Defamation?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a boss’ complaint about a subordinate’s attitude:

Head of HR says the following to my boss: “Everyone is complaining about his attitude.” My boss demanded names and facts. One name given is the head of another department. We, my boss and I, confronted this person about this allegation, and she strongly denied saying such a thing. The head of HR has a mild psychopathic personality and can’t  see someone else in the limelight. I was warned when he came to the org that he would attack me because of my good record. Please advise.

Signed, My Attitude

Dear My Attitude:

Where there is smoke there is fire. This maxim signals something’s going on that is focused on you. Why? From this distance, there is no way of guessing. You label such an accusation “defamation” and say the Head of Human Resources “has a mild psychopathic personality and can’t accept to see someone else in the limelight.” However, it is the responsibility of Human Resources to investigate employee complaints. And it is in your interest to reflect what these complains say about you to learn how you are perceived rather than to blame the messenger.

Dan Kearney, a Human Resources manager with much experience and as a guest respondent, provides that response to your query: HR does not have to provide the name, except when the legal deposition time comes, then all facts must be revealed. All complaints should be written up by HR without the adjectives and/or summary conclusions. Keep the bias out of it. Only the “facts” should be in the complaint. HR should write up the complaint and have the employee sign and date and time it. This protects HR.

The HR person should now go to the boss, with the statements, and inform him/her of such: There are existing complaints within the organizations that this individual committed the following acts. Then name the acts. HR should have thrown the ball in the boss’s court at that point. The boss then must ask HR if the complaints are consistent, not separate, varying acts and if they are credible. If yes, then proceed with an investigation. HR cannot investigate without authority from the boss, period! If the investigation demonstrates that the individual has in fact, committed the acts, then HR should get together with the boss and go over the evidence. An outside observer, the boss, can help determine the facts from an objective perspective. Then the individual employee, in question, should be confronted.

The key is that HR must have received a “complaint” – if no documented complaint, then no case. I’m bothered by the statements this individual made: “head of HR has a mild psychopathic personality and can’t accept to see to see someone else in the limelight. I was warned when he came to the org that he would attack me because of my good record.”

Kinda off the deep-end with his/her psychological labels without foundation. Plus it makes the individual look really bad. –In light of the protocols outlined by Kearney, further investigation appears justified. If the “everyone” is documented, your boss should counsel you and together, he and you, should develop a plan for attitude improvement.

We don’t provide legal advice. Consult an attorney if you conclude that in fact defamation has occurred. If not documented, you shouldn’t allow them to cause you to obsess about them. Whether justified or not, it is wise not to let this matter detract from what you are hired to do. It is not in your best interest to gossip about or to fight with HR. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS is my signature. That is to suggest that face-saving and goodwill matter and is best achieved by focusing on the big picture.

Dan Kearney & Wm. Gorden