Being Blackballed?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about threat of termination:

I was told that a director at my workplace “had it out for me” and would try to have me fired based on jealousy issues of my advancements being faster than the director’s advancements. One day, I told a joke in front of several employees (one being a black man) that stated, “A BLIND man walked into a store with a seeing eye dog, started to wave the dog over his head in circles. The manager asked if he could be of assistance, the blind man said, ‘No, I’m just looking around” I was approached by this director the next day, who stated to me that the joke was misconstrued into a BLACK man walked into a bar with a seeing eye dog.

This director pulled me on the side and was very irate, not at all civil, and wanted to turn me into Human Resources to have me “terminated”. I had investigators look into this incident as well, and was told that there were a group of people who “sold me out” and certain people are jealous of me and that I should “watch my back” I came back to work after the internal investigation stating that even if I did say black man instead of blind man, it was not considered a racial slur.

Now that I’m back to work, these people are trying harder to have me –fired, but trying to find good reason; which is why I now carry a journal with me and record every conversation, non work related, and make sure I have a witness every time I’m called into an office for ANY conversation. Is this considered blackballing? And what rights do I have if it is indeed blackballing?

Signed, On The Defensive

DearĀ On The Defensive:

It appears there are many negative issues going on in your workplace and in your relationships with others, but there is no law against any of it. There may be some things you can do to improve the situation. But, you may find this is simply not a good place for you to work, or that things are so bad you will be better off starting over somewhere else. If a director has it out for you because of your advancements, that implies you have been supported by someone at some time in order to be advanced.

Why not talk to those people about the situation? You do not mention your own manager, and that would be a good resource.If many people seem to be out to get you, that implies you have made many enemies–and that seems not likely unless there were some serious issues all along.One thing is for sure..if you are having witnesses to meetings and making notes all the time, you aren’t focused on work and your effectiveness will soon be eroded completely. That kind of behavior quickly gains one a negative reputation, whether or not it is justified. You don’t say what size company you work for, but if there are directors and investigators, it is large enough to have an HR section. Perhaps they could be a resource. Or, talk to a friend at work and have him or her tell you honestly and directly what it appears you are contributing to this, even inadvertently.If you are contributing positively at work and not being a problem yourself, and if you are behaving appropriately (telling that joke was not appropriate in any work setting in 2008, and it isn’t funny either), and if you are getting outside yourself to help others, you will be supported in spite of what one or two people may think.Any time someone feels they are being black balled, black listed or ostracized, they should first try to see the reasons behind it, see how they might have contributed to it and correct those things if possible, and if that fails, gain enough support to overcome the problem.

If ALL of those things don’t work, you may have to do what Dr. Gorden often recommends and vote with your feet. No matter what the situation, I can imagine you feel that you are being unfairly treated-and you may be. But I would imagine others could point to things you are doing, other than just being advanced quickly, that are allowing them to justify THEIR behavior. Find out what those things are and see if you can at least have a truce in this ongoing battle.Best wishes.

Second Opinion: Sometimes we send a different perspective. No. Blackballing usually is a term applied to someone whose former employer has spread the word to other potential employers not to hire her or him. Your worry is not blackballing. Rather you fear your director and some individuals where you work want to find a reason to fire you. You were cleared of talk that could be interpreted as racial discrimination. However, you now are wary about what you say and do, so much so that you are documenting your non-work conversation.You attribute the desire to fire you to jealousy because you were promoted faster than your director. Possibly this is an accurate perception.Watching your back and working scared, rather than focusing on improving and delivery quality, detracts attention from your job. And it can self-censor you from a good-natured impulse to swing a dog or cat by the tail. This is to suggest that working wary can sour you.

Sooooo is there another course of action? To be “all business” and restrain your impulse to be the life of the party at work is not all bad, at least for now. Yet perhaps that might be balanced by a proactive commitment to working as if you owned the place. By that I don’t mean bossing or arrogantly pulling rank, rather I mean that you are 1,000% focused on making your company a great place to work. To do that you are ever attentive on cutting waste–wasted supplies, time and energy.

Also it means that you do what you can to assist and cheer on others. Not incidentally it means that you think and speak positively about your director. It might mean that when it is time for your performance appraisal that you frankly say to your director that you want to put the dog joke behind you and to have a good working relationship with him and others and that you want his suggestions on how you might do this. In short, earning a positive boss-bossed working relationship entails making each others’ work easy and effective as possible. This might be conceptualized as more than civility or productivity; it means respect for each other and mutual engagement in making your place of work a place where you and your co-workers feel supported and excited to come. This does not mean that you must be wary of voicing your ideas or walk on eggshells. If speaking up and voicing your opinions was what helped you advance, do not bite your tongue now. Do these thoughts make sense? The important thing is that you don’t become so obsessed with watching your back that you talk and talk about it with co-workers and family. Learn to let go and to busy yourself with what matters. As you probably have noted if you have scanned other Q&As in our Archive, I often sign off with: Working together with hands, head and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Feel free to keep us posted on how things are going for you. Bill Gorden

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.