Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about written reprimand:

On June 9 this year, I received a written, via e-mail, reprimand from the office manager in which she admonished me to comply with the firm’s procedure in the presence of another employee. For clarification, the e-mail was addressed to me and another employee; both of us have similarly-situated jobs as legal secretaries. To give you a little background: I’ve filed two grievances against this office manager during my five and a half tenure with this firm. The other employee has only been with the firm for two years. I’m currently in good standings with this firm, and the office manager has consistently abused her power in a retaliatory manner to get back at me and has created a hostile work environment by placing me under heightened, unwarranted scrutiny. I’ve attached the office manager’s e-mail below for your perusal. My point is that any reference to compliance of firm procedure should have been done in private and not in the presence of another employee.

For the record, I did not fail to comply with procedure. I questioned my initials being placed on a document that was fraught with errors. The reprimand in the presence of this employee was to placate her and to try to humiliate me.

What is your take on this e-mail exchange below? Is it a reprimand as well as hostility leveled at me? Her tone tells it all. Thank you in advance for your time in this matter. I’m taking a hardnosed position on this with everyone. It has been brought up at several secretarial meetings and yes, I expect the procedure to be followed. If I become aware of any secretary sending something out in final or making edits without changing the initials on the document, I will take the same stand. From: D O Sent: Thursday, June 09 To: N J Cc: I N Subject: RE: Letter June 8 You’re taking a hardnosed position with me. Your emphasis is on my initials being on the report and not the error content. Interesting observation, however, this was the first report Eric had me to put in final since the May 26 meeting. I will make sure that my initials reflect in the future regardless of the error content. From: N J Sent: Thursday, June 09 To: D O; I, N Subject: RE:Letter June 8 O—-, per procedures, please change the secretarial initials to yours if you are the person putting a document in final. If any secretary makes any edits to a document, they should also change the initials. If you finalize and mail a document out, your initials need to be on it. This was just mentioned at the last secretary’s meeting. Please comply with the procedures. This is the way the attorneys want it done. Thank you. —- From: D O Sent: Thursday, June 09 To: I N Cc: N, J Subject: RE: June 8 No, I didn’t forget. As a matter of fact, when Eric gave me the report, he only made a couple of changes. I personally discovered that the report had quite a few errors that I brought to Eric’s attention that I corrected. This report was generated by C—–, and E—– didn’t catch those errors, I did. Since you’ve brought this matter before Jena, for the record, I don’t feel comfortable affixing my initials onto a report generated from someone else’s camp in which I found errors. It gives the appearance that I’m responsible for those errors when, in actuality, I am not. However, if this is a uniformed procedure that J—– wants to enforce, I will do so under protest by making note in that attorney’s chron that we were not the originators of said report. This was a nine-page report. I didn’t read it verbatim, but I scanned it. While scanning it, I spotted several errors, O—-.From: I N Sent: Thursday, June 09 To: D O Cc: N J Subject: Letter June 8 Yesterday, you gave me a copy of the above-referenced letter for C——l’s chron file. It appears that you may have modified this document, finalized and distributed copies to the appropriate parties. However, I note that my initials are still on that document indicating that I was the one to finalize and mail/distribute the document. As you may recall, in our last secretarial meeting, a discussion came up regarding secretarial initials on documents. In that meeting and other prior meetings, Jena told us that if we were the last person to modify, finalize and/or mail (distribute), then it was that secretary’s initials that should be inserted in the document and replace any prior secretary’s initials. I realize it is easy to forget to do this. I am just sending this as a reminder. Thank you.Signed, N A I Legal Assistant

Signed, Reprimanded?

Dear Reprimanded?:

I’m afraid my response won’t please this person as it is apparent that there’s a bit of a “cat fight” going on. The person Jena, who complains about being involved in the reprimand, seems to have some authority as it was she who informed the secretary of the policy re: the initials being placed on anyone who MODIFIES the document. Apparently this secretary does not believe she modified the document by correcting errors, but in fact she did modify it. Therefore, to comply with policy she should have changed the initials, but instead, she is arguing over errors in the document in order to circumvent the policy. The office manager’s initial email does not appear to me to be hostile or out of line; however, this secretary’s response appears to challenge the office manager’s authority. I’d be careful if I were she or she may find herself without a job if she continues this type of behavior. There is a political hierarchy in law firms, and unfortunately, she is not on the top rung here.Bonnie Jordan, Attorney and formerly a Legal Secretary, Guest Respondent The Workplace Doctors Self-interest is natural but can be self defeating. Ego is best realized in WEGO mindedness

Feedback: Please make sure that you forward my response here to Ms. Jordan. I find her response laughable and prejudicial towards me because she alluded to law firms and its political hierarchy. As an educated African American woman, I’ve survived this hostile working environment for five and a half years as well as a hostile country because I refuse to let anyone and anything unjustly place me in the unemployment line. Speaking of Ms. Jordan’s political hierarchy, I’ve vehemently expressed the same sentiment to the managing partner of this firm, and I still stand. There’s no shame in my game. Money and power don’t mean anything to me, but parity does. For the record and in my own defense, this office manager, J N, stated at the May 26, meeting that attorneys were complaining that too many errors were being returned to them and cautioned us to proofread our work. Therefore, legally, I was within my rights to question the error content of that document when it hit my desk and had complied with policy. I presently have a copy of the minutes of that meeting which corroborates my error argument. Once I produced my facts to management, everything ceased. In my world, Ms. Jordan, what the devil means for evil, God means it for my good. The problem with Ms. Jordan’s arrogance here is that she’s injecting her own personal feelings into this by insidiously saying that she would have fired my butt. A hostile country against me denotes an unfair country against me. I’ve been an activist in my own right for a lot of years and will continue to fight for parity. I’m still here at this firm because my work is exemplary in the areas of a legal secretary and paralegal work. This office manager has tried for over five years here to get me fired, and, again, I stand. It’s people like Jordan who give me the daily strength to carry on my work and remind me that there’s no rest for the weary in their fight for parity in this country. Equal protection under the law? In closing, thank you for taking the time to read this, and I won’t respond to your web site again.

More Advice: You asked for advice. An attorney, who took time from her own business to review what you sent, gave it without charge. I regret that apparently what you only wanted was confirmation of your own opinion. So you vented against her, even one who has no stake or self interest and only wished for better relations where you work between others and you. She called the events differently than you do. From what you say, you must have a history of feeling mistreated. I wish you well and that you will speak up in your own behalf as you have done in the past and in with whatever demeanor you determine is effective for you and all concerned. When memos go back and forth as is evident from those you copied, time is wasted and ill feelings escalate. Clarity and good will is better expressed face to face. I accept your unhappiness with our advice.

William Gorden