Accused By Manager Of Lying

Question:

My manager accused me of being a liar in an email sent to her superior and that I pose a risk to the clinic. I am a physician in a VA clinic and my office manager works in a remote location. There used to be three doctors in our clinic and one quit recently. That left me scrambling to cover for the work of the one who left. Three and a half months passed by before a replacement came. During those difficult months that I was struggling, I acknowledge that I may have missed details in my work.

My manager wrote the email to her boss accusing me of lying (pretending not to know that I have to do the Compliance Certificate); plus she enumerated several more incidences in the past, for which I am checking to learn if those things are a direct result of my work. This email has devastated and demoralized me. What should I do? I am contemplating filing a complaint to the HR of the main office for the “lie” and “risk” word that my manager wrote in the email.

Signed,

Discouraged Doc


Answer:

Dear Discouraged Doc:

My wife works at a VA Clinic; therefore, I asked her to learn what is the definition of Compliance Certificate and to also consult there as to if my advice below needs modification. She did that but no one there knows what such a document is. Possibly my advice would be different if you will send me its definition. However, rather than wait for that I am sending my advice for your consideration as follows:

The VA needs you. You know your work is important and that it took too long to replace the doctor who quit. Unfortunately, your mission to doctor those in need is made more difficult by red tape, such as the Compliance Certificate, of which you were uninformed, and now you are distracted from doctoring because you must protest an accusation of wrongdoing. To be called a liar and a “risk” to your clinic is serious. So you have not just been an overworked doc covering for the doctor who left your clinic, you also are distressed and discouraged. Your good reputation has been hurt. I gather, therefore, you are you worried that your Office Manager (at the remote location) and her manager now have you in their site for discipline and/or firing. You ask what should you do and should file a complaint with HR?

Obviously you must respond and are trying to do so. What should that entail? You can check that out with Human Resources. Undoubtedly there is VA protocol for how this should be done. But likely your response should be to your Office Manager and her superior, both orally and in writing, and also to HR. Prepare a statement, similar to what you wrote us; that statement probably should: 1. Affirm you are committed to your work; to doctoring veterans and that you are dismayed at being accused of lying and of being a “risk” to the clinic. 2. Acknowledge the importance of attending to detail, such as the Certificate of Compliance, and restate you would have complied if you had known and you will comply with that now that you do. Restate you did not lie; you simply didn’t know that was one of your responsibilities. 3. Say you understand that your Office Manager is doing her job to see that such requirements are met, but you are distressed that she has interpreted your explanation as a lie rather than to lack of knowledge about doing the Certificate of Compliance. 4. Also state that if you are at fault for omission or mistakes regarding other requirements that you will endeavor to follow them. Stress alleged fault in your work is not lack of commitment, but rests in inadequate training. In most instances, blaming an individual for not doing his/her job and all the requirements that go with it, should not be attributed to carelessness. Rather the blame placed by your Office Manager should be understood as due both to overload (such as expecting two doctors to do the work of three for three and a half months after one doctor left) and to inadequate training. It is a mistake to blame individuals for mistakes when there is lack of training or it is ineffective. Doing that insults and hurts employee morale. 5. State that if the accusation of lying and being a “risk” are not withdrawn, that you request a thorough investigation of the matter. 6. Finally, state that you want to have supportive two-way communication with your Office Manager and to make her job easier. Ask for her advice and coaching to make your clinic one of which she can take pride in its service to veterans.

Too often, blame of an individual is really to blame the system for failure to provide training, clear job requirements, and supportive communication. How do you want this matter to be resolved? I suggest that you want to be able to do your doctoring effectively and to have the kind of office help that facilitates it. Clear and frequent communication is requisite for good doctoring. It is then that you, your coworkers, and boss can say: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Is that not what your want for your clinic?

William Gorden