attempt to Hurt Your Health: Though you have not mentioned health problems – yet – if you have not yet suffered sleeplessness, digestive disorders, back problems, anxiety, or other physical manifestations, they will likely soon arrive. Conduct intended to harm another physically is so fundamentally, and morally, wrong.
I suggest you place these thoughts into writing (email and/or Fedex) and forward them to the company’s Head of HR and the CEO. I suggest you insist on (a) an immediate separation of you from your boss by means of a re-assignment; (b) an immediate, independent investigation by an outside investigator; and (c) any and all steps to make sure this never happens again, to you or to anyone else, by your boss or any other boss.
If you would like to obtain a Model memo to help you report Discrimination, Harassment or Hostility [click here].
Surely, there’s something wrong with the company’s leadership; they have to be made aware.
Might this harm your chances of transferring, or even keeping your job. Possibly, but I think not. You might end your letter with something like “I have already been mistreated; I hope that you will not take this opportunity to now retaliate against me for reporting this, for that would only compound the problem.”
No one should be so mistreated. But the law, experience, and common sense all teach us one thing: unless you stand up for yourself, in an effective way, the “bullies and bigots” of the world will prevail. In your case, that would be a terrible shame.
My thoughts and prayers are with you that you will have the courage to stand up. I truly believe that what I’ve set out above is the most effective way to do just that.
Good luck. Stand tall. Have courage. You can do it.
Best, Al Sklover
© 2009 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.