Former Coworker Is Now My Manager And He Lied

Question:

My coworker (who I have always gotten along with really well, socialized with, mutually confided in and had mutual trust and respect) has been made my temporary supervisor. I have done nothing but support and encourage him.

I have concerns over a “chat” we had (as he put it). In this meeting I was reduced to tears. He brought up my punctuality (I have told my managers several times about my child care problems when I start at 8 a.m. and I have requested a 9 a.m. start).

The whole meeting was informal and we joked about things. BUT when read the typed up version of our meeting I was shocked. I was accused of numerous things I never did. There was no opportunity to defend myself as I was totally unaware of everything that was going to be in the report. I’ve felt like I am going crazy the last few days and just can’t understand it or what I’ve done.

THEN in a phone call from him he said he needs to be seen to be putting his foot down and not to worry about my being called to see a higher manager because he will help me write out my work-life balance and the meeting won’t be that bad. He said he has had several such meetings when he was my coworker. What now?

Signed,

Bewildered and Betrayed


Answer:

Dear Bewildered and Betrayed:

I hope the mutual liking, trust and respect isn’t going to be over for you and your coworker. You certainly have to get some things cleared up to avoid problems for yourself–and his way of dealing with this situation helped create some of those problems. So, your friendship may be put to an even bigger test.

Your former coworker was bound to have a challenge when he became your supervisor, even temporarily. His job suddenly involved doing something about the things the two of you may have formerly joked about or complained about. Even a temporary supervisor must represent the organization in working with and through others to get the job done. Before, he was responsible only for his work. Now, he is responsible for your behavior and performance as well.

So, he was correct to bring up punctuality and anything else that he knew was not in compliance or that was problematic. His mistake was in treating the interview as a “chat” and joking about it as though it didn’t matter. Going back before that, the things that were later included in the report should have been brought up to you the moment they happened, not later in a chat or in a report.

If the things you did were problematic, why weren’t they mentioned to you at the time? If they weren’t mentioned to you at the time, doesn’t that give more credibility to your view that you didn’t do them at all? I would make that point to his manager, since you apparently are going to be talked to at that level.

It’s up to you, but I think you should decline your former coworker’s offer to help you write up your statement about work-life balance. (Apparently that is a report in which you say how you will avoid the problems in the future.)

You can do it on your own and will be more truthful than your coworker might be. My feeling is that he has shown himself to not be very ethical at this point, and if I were you I wouldn’t want him giving me words to say that might sound good but might not be honest. (Which he seems to be good at doing!)

In addition to that letter, consider making a list of the things that you can refute from the report and ask your manager for time to talk about the unfairness of the report and the fact that none of those things were brought up at the time or even in your meeting with your supervisor.

As for the lateness. Unfortunately, childcare issues don’t overcome being late and don’t justify changing work schedules just for those who need the extra time in the morning. It would be nice if it could be done, but it isn’t practical to adjust things in that way. The only way that would be reaonable would be if they have a regular shift with other employees that starts at 9 a.m. and you could work just as effectively by coming in then. Unless that is the case, it would be very poor judgment by management to allow just one employee to have a different work schedule. Ultimately you could have ten employees each demanding a better work schedule–and I have seen that happen.

However, the time to talk to you about punctuality was the first time you were late, then a warning the second time, then disicplinary action the third time. (I don’t think you would have liked that, so perhaps you shouldn’t bring up the unfairness of having your lateness mentioned!)

You will have a decision to make about what else you bring up in the meeting with your manager. If you tell him about being taken aback after the interview because nothing was mentioned during the interview, the supervisor will probably get in trouble. If you were to tell your manager what your supervisor told you about the management meeting, he would almost certainly get in trouble.

So, it will be up to you to decide how far you want to push that issue. I’m not inclined to think you should worry about your former coworker, but you know him better and may have a different perspective.

That brings us to ongoing relationship with your coworker. If he stays as your senior or supervisor you will have to accept the fact that your time as pals is over. His job is to observe, evaluate and take action about what he sees as positive or negative aspects of your performance or behavior. You can still be friends in a workplace sense, but you can’t be as close as formerly and your conversations and interactions will be different.

If he doesn’t stay as your supervisor and goes back to being your coworker, I think you will find the relationship will stay changed a bit anyway. Certainly this recent situation will have hurt it.

Since you have been close in the past, you may be able to talk to him openly about it. Tell him how hurt you were over the way the interview was handled and ask him to please be honest with you in the future about things that he knows he is going to report higher up. Maybe he just needs to be reminded that he can’t be both a coworker/pal and a supervisor/boss and that you’re OK with him being a supervisor as long as he’s upfront about it.

You also have to make a decision about how this will affect your overall behavior at work. There is no point in letting it create more problems or having it make you seem angry or pouting about it. (I’m not saying you would react in that way, but some might.)

Instead, put your focus on your work and ensure that there is nothing that can be found to complain about or make reports about. Use some initiative to find ways to be part of the team and to help them. Some of them may be going through what you are–but don’t gossip about your former coworker, that will just cause more problems.

The important thing is to make sure you are doing your work the right way and working at the highest level possible.

If you’re performing and behaving effectively your senior coworker will have an easier job, you’ll be less frustrated, and there will be no reason for another chat or report. That will be a good thing. But for now, you need to at least express your concerns to your manager. It may not change anything, but hopefully you’ll feel you were heard.

If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens with this. It certainly will require you to use maturity and self-control to ensure that you present yourself in the best possible way.

Best wishes to you.

Tina Lewis Rowe