Should I Have Defended My Supervisor?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about coworker complaint of boss:

How do we deal with an employee that complains about others making/taking personal calls during the day and their use of the Internet during working hours? You need to know that this person does this all day long herself and seems to be in denial of it. Her claim is that she does not talk on the phone as long and is in and out of the Internet more quickly. She actually does this all day long!

She also recently filed a hostile work environment against our supervisor of 7 years, these issues of phone calls and Internet being a part of her complaint. She filed this when the supervisor gave her a corrective action plan due to her continual incompetent work product. The supervisor was forced to resign and this employee is thrilled. Thanks for any input!

Signed, The Timid Defender

Dear The Timid Defender:

This supervisor’s staff/employees had a moral responsibility to come to his/her defense. Instead, it seems that his/her staff sat back and did nothing. Now this supervisor feels betrayed by you and your co-workers. From now on, that false accusation will follow this supervisor to every job he/she goes to. And now you feel bad about it. Well, it looks like there is really nothing you can do about it since you and others have empowered her by allowing this “hostile work environment” claim to go unchallenged.

The situation you find yourself in is the result of what happens when you sit back and do nothing and let a major injustice occur. You have to live with the situation you have created. I say this to you because you could have done something but didn’t. She has permanently protected herself and you have no power to do anything. As a result, you have to live with the consequences of your passivity. If you try to tell this former supervisor’s boss the truth, that boss would have no reason to believe you since you never come forward the first time, plus any credibility you had in this job is now gone for good.

So good luck in this job, because you let the bad guy win. Learning from sins of omission–for not speaking up in behalf of truth–has the penalty of having to live with it, but it also should help one gain the courage to do what is right the next time. That’s the spirit we call WEGO. Your e-mail indicates that you have the potential to learn from mistakes of omission.

A Second Opinion: Dan Kearney sent your question to Linda McCann, who he describes as “Assistant to the Dean at Governor’s State University. She has 3 MA.s. They’re in Group Communication, Human Resources and Political Science. She’s pretty bright and doesn’t hold back. So here is her perspective on the problem.” Dear Not So Desperate No, it is never too late to change. Granted the original supervisor is no longer there but it is not as if the company closed – things need to be started for future issues. As for the people not stepping up, well it is done with; nothing can be done now, so don’t stress out over it. Instead, realize your mistake and take steps to make sure you don’t do it again. As for the new supervisor not trusting them, well let’s be honest, any new supervisor, regardless of the situation, will come in not trusting anyone–trust needs to be earned. She or he doesn’t know the people there, and it will take time for them to make their own evaluations of the people who will be answering to them. The only thing the guilty people can do is to demonstrate that they can be trusted through their actions. This is not a situation where they can correct the wrong that they did, but it is one in which they can correct themselves. They need to evaluate why they did what they did, and how they can change that part of their personality.

They need to ask themselves if they truly believe that what they did was incorrect, then what steps are they going to change in themselves to make sure that should a situation like this occurs again that they act in a manner in which they will be proud of their actions instead of ashamed of them. People are human, they are able to make mistakes, and when they realize that what they did is incorrect, they have the ability to change that about themselves. It’s the way we grow as humans. Linda McCann, Guest Respondent The Workplace Doctors Do feel free to let us know if these thoughts help you think through and put this unhappy learning experience behind you. Keep us posted on how it goes. The Workplace Doctors

Dan Kearney, Guest HR Respondent