Can I Be Fired For Being Accused of Raising My Voice to My Manager?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being accused
of speaking to a manager with a raised voice. 

Question: I recently came through an 18 month investigation by my hospital into my professionalism at work because I raised concerns on safety. I managed to come through with them apologizing for certain things and not following up on a verbal warning. I have now been accused of raising my voice to my line manager which is incorrect as I did not, but I did challenge being unsupported in the workplace as she was meant to allocate staff to ensure I was not left on my own with 11 cardiac patients with no help.

Can they sack me? There were no actual witnesses but it would not surprise me if one is found.

Response: It would seem extreme for you to be fired for only raising your voice—especially following a situation in which you were cleared, at least in part, for another accusation. Could they fire you? Yes. But there would be a formal process involved and if you have an employment contract there could be a longer process. Will they? It depends upon the circumstances surrounding the situation.

For example, a lot would depend upon the words you used, the accusations you made and how you made them, your overall demeanor and tone of voice and other aspects of the situation. It would also make a difference if you were complaining about being left alone for a full shift, an hour or a few minutes, and what the circumstances were surrounding you being left alone.

Although disciplinary cases are more easily upheld if there are witnesses, there do not have to be witnesses to sanction an employee about an interaction with a supervisor or manager, since many such interactions happen in private offices. In those cases quite often those higher up will apply a guideline of “Is that like him or her?” If you have never been known to raise your voice or to seem aggressive or verbally challenging, the matter will be different than if you have been known to do those things in the past.

Your best action at this point is to write out the exact dialogue as near as you can remember it, without any editorial comments about what you think your manager meant or should have said. Just write down what both of you said. If tone of voice or demeanor is significant, write that down too. Be prepared to discuss what happened, as accurately as possible.

Keep in mind that even if your manager did not perform her work in the way you consider to be best, it won’t be accepted as an excuse for what you might have said or the way you said it.  Focus on discussing what happened at that moment. You will be able to explain what led up to it, but if you repeatedly talk about what your manager did wrong, it will look as though you are trying to deflect attention from your own behavior. If she did something wrong, it most likely will be handled without you knowing about it.

I can certainly imagine that this is frustrating to you. However, by demonstrating, through the way you handle discussions about this recent issue, that you are self-controlled and not likely to have intimidated, threatened or verbally abused your manager, you will certainly have a better likelihood of this being only an unpleasant bump in the road. I hope you will be able to move past this and continue moving forward without similar things happening in the future.

Best wishes to you. If you have the time and want to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors

Follow-up:

First, thank you again for the advice you gave me as it was much appreciated. Secondly to let you know what happened.

Fortunately nothing came of it, I am not quite sure why, as it was the talk of the ward for a day or two and had been over-exaggerated. But, it has put me on the defensive and I will be checking my personnel file to see if anything has been put there without my knowledge, as this has happened previously.

I cannot but praise your site for answering so quickly and so informatively….Thank you. Kind Regards