What To Do When defamed?
My subordinate defames and slanders me. My boss falsely accuses me of framing him and sabotaging him. He yells and screams at me and undermines my integrity at work in front of my colleagues. I reported this to his superior hoping that the situation will return to the simple "good work rewarded" "bad work punished". He said he will do "something", but it has been months and things are not better. What else can I do?
Reported Not Better
Dear Reported Not Better:
If I understand you, you are in the middle between a subordinate and a boss, being hit from below and above. Defamation and screaming are far from professional and they certainly create a hostile work environment. What can you do in addition to reporting up the line after months and things are not better? The steps proposed below are no quick or sure fix, but are for your consideration:
Reflect. Recall to the best of you ability what provoked the incidents of defamation and accusation. Don’t absolve your self of your words and action that led up to them.
Document. List incidents of defamation and slander by your subordinate--the context as to what prompted them, their dates, who and what was said, as much as possible in the exact language and witnesses. Also describe your boss’ accusations and yelling/screaming and specific language used in front of colleagues. Make several copies and store them in at least two safe places until they are needed.
Request an investigation. Put in writing a brief request for an investigation that includes the dates you reported these matters to your boss and to his boss. In that written request to the appropriate authorities, probably your Manager of Human Resources, state your commitment to good management and your philosophy of "good work rewarded" "bad work punished". Don’t place blame. Simply state the kind of collaborative working relationships to which you are committed. Request a meeting to document the incidents that have prompted your request for an investigation. Get advice on what you should and should not do. Involve those who investigate in a course of action.
Think big. See the beyond the annoyances that prompt your email to Ask The Workplace Doctors. If you could manage your workplace, what would you like to do to cut waste: wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted effort, wasted money? How would you like to better serve customers, both internal and external? In addition to making your place profitable what might your work organization do to do good for your community? Think through how you might be viewed as a coach and not an adversary to your subordinates. Your philosophy "good work rewarded" "bad work punished" comes across as sensible, yet might be more boss than coach. I could be wrong about this. Does that philosophy spring from frustration of not getting done what you assign? Might there be a way to create a team-we’re-in-this-together rather than I am boss, you are bossed relationship?
Follow Up. You reported your problem. You by-passed your boss to his boss. That circle of communication is incomplete. Your boss’ boss has not reported back to you. You need to set expectations—in two or three weeks to learn what is being done.
Think through these several suggestions. If you like, after several weeks update how this all is being resolved. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that is what you really want to make happen.
Follow Up:wow. thanks for your very insightful and helpful response. could i get your advice as i elaborate ?
- the subordinate who defames and slanders
i had invested much time and energy in her to build her up professionally and personally. it went well at first but after confirmation , she was unable to perform. i had helped her cover her work on many occasions. she was also insubordinate as bluntly refused several simple works i had instructed. my patience wore thin and i had given her a not so good appraisal hoping she would understand her weakness and try to improve. had also sent an email seeking her to explain her reason on several instances she had been insubordinate hoping this would "nip it in the bud". she sent in her resignation and started defaming and slandering me thereafter. now she has left the company the tension in the air has eased several notches but i can't help wondering could i have done anything differently...better perhaps?
-the boss who falsely blames and accuses
* the screaming :- he had always been bad tempered. but i guess what turns him of is when i give my opinion or disagrees . than he would shout and scream. but when i just say yes to everything, than he ask me to give my opinion. Arggh! other times i can't recall any trigger. perhaps i unwittingly interrupted his train of thought or that he is just having a bad day. or that he finds me an easy target to bully and dump all his rage upon. tried everything i could think of. nothing worked.wonder could i have ended the circle of verbal abuse in a better way ?
* the blaming:- at several crunch points he would somehow point his finger at me even when it is clearly not my fault. think it is due to diffences in expectation. through the years 2 worst times where because of two other executive (who reports to another colleague but i give technical guidance on their work) screws up and he blames me fully for it! 1 more time was when this slandering subordinate resigned. he blamed me too. guess i still fail to read my boss well enough. perhaps i should clarify and re-clarify my roles and his expectations with him (or any boss)?
* the false accusations of me framing and sabotaging
this is the one i am clueless on the point of origin. i suspect is the slandering subordinate because before this my relationship with my boss was still not at this critical stage. how would one defend oneself when the boss clearly just listens to one side of the story and turn the deaf ear when i try to explain??!!
2. documentation & 3. Request an investigation.
regarding boss didn't really go to this stage (reason under item 5). as for the problem subordinate did document the below par work . but after her lies my boss had taken her from me and she report to him. however, when she submit works he will still pass to me to check. after i comment he will always say i find fault. but what was i suppose to do? turn a blind eye to the clearly inaccurate work? after her resignation she left a mess of back log and half done work. didn't hand over properly to boss even though big boss did specify before that she should finish her work and hand over to boss. boss have been trying to get me to take over all the mess . big boss instructed that i do not need to take over but boss to settle with my new subordinate (the problem subordinate's replacement). feel really unjust as boss was so protective of the problem subordinate. me and my team had been doing almost 90% of her work since she tendered 3 months ago and now apparently she did not even complete her 10% when she was reporting direct to boss. wonder could i have done anything else to avoid this?
4. think big
yes, what you said really spoke to me: quote"Your philosophy "good work rewarded" "bad work punished" comes across as sensible, yet might be more boss than coach." you are correct. guess i was just too disappointed about how my sincerity all were used against me with my slandering subordinate and boss that i had build a wall against all other subordinates. including colleagues too. find it hard to trust anyone now. it is unhealthy but how is one to balance between self preservation and protection vs being "real" and being able to positively impact in the workplace?
i tried arranging a 3 way met-up with boss and his superior in hope to better the situation but boss turned it down. boss's boss announced during a meeting that boss is on transfer to HQ . that a new person will take over boss position here. that came as a shock to all of us.
oh ya i did not mention earlier, in the mist of all the politics i had tendered my resignation. i loved my job and team but the situation had managed to corrode my enthusiasm and cause depression. boss asked me to stay. but i told him i hope he respect my decision. boss's boss asked me to stay. he gave me time to reconsider. nothing happened so i did not withdraw. until the announcement of boss departure. now i am confused is it wise to send in a letter retracting my resignation? even though soon boss will no longer have authority over me he will still be n the same company. what if he continues to defame and slander me in HQ? will the company still trust an employee after tendering? or use my expertise for the time being but they secretly train up my replacement?is there a stature of limitation? it has been more than slightly more than 2 months since i tendered. yet with this new development am tempted to just stay. if you were in my shoes would you stay or leave?
Reply to Follow Up: I have not edited your follow up. Its stream of thought details do indeed support your signature "Confused". Almost always there is an untold history to questions we receive. Your follow up elaboration illustrates that. Rather than attempt to unravel the many details you provide describing the unhappy and stressful interaction that led to your letter of resignation, I am responding to the question you pose in your final paragraph: “if you were in my shoes would you stay or leave?”
You have listed the pros and cons to this important question. Its answer hinges on the large measure of distrust you have for your boss and the influence he will have at HQ resulting from the extended conflict between you and him over your handing of the subordinate. You can’t trust if you retract your resignation and help straighten out the mess left by the subordinate that you would not be used to train your replacement. Yet if that risk were not present, you would see if you could renounce your resignation because you acknowledge that you love your job and team.
From here, it appears you have thoroughly analyzed the politics and unfinished business that impact an answer to the “if you were in my shoes” question. The fact is that no one who is not in your shoes can answer this question as well as you; however, what’s left before you is that you know the pros and cons and therefore you’re faced with the question of what have you really got to lose? I know of individuals who survive difficult “outs” with their boss and organization and some of them after a time even thrive—that is they get promoted. You strike me as a competent in-fighter. You were asked to stay and resigned. Yet can your retract and will that be accepted? I don’t know, but I predict, if you approach this professionally, in light of the prospect of a new boss, that you will be reclaimed as a valued employee.
For now, I hope you don’t drive your self nuts with a “should I or should I not” mental battle. Probably, there is no perfect answer to your question and what ever you decide will also have its pros and cons. So while deciding, do also keep balanced by finding joy in activities outside of your job.