Slander???

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about false statements by boss to union:

I have been treated very badly at work by my supervisor involving falsified documentation on me, harassment etc. I went to my union and was assigned a union steward. My supervisor, wanting to discourage my union rep from helping me, told him false statements about me. My supervisor said that my husband’s health has gone down hill and that I have psychological issues. She also told the union rep that I called Social Services on one of my co-workers stating that she is neglecting her children. These are all lies and my union rep stated in writing of what she told him. She did this out of retaliation. From what I have read, if I get an attorney, my supervisor would have to pay my legal fees. Is this true and would this stand up in court? Please. help and give me advise. Thanks so much.

Signed, Slandered

Dear Slandered:

Yes, you have a problem. Should you contact an attorney? Some attorneys will talk without charge at a first consultation and take a case on a contingency fee of 1/3 of what is settled. Do you have a case? Usually, if there is no sexual harassment or discrimination of one sort or another, an attorney is of little help. Lies about you will not bring a monetary settlement or even an apology unless you can connect them to serious loss of job or reputation. Now should you seek an attorney? Have you considered what the reaction of your bosses would be to going outside your workplace? Believe me, that will not be taken well. But that should not stop you if you have real mistreatment and can prove it is sexual harassment or discrimination and that that has affected your good standing and/or caused you loss of promotion or job.

If not, would it not be best to forget about an attorney? And if you do go to an attorney, stay mum about that within your workplace. The natural tendency when a supervisor does something wrong is to gossip about this with co-workers. It might be that the things your supervisor said about you were things she picked up from gossip of your co-workers or misinterpretations of things you might have talked about. You have begun a process of complaint about your supervisor by going to your union. Why did you go to the union? You say you were treated badly? How? You don’t spell that out exactly. In what ways did your supervisor treated you badly–what happened, when, where, and who witnessed them? Nor do you say what your union rep is doing to help resolve this bad treatment? Is not this the real issue? The false statements that your rep reported to you in writing add to this mistreatment.So now you should expect and pursue your union to follow up on the mistreatment complaint. Your union rep should help stop mistreatment.

Probably the lies will be hard to prove because they can be a he said she said matter, but maybe you could get a retraction and an apology. You need to learn what is the recommended process your union is to follow in resolving mistreatment. What kind of treatment do you want? What do you not want? Have you spoken to your supervisor about this? Now that you have brought your union rep in to this, shouldn’t a face-to-face session be scheduled for the three of you? In this session your complaints of mistreatment should be listed and your supervisor undoubtedly will describe what you did or did not do that prompted her behavior. She may also deny that she did what you say she did. The important thing is to find a way to work together–to talk together civilly and work through differences.Can you do that?

Can you with the aid your rep come to an understanding and an agreement about speaking to each other respectfully–not yelling, addressing each other by name, making assignments clearly and reasonably, following them without disrespectful attitude and reactions? Often problems between a supervisor and subordinate come from gossiping to co-workers about him or her rather than by talking about how to communicate effectively head to head with him or her.

Those who supervise do not always realize how the come across. Some have never learned not to give orders like a drill sergeant. Some do not listen. Some play favorites. True. But most want to be liked and respected. It is also true that some who are bossed do not listen. Do not follow instructions well. They do not treat those in authority respectfully. But most employees want to be liked, treated fairly and respectfully. If this is what you want, now can you use this time of conflict with your supervisor to bring into the open what really bothers you and to hammer out what can make both you and your supervisor a good working relationship? Rather than allow this conflict between you and your supervisor to fester, can you put your faith in communication?

Whatever happened to cause the mistreatment probably did not come from one unhappy incident. Nor will the problem be mended in one quick-fix meeting. It will take time and more than one conversation to work through what each of you think is reasonable and respectful. I often say that working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Do let us know what you do and how this all is resolved. Life is too short and work is too hard to also be unhappy day after day.

William Gorden