Been Suspended For Bullying!

Question:

I am appalled about these allegations and have been suspended from the workplace till a formal investigation has been undertaken. I have been told that this is a serious allegation and that summary dismissal may be an option if I am found guilty. I feel that this allegation is false and is as a result of an extremely dysfunctional staff team. I have long been highlighting issues that I am facing within the team to my manager and nothing has been done. Now I feel the scapegoat for these issues! Please could you advise what I can do?

Signed,

Suspended


Answer:

Dear Suspended:

Your note doesn’t state what evidence you’ve been given that you bully as is cause for your suspension. That isn’t essential for us to know. What is important is that you are suspended and that you have been warned that if found guilty, you might be fired. What can you do? Request that the allegation be put in writing and that proof of it be provided. Until you know that it will be difficult to dispute it. Also compile a list of the specific issues you brought to the attention of your manager and her/his response, if any. Management, Human Resources or whoever is conducting the investigation might be unwilling to do that, but a suspension is serious and the reason for it should be specified. As much as possible, recall dates you took issues about how your team was dysfunctional to your superior and the evidence you brought, such as people involved who did or did not do something wrong. This kind of log could provide evidence that you have made a constructive, committed effort for your team to rid itself of dysfunctional behavior. And it could explain why you might be a scapegoat. Of course from here, I can’t know if you have been a solid performer or a troublemaker, but I assume you have not. If the investigation result in discipline and/or re-instates you, you might want to insert a letter in your file that affirms your goodwill and good performance and refutes the allegations. Also if you are cleared, be sure to ask that is stated in writing and is part of your file. What are you doing during this suspension? How you respond is important to your mental health and future work. Avoid endless gossip about it. Talk with your family, friend and/or clergy is natural and can be therapeutic. However, talk, talk, talk about how you are a victim and how bad your boss is can drive away those you need to be close. Also talk that gets back to your workplace can paint a sorry picture of you, rather than of one who is strong and resilient. Use your time well. A little play can be good for your spirit; singing in a choir, exercise, yoga, reading, volunteering at a hospital, tutoring a child, etc. Do chores that you’ve put off. Plan what you will do if fired, such as updating your resume. Attend professional meetings and reconnect with those in your field. Think through your own behavior that led to the accusation of bullying. Reflect on your kind of communication, both verbal and nonverbal that could convey the perception of bullying.

Speak to an attorney who knows labor law. Usually you can consult with one for free and can learn from her/him if you have a case for wrongful discharge, should that happen. However, the hard fact is that most firings are not matters of law even if they are unfair. Employees can quit a job for any reason and employers can fire a person for a good reason or no reason, unless it is because of discrimination of a protected class; race, religion, national origin, sex, disability etc. Since you have not described your suspension for any of these reasons, I expect that legal recourse is not likely. Very few countries have laws against bullying in the workplace. The United States doesn’t. Our site does not provide legal advice. You’ll have to explore that on your own.

Interruptions in one’s career do happen; sickness, mistreatment by coworkers and bosses, bad economic times, divorce, loss of a job, etc. They are not anything that any of us want, but the truth is that we usually can survive. I hope this difficult time won’t sour you and that you can find the strength to see it through no matter what happens. You might find further insights for resilience in our associate Workplace Doctor Tina Lewis Rowe’s web site; Just click on her name on our home page and that will access hers. Her postings both speak to what it takes to shape a good career and the motivation to do the right thing.

Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that what we all need.

William Gorden