Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about an attorney who labeled a staff member a liar and incompetent:
I came across a letter that was written to one of our business customers where my boss called me a liar and incompetent. The fact is he dictated the letter to someone else in the firm; they transcribed and faxed the same. He also put in writing how he was going to reprimand me. The entire letter is false. I was at work the day he wrote this transpired, and nothing was said nor has it been said. I don’t have a superior to go to. It’s a 4-lawyer law firm and no one is allowed to help the other one out. He is the senior attorney, but I just found out he doesn’t have ownership in the firm. I also know he will not handle confrontation well, and I want to maintain my composure, but this is my integrity.
Signed, Called A Liar and Incompetent
Dear Called A Liar and Incompetent:
It appears that you will soon be reprimanded and will learn the basis for the accusation that you are a liar and are incompetent. If and when that happens you can refute that you lied. Possibly he has proof, at least to his eyes; whereas in your eyes what you might have said is an unintended misstatement. Also possibly he can provide evidence that you have made errors and/or he can say his opinion of your incompetence is based on observation of how you handle assignments.The immediate question before you is: will you wait for the shoe to drop or confront him that you came upon the letter?
The less immediate question is: What kind of reprimand will you accept and will you challenge him for libeling you? Since you are in a law firm, I’m sure you know that when one is accused of lying to a third party that that can have consequences of hurting one’s job prospects, should you elect to leave. Likely you also know that such matters as libel/defamation rarely are brought court and that damages are not easily proved.Can you maintain your composure if you confront the senior partner who make the accusation and asserted he would reprimand you? That will not be easy. But, because you happened upon the accusatory letter, you have time to prepare and brace your self for the confrontation. I’m sure you have reviewed in your mind the probable and possible instances that might have caused your senior attorney to believe you lied and why he sent that to a particular individual.
Also you undoubtedly have thought about what in your performance has provoked him to say you are incompetent.In short you have time to get your ducks in a row and make a case for your self. Have you completed projects that were evaluated as satisfactory or at least caused no complaint? List them if you have. If you have had positive performance reviews, make copies of them. Next think about what you might say if he accuses you of lying. Rather than denying it wouldn’t be wise to ask why he thinks you lied and to assert that you never have intentionally said anything that was not honest.
A confrontation is not a time to be defensive; rather it is a time to assert your loyalty to the firm and to ask for guidance about what you need to specifically improve. It also is an opportunity to propose a weekly review to assess what you’ve done well and point up what needs to be improved. More than that this an opening to propose ways you suggest that might cut wasted supplies, time, duplication, and energy; so as to improve the bottom line and possibly ways to better serve clients. It is normal to be distressed over learning your boss is displeased; however much you need to get support somewhere, it is best not to gossip with coworkers about this. Also however much you want to vent about this, seek support from family members but try not to obsess about how you are a victim of an inconsiderate boss.
Rather than see the senior attorney as your enemy, pretend he is not malicious and read beneath the lines to see if you can understand why he wrote what he wrote. You might even pretend you owned the firm and then do what ever you are assigned to as you would if indeed you were the owner. It can’t hurt to think and act interdependently. That is the underlying meaning of my signature sentence: Working together with hands, head and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Hopefully you can weather this unpleasant weather and will be stronger because you have.