Criticizing Message By Boss Forwarded To Employee

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about boos’ criticism disclosed to coworker:

My daughter works as a commissioned salesperson in a furniture store. One of her co-workers (female) and her supervisor (male), both married, have become increasingly close. The supervisor has started to show favoritism toward this employee. The supervisor offered to allow this employee to go home early on a weekend without consulting with the floor manager on duty that night, (The supervisor was off that night) or with my daughter who was scheduled to go home early that night. This meant my daughter would probably have to stay late and the floor manager would be short of employees. My daughter mentioned to the floor manager that it was not very thoughtful of supervisor to not have consulted with them.

The next day my daughter got a forwarded text message that had been originally sent from the supervisor to the female employee. My daughter isn’t sure if the employee did it by accident or purposefully. In the message the supervisor tells the employee he is sorry for any problems he has caused her and how they are both happily married and my daughter should not have said anything. He goes on to say that he reprimanded my daughter (“I reamed her out, really tore in to her.”) Even though it is well known on the sales floor that something is going on between these two, my daughter had said nothing about that. She is totally baffled.

The supervisor did tell my daughter that she should not have complained to the floor manager that he should have conferred with them before allowing someone else to go home early. Daughter agreed and that was the extent of it. The supervisor told her that their conversation was not to go beyond his office and she also agreed, but apparently that did not apply to him. He texted this employee about it, embellishing as he went. Now my daughter is uncomfortable around supervisor. Is this harrassment or slander?

Signed, Upset and Wondering

DearĀ Upset and Wondering:

If what you describe is the extent of the situation it does not appear to be a long-term or serious conflict, or to have damaged your daughter in any financial or professional way. It appears to be an uncomfortable situation however, and your daughter will want to consider carefully how to handle it for the best results in the future. When you talk to her about this, try to keep the role of an objective listener, so she comes to her own decisions. She is aware of the culture of the workplace, and the people involved, and also knows how much she wants to do about this, as opposed to working through it without doing anything.

The one thing she should consider is that if she intends to keep working there she does not want to have a communications barrier between her and the supervisor or her and the other employee. She should work to continue to be courteous, pleasant and professionally open and friendly. Once a barrier has been established it’s difficult to remove it, so she should really make the effort to communicate, make eye contact, and do everything else she would do if the situation hadn’t happened.

The supervisor knows he was in error about his actions,and is probably worried and upset himself, if he has a boss who might find out about all of this. But, if he has not been an unpleasant person otherwise, your daughter may find it best to keep open communications and allow him the chance to rebuild his reputation with her, as she would want him to do if there was a situation involving her being in error.I do think she should ask him about the text message in a non-confrontational way. She should simply go to him, turn the text message on and give it to him, and say, “Greg, I got this two days ago and I’ve felt badly about it. What is it all about?” Then let him either talk about it, or (what is more likely) be shocked and say it wasn’t meant for her.Your daughter should not be angry or confrontational sounding. Her purpose is to let the supervisor know what has happened and seek an answer. At the end of the conversation she could ask something like, “So, is this all over with now and are we OK on it?” Give the supervisor a chance to close this out while saving some face, just as she would want him to do if the roles were reversed. Her purpose is not to argue with him or accuse him of lying in the message, but rather simply to let him know she has seen it and is giving him a chance to explain it.

She may not feel comfortable doing that and she certainly knows her situation best. She may prefer to simply keep focused on her work and doing the best job with that, while supporting the entire team, and putting this behind her.The one thing she doesn’t want to do is to talk about it further with other employees, or to enter into their conversations about what might be happening between the supervisor and the other employee. Let it go, and change the subject if it is mentioned. As in this case, it will nearly always get back to the wrong person!If the situation should worsen and she feels that she is being treated wrongly to the point that it is having a bad effect on her ability to make sales, then she might consider writing it all down and going to the person higher than her superivsor, or to the personnel section if there is one. She could ask for their assistance to stop the problems and allow her to do her job without problems.However, things would have to be much worse before they would merit that kind of serious action. At this stage it’s a sadly typical workplace situation. Your daughter will want to get through it as easily as possible so she can move forward and not get stuck in something unpleasant. She can do that best by clearing up this text message thing, then immersing herself in making money both for her and the company. That is the best job security! Best wishes to her in this awkward situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

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.