Save Your Career From a Vindictive Manager’s Targeting: Here’s How

Question:

I work for a subsidiary of a company headquartered in New York. I do a good job, but fear I’ll be fired. Our branch manager is a vindictive queen bee and a bully. When she’s angry at an employee, she slams doors, bad-mouths her targets to others and finds ways to make their work lives miserable. Then she fires them.

When the last three terminated employees tried to get unemployment benefits, they had to wait several weeks for the benefits to start because she claimed she 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 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 be out of luck, given a horrible performance review.

Do I have any recourse?

Answer:

You have recourse. First, decide the outcome you want.

Do you want the branch manager to realize you’re not an easy target and squash her plans for crafting a distorted performance review?

Do you want to remain with your current company but blow the whistle on the branch manager?

Or, given this manager’s predatory patterns, do you want to leave your company but escape with your reputation intact?

Establish that you’re not easy prey

If you want to curb your branch manager’s belief that she can write anything she wants on your performance review, bring the situation out into the open. Arrange a meeting and 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 plan to tackle the situation head-on. As I described in chapter 12 of Beating the Workplace Bully, bullies don’t like to suffer and operate according to a risk/benefit ratio. When you stand up to them, you signal you plan to reverse the risk/benefit ratio and she may back off.

Then tie the two issues together. Let her know you’re looking forward to your performance review, to hearing her thoughts and to sharing your own. In essence, this says “game on” if she plans to go further.

Revealing the truth & blowing the whistle

If she unfairly trashes you in the review, write a fact-intensive rebuttal that corrects the manager’s inaccuracies and present it to HR, asking that it accompany the distorted review in the personnel file.

But don’t stop there. 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, along with what has happened to the three former employees. It is (or should be) HR’s mission to get to the bottom of unfair supervision.  

If HR or senior managers do not believe you, suggest they exit interview the employees who’ve exited in the past year, and give them a detailed chronology showing when she uploaded the report as hers and what’s happened since.

Legal grounds

If you lose your job, you have grounds for a lawsuit. Employers in most states have an obligation to treat employees fairly and in good faith. You can research this by googling the “covenant of good faith and fair dealing”. This means that employees who feel unfairly targeted by a supervisor can challenge the situation.

Reputation intact

If you want to leave this organization with your reputation intact, begin applying for jobs soon, and solicit glowing reference letters from others within your company who you can trust to keep your job search discrete.

If 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 branch manager stops giving her spin to prospective employers.

Do you have recourse? Of course.

© 2020, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016, https://amzn.to/30V5JO6) and “Solutions”, https://amzn.to/2GYlnAN (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com). Send your questions to her at lynnewriter10@gmail.com, visit her @ www.communicationworks.net or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.

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6 thoughts on “Save Your Career From a Vindictive Manager’s Targeting: Here’s How

  1. Wow. This is a great panoply of possible and reasonable responses, approaches, tactics, possible consequences, and advantages and disadvantages. You have lots of courage, and you’re sharing it with the rest of us!

    1. Suz, thank you! I’m thinking about leadership in a pandemic, and thinking that core ingredients are leadership & empathy. You’re prompting me to create a post on that.

  2. I was the unfortunate recipient of a manage workplace bully, in HR! The Vice President of HR was very supportive of this manager so there was really no recourse. I left the organization and have no doubt that this manager would trash me to possible employers if anyone gets in touch with her directly. Their normal practice is to simply verify that I worked there, dates, title.

    1. Hi, Vickie, it’s truly difficult when the bully is a senior manager or an HR manager. If you’d like some options for what to do know, and send me a question in the “ask a coach” section, I’ll be glad to address it. All the very best, Lynne

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