In Line For Supervisor, But Stiffed!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a supervisor’s badmouthing once seeking a promotion: My company does not promote whistle blowers so going over her head will torpedo any hope I have of a future.

I work in distribution for a major grocery retailer as a foreperson. My immediate supervisor found out that I applied for a supervisor position recently. At first she was very supportive of me, asking my educational background and previous supervisory experience so she could help me. Then I started receiving below average evaluations, hearing about e-mails sent by her to management, and in the end when she was told that I was the top candidate she said that I could not be spared from her department until after the holidays (the position was filled because of this by someone transferred in from another facility).

I was informed that I was still a candidate for another supervisor position that would open shortly. My supervisor overheard me saying that I felt sick and I was thinking about calling in on News Year’s Eve. She sent out another one of her e-mails this time claiming that I was going to skip New Year’s Eve because I wanted to party in Vegas and that I was undependable and hostile towards her when I was confronted (she never talked to me about whether I was going to call in or not).

When I arrived for work on New Year’s Eve she was not there but I was sent home because since I was so undependable. I have only missed 3 days in the last 12 months and less the 15 days in the four years I have been employed. I never have missed a holiday nor called of for any reason except that I was so ill that I would be unable to perform my duties. My workload is far greater then any other foreperson and it is always completed on time if not early. I don’t know what to do, I have tried talking to her and she looks at me like I am crazy and says that she is just doing her job and she is not trying hold me back in fact she tells me how supportive she is of me (then I get told how much work I still need to be a good supervisor).

My company does not promote whistle blowers so going over her head will torpedo any hope I have of a future. Getting a transfer is difficult because she does not want to lose my production numbers (the highest in the building). I have more education than her, and I have held higher positions then hers with other companies. Because of this fact I think she is jealous that I might be more successful then she is (she was on the way down when they pared us together). I selected this company because I have long respected it and I would like to build my career here. Some in management know what I am going through, but they will stay silent because they don’t want anyone to rock the boat.

Signed, Why Not?

Dear Why Not?:

If you’re in a conflict of this magnitude there are only three choices: Go to managers or to HR and express concerns, go to your supervisor again and insist upon an in-depth interview about what has happened–or try to build a better relationship with her without confronting any of it directly. None of those are miracle cures, but it seems they are about all you have as options at this point.

Let me give you some things to think about as you decide how you want to proceed. They may not be solutions–but they may be good thought-joggers for you!

1. You certainly know your situation better than I, but I will say that often when we hear from people who insist they can’t do this or that, it is based more on rumor than fact. For example, how do you know for a fact that you will be torpedoed if you appeal to HR or someplace else about your incorrect evaluations, the lie that was told about you, the fact that you were sent home based on that lie and all the other things that you say your supervisor has done that is unfair and inappropriate? You apparently admired the company and wanted to build a career there. I don’t know of any major company who wants poor quality supervisors–so I find it hard to believe that wouldn’t want to hear about problems if you can document that you have tried to resolve them at the correct level. That is particularly true since you say she was on the way down when you were paired with her. That would indicate her managers knew she had some problems to begin with. Also, you said you were the #1 pick for the supervisors position this last time. That would indicate they think well of you. So, it is even more likely that they would be willing to know what is concerning you. The reason companies don’t like whistle-blowers is because often those people are sneaky about it. They send anonymous notes, do dirty tricks and generally just try to get people in trouble. More often than not—in spite of some exceptions–if an employee tries to resolve an issue and courteously and openly asks for assistance, managers and HR will listen. There is also the issue that employees who complain are not listened to as well if they have a history of problems. You say you don’t, so that shouldn’t be a stumbling block. You have recent issues with your supervisor, but apparently you have proof that you have not been in the wrong–so that could be presented. For example, you mention you got low evaluations. Did your supervisor have clear documentation to justify those? If you had formerly gotten good evaluations and she did not justify the bad ones, that would be very compelling evidence of a negative ulterior motive on her part. Even if you don’t want to approach it in that way, consider at least writing to let them know that you definitely want the supervisor’s position when it comes open and that you would like to talk to someone about it. You don’t need to go through your own supervisor for that. Make sure there is no doubt in their minds that you want that job. Perhaps they think otherwise, based on something they’ve been told. At least you would force them to tell you whether or not they are considering you at this time.

2. You might want to try to have a more open discussion with your supervisor again. Put it in writing and say that you’re concerned that there have been misunderstandings. You want to grow with the company, and it is important to you to clear those misunderstandings up. Then, when you meet with her you should ask her specifically about the things that have occurred. There’s no point in pretending that you aren’t aware of her behind the scenes activities. Sometimes letting people know you’re on to them shuts them down somewhat.Ask for a clear answer about the issues that seem to have been deliberately skewed against you. Find out the reasons for the low evaluations. Be prepared to show your good work. 3. In the meantime, focus on being so good–as apparently you have been doing–that nothing she can say or do can cancel that out. That’s another reason I think you have more status than you realize.

You say you are producing well–that is bound to make you a valuable employee. When you have an opportunity to present your case, you will have a stellar reputation to fall back on. Which may be more than your supervisor can say for herself!As I said, you will need to develop a plan that fits your situation specifically. But, at some point, you will have to do something because you will obviously have more problems if this continues. Hopefully, some of the thoughts mentioned here will trigger some thinking about that, that will prove helpful to you.Best wishes! Tina Lewis Rowe Deserving and earning trust is what we want and need in an organization in which we invest. Think and act as you would if you had a WEGO minded workplace.

Second Opinion: Sometimes we get second opinions. This one came in somewhat slowly, but I think it applies to your question. Dear “Between a Rock and a High Place,” Yes, you are in an awkward position. You should attempt to maintain an exceptional relationship with your supervisor. Be cooperative. Maintain communication with a positive attitude. Be helpful. Do not be accusatory. Ask appropriate questions. Make appropriate suggestions. Don’t dwell on things your supervisor doesn’t want to dwell on. Work. Work. Work. Make her job easier by having you work for her. Be perceived as a helper, a team player – even if she is not sometimes.

Should you have the opportunity to talk WITH your supervisor (not TO your supervisor) about how you can continue or improve as a foreman or supervisor, by all means do that. Be willing to learn and change. There will always be change do due personnel, market conditions, policies, technology, customers, ideas, etc. Maintain a super work performance record, even more so than in the past. Focus on productivity. Show that you are present to make things happen. You were considered for supervision because of that. It can happen again. Things have a way of blowing over in time. This fabricated reputation will likely fade way, too. It does not seem to me based on your information that it is deep-rooted. Whoever considered you for a supervisory position will not forget about you. You will likely continue to be watched and considered, despite the bad communication.

Consider this: If the bad reports only come from one person – even though it is your supervisor – there are other leaders who can observe and claim otherwise. If there is an opportunity to maintain a positive contact with the management member(s) who told you that you were being considered for another supervisory position, keep that active. You cannot immediately undo any damage done by these false statements about you. However, you can continue to NOT DO what the accusations charged.

You may have an opportunity in the future to explain that you are more dependable and work-worthy than these false accusations claim. In the mean time, do what is right. Remember, control what you can control. Things take time in the work world. Accept that. Lesson: As a foreperson (any leadership), do not make remarks like “I am thinking about calling in sick” to anyone at work. It displays what you do not want to display.I would not hesitate to apply for supervisor positions in the future. Should this become a political thing that does not go away, you may be better off to apply at another company. But I would stick around if at all possible to continue to demonstrate that you are worthy of your already established good reputation. Opportunities come up now and then – both where you work and elsewhere. Think WEGO. The Workplace Doctors

Tina Lewis Rowe & Donald G. Gibson, Guest Respondent

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.