Temp With A Bad Boss

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about accused of a poor attitude:

I have been working for this company for 7 months as a temp. My work performance is superb. I received a call from my agency telling me that it was brought to his attention that I have a attitude and I called my lead a fake bitch. I asked him where did he hear these accusations from and of course he would not say other than it was more than one resource. He told me that the company wanted to fire me but my work performance basically saved me but if he gets another call then I would be fired.

He told me to quit before I got fired or move to a different department. But I work hard, enjoy what I do and I work well with others but the people in my department as well as myself have had several issues with our lead. She has lied to get others fired and written up. My job is in jeopardy over someone else not liking me for what reason I do not know. Can I please get some guidance because I feel harassed, discriminated against and defamation of character.

Signed, Angry and Frustrated

Dear Angry and Frustrated:

I can only imagine how you felt to have your temp manager call with such a report and a warning. It would be hurtful, embarrassing and frightening. However, nothing seems to indicate a situation of harassment or hostile workplace, under the law. It is a case of accusations that probably can’t be proven, just as your statement that you did not say such things can’t be proven. More difficult is the issue of having an “attitude”. If possible you may want to talk to your manager again to find out what was meant by that and if he has general examples he can provide so you will know what has been the most problematic behavior.

Whether you find out more or not, your best approach is to find a way to neutralize whatever is currently happening and move forward more carefully and positively. You acknowledge that you don’t like the lead and think she lies. You have discussed her with others and find out they tend to feel the same way. So, perhaps in the conversations someone took a word here and there and decided you think she’s a fake b***h. Or, someone else said it and you agreed. Or, a combination of things. If there was clear proof that you said such a thing, I think you would have been fired already, good work or not. I don’t think your temp manager is probably being completely truthful about what he has been told. (But it is probably true that if there are other complaints your temp work could be ended.) I don’t know if you have worked as a temp for many companies.

I have worked with temporary agencies often, as a client and as a coach with employees who were having problems with clients. My observation was that often the temp employees forgot they were temps if they worked in the company for more than a few weeks. And, if they did a good job, they tended to feel they were part of the team in every way. Sadly, the regular employees almost never felt that way, no matter how friendly they were or even if they liked the temp employee a lot. They resented temps who acted as though they were a regular employee and they often tattled on them much more quickly than on a regular coworker.

One of the most common complaints I heard was that that the temp had an uppity attitude or acted like he or she was better than regular employees or as though he or she had the right to gripe about the company or bosses (even though the regular employees were doing it.) Temps walk a very fine line in such situations! I tell you that to say that it might not be the case in your work, but someone you work with has said something or implied something in order for this accusation to have been made. The lead was told about it or it was hinted to her and she probably talked to her manager and was told to talk to your temp agency manager. That can be hurtful to know, but it is better to know it than to keep talking to coworkers and not realize that it’s coming back to haunt you. I would suggest you prove the allegations wrong by your actions in the future.

If you are truly a superbly performing employee, your lead and managers above her will be happy to know you learned from the experience and are now focused again on doing good work. Even though you may know the accusations are not true, they believe they are. So, you need to be so credible and valuable that they are willing to put this behind them. Consider talking to your lead and letting her know you feel badly about all of this and that you would never have said such a thing. You can also reaffirm that you like the work and want to stay working there. Ask her if she has any suggestions for how you can be more effective and useful. (You should be doing that anyway.)

Commit to not becoming involved in office gossip and instead focus more on work. Then, live up to your promises. Remember this: Everyone may dislike the lead, but she IS the lead. She has authority and responsibility that others don’t have. She probably has a tough job if she has to deal with backstabbing all day (even if she does it herself sometimes!) Don’t let yourself get sucked into office hassles. Instead focus on being appreciative of the work, appropriately humble about your role there, helpful to regular employees and cooperative all the way around. That may sound as though you are being expected to do it all–and it probably is true that you will need to do most of the work to get this back right again. But, if you want the job, it will be worth it.

It is perfectly doable to turn this around, but it will take setting the goal and working toward it, without deviating. What do you think the lead would say was the perfect temp? What made work better at the beginning? Try to recreate those successful days now. I wish there was a magical solution to this but there isn’t. If you don’t think it will ever get better, I would agree with your temp manager that you may want to move to another area. But, I think with the right approach and a long-term commitment, you can enjoy work and feel better about it, while at the same time being an employee that is valued for both your work performance and your great attitude. Best wishes to you! If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

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.