How Can I Get Compensated For Damaged Property?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about :

My manager admitted to HR, another colleague, and me that he destroyed my personal property (valued at around $350) due to a violent outburst several months ago. He claims it was not personal and did apologize, but I highly doubt this for two reasons. One being there was internal conflict in our department, my coworker and I complained against him, complaints about his use of language and having fits where he would throw items when angry. Secondly, out of all the 100s of items in our work area, he just happens to choose MY equipment. Furthermore he stated he would replace the item, but never followed through. Let us take for granted that I did sign a waiver stating the company I worked for was not liable for any loss of personal property. Honestly I do not know, but I am assuming so since this is a very large corporation. But I believe my circumstances are quite different from what is detailed in those documents. What are my rights when a manager admits to wrongdoing and destruction of property?

Signed, Out My Stuff

DearĀ Out My Stuff:

Yours is a legal question, and our advice is limited to communication type of workplace matters, not legal. Since your work organization is not small, it should have a legal department to advise on such matters. It is obvious that although you signed a company waiver, as far as you are concerned, you are still bothered by this incident and the relationship with your manager. It is natural to carry a grudge when someone transgresses or destroys your property, and especially so when he doesn’t keep his promise to replace it. So what might you do? You have several options: 1. Confront him asking if and when you the property will be replaced. From what you say, the past will not be past for you until that business is resolved.

2. Pursue the matter upwards, to your manager’s boss and/or HR. (Since you signed a waiver, you can learn from that department what is the process for getting your property replaced.) Also, if your manager has a problem with self control, your company should consider placing in anger management training. 3. Get legal advice. Most attorneys begin work at $150 per hour. But you can sometimes consult an attorney for a half hour free to learn if you have a case; however, matters of loss of less that a few thousand dollars usually are taken to small claims court without a lawyer. Fees for that are small. But they do entail some red tape and time.You’ll have weigh which of these or some alternate approach seems best. But is not the larger question what you might do to find and/or develop a civil working boss/bossed relationship? Probably too much water has passed over the dam to put this behind; either your manager or you will have to be transferred. I gather that you have continued to work under him in the months since the blow up, so apparently you two have learned to cope or to avoid each other. Sometimes avoidance is the best solution to extreme dislike of one of another. Yet that is not a happy resolution of conflict.Would it not be better to talk out conflict and come to an agreement on how you want to communicate with each another?

Might you think of this conflict as you would if you were on a sports team and the coach exploded and from time used abusive language to make his point? In that kind of situation would you quit the team? Possibly. Would ask for a private time-out session to say to the coach that you were committed to do your best to help your team win, and that you can do that more enthusiastically when you are not verbally abused? Spelling out the dos and don’ts of how you want to be talked to might take courage, but in your case I predict you will continue to have a stressful relationship until you do that. The reason you are employed by this large organization is to contribute to its success. Achieving satisfied and hopefully loyal customers hinges on commitment to high performance and good products/service. Putting that up front as the goal works best when resolving interpersonal tensions. That might mean in your case, letting bygones be bygone or at least after making a reasonable attempt to resolve them first. That might also mean taking the initiative to be a cheerleader rather than a sour player. That might mean talking up innovative ways to cut wasted supplies, duplication and unneeded effort, and ways to improve what you and your coworkers do.Do any of these thoughts apply to your situation? Feel free to let us know what you do and how it works or fails. Unhappy working relationships don’t have a quick fix. Most of all if you want things to be better, don’t mumble about them to coworkers or yourself. That will only cause them to fester.Saving face matters. We all take things personally but sometimes it is best to look forward rather than at past hurts. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and is not that what you want in your workplace? William Gorden *********************

A response by Tina Rowe This situation also points to a concern about what will this manager do next? If he does one more thing that is violent or borderline violent, ask for an immediate investigation and stick with it. There is no reason for someone to be allowed to be a petulant child over and over. And often this kind of behavior escalates.A big question in my mind though is…what was the item and how was it destroyed. If it was something you can buy and it’s value is well established that’s one thing. If it is something else, it might not be so obvious that you are out the money you paid for it. Another question is, how was it destroyed? If it was purposely smashed, flushed or torn, etc., that is one thing. If it was accidentally dropped, used up or damaged while in appropriate use, that’s different–even if the manager says he was purposeful about it.

Dr. Gorden pointed out that you’ve been working with this person since then. Consider asking him again for the money. If that doesn’t work, go to his manager and ask for assistance in getting reimbursed as promised. If that doesn’t work send a letter to the liability section of your company. Or, consider going to Small Claims Court in your city or county. This kind of situation is exactly what they were developed for. No lawyer is necessary.When you’re done with all of those things that are needed, your manager may be upset but at least you’ll have the money to replace your property! However, remember to keep an eye on the overall picture. How is conflict handled by everyone there, especially the manager? Never let it escalate to the level of throwing things or yelling at you in anger, unless you truly believe you will lose your job if you say anything and you don’t want to risk it. I doubt that would be the case though. It isn’t fair for one person to be able to terrorize an office in that way! While you are at it, work to ensure you are being the best employee possible. It sounds as though there are many conflicts in your workplace–at least with this person. It will weaken your position if you are seen as a catalyst for them rather than someone who is trying to find lasting solutions.Best wishes!

William Gorden