I work for a subsidiary of a company headquartered in Seattle. I do a good job but fear I’ll be fired. Our office manager is a vindictive queen bee. When she’s is angry at an employee, she starts slamming doors, bad-mouthing them to other employees and finding ways to make their work lives miserable. Then, she fires them.
When the last three fired employees tried to get unemployment benefits, they had to wait several weeks for the benefits to start because she allegedly fired them “for cause.” The reasons given, “workplace disruption” and “significant problem team behavior,” looked serious but were made up.
Two months ago, she turned her wrath on me. The problem started when she took one of my reports and uploaded it to our corporate office as hers. I found out because she’d made a mistake in the report and when they sent it back, it wound up on my desk. I fixed and re-uploaded it, but under my name. Since then, it’s been hellish.
Things are about to get worse. Next week, she gives me a performance appraisal, her weapon to psychologically vilify employees. I’m afraid that if I say anything after that, she’ll be able to tell corporate I’m just a disgruntled employee. If she then fires me, I’ll not have a leg to stand on, given a horrible performance review.
Do I have any recourse?
Yes, and first decide what you want.
Do you want your office manager to realize you’re not an easy target and squash any plan she may have to craft a distorted performance review? Do you want to stay employed with your current company but blow the whistle on your manager? Or, given this manager’s predatory patterns, do you want to leave your company but escape with your reputation intact?
If you want to curb your office manager’s belief that she can write anything she wants on your performance review, meet with her and bring the situation out into the open. You can say, “I think our work relationship took a funny turn when I uploaded my document. What are your thoughts?”
By doing so, you let her know you’re comfortable tackling the situation head-on. Then, tie the two issues together. Tell her you’re looking forward to your performance review, to hearing her thoughts and to sharing your own.
If she unfairly trashes you in the review, write a rebuttal. According to employment attorney Thomas Owens III: “Employees who differ strongly with performance assessments should always feel free to submit a written rebuttal that professionally and in a fact-intensive manner corrects inaccuracies. The rebuttal should be presented to HR for inclusion with the review in the personnel file.”
If you decide to blow the whistle, bring the full situation forward to your corporate HR officer and/or the most senior corporate manager you can access. By full, I mean provide concrete evidence documenting your solid work performance, the recent incident and what’s happened to the three former employees.
Says Owens, “Employers in Alaska have an obligation to treat employees fairly and in good faith. An employee who feels unfairly targeted by a supervisor needs to be the best employee she can possibly be and open up a separate candid dialogue within the organization, preferably with HR. The company cannot act on what it does not know about. It is (or should be) HR’s mission to get to the bottom of such concerns.”
If you want to leave this organization with your reputation intact, and you learn you’re being trashed, visit a good employment attorney, armed with the facts. Your attorney can write a letter to corporate, securing a positive reference letter and a guarantee your office manager stops giving her spin to prospective employers.
Do you have recourse? Of course.
©Dr. Lynne Curry is author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” and “Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc.Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at http://www.bullywhisperer.com.