Threatened About My Job In Front Of Coworker

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being written up and embarrassed: he proceeded to call over another employee to tell me, in front of my co-worker, how hard he tried to get me fired and how “lucky” I was to have just gotten written up rather than fired.

I was recently written up by my manager, unjustly I might add, and after doing so he proceeded to call over another employee to tell me, in front of my co-worker, how hard he tried to get me fired and how “lucky” I was to have just gotten written up rather than fired and also how he did not trust me (stemming from a separate, unsubstantiated incident) and threatened, also in front of my co-worker, that if I so much as stepped the wrong way he would fire me.I think this was very inappropriate for a manager to discuss aspects of my employment in front of someone who was not a superior, and essentially is on the same level as me.

He also sends out very discriminatory and inappropriate e-mails cursing and also making remarks about not only myself, but other employees as well, on a regular basis which being a person of color I find very offensive. I am trying to handle this the right way so that he is not free to continue these unscrupulous practices and I do not lose my job as I have a family to take care of. So my question is basically what can I do to resolve this in the most professional manner? I need to act quickly to get this resolved but am unclear as to my rights and I would greatly appreciate any advice you may be able to provide.

Signed, Ready to Take Action

Dear Ready to Take Action:

There are obviously some ongoing and probably long-term problems between you and your manager. Whether the work accusations against you are founded or unfounded, it isn’t right for a manager to criticize you in front of others. It certainly isn’t right to call a coworker over for that express purpose. However, your response to all of that depends upon several factors. The first part of this response isn’t direct advice, it’s for you to consider about your situation.

1. What you want to do about this one event as well as all the others you mention, depends upon what seems most likely to be effective within the culture of your organization and your personal style. *You might want to try to improve your working relationship with your manager; and hope his actions change too. *You may feel the situation has gone past that optimistic approach, and the only thing you can do is to make a formal complaint. *You may feel so strongly about it that if your manager doesn’t change completely or if he isn’t removed from his position, you will quit your job to keep from being treated unfairly. *You may work in a situation where you know your manager won’t be removed and you also know it isn’t likely he will be made to change his actions. So, your only option is to try to get along better with the manager and shield yourself from his actions. *You may want to focus on the more serious allegations that have legal ramifications–remarks that related to race or ethnicity–and tie the most recent event into those.

2. One thing to consider is the culture of the organization and how many resources are available to help you. If you work in a very small business where the manager is handpicked by the owner, there are few levels of authority, and the focus is solely on work to the exclusion of relationships, it will be difficult. If you work in an organization large enough to have an HR section, several layers of management and a culture of team building, it might not be so difficult.

3. Another guideline will be exactly what has happened that has created this rift between you and your manager. You mention two negative situations that you say were unfounded. If your manager believes them to be true, he may feel very frustrated with you and the situation, and you will be able to at least understand his perspective. If you think he knows without a doubt they are not true and has lied to make you look bad, that would be a completely different situation.

4. Another issue is your standing and influence within the organization, especially with your coworkers and former supervisors or other managers. If you are not viewed as a strong contributor, your efforts will not be supported strongly. If you are viewed as a great worker who has always been supportive of others, you are more likely to get support now.We often suggest that one way to deal with management problems is to strengthen the team internally. Whatever else happens, you will benefit by working more closely with your team, supporting good employees, working to improve output or methods and looking for ways to have a better workplace. It is difficult for even a bad manager to harm employees when work is being done well and the overall team is a strong one.

5. The final issue is how your manager is viewed. If he has had similar problems in the past and is not viewed positively, you may be supported just as a way to deal with him. If he is generally popular, considered a good person, and is someone who achieves the mission of your unit, he may be supported out of loyalty for his work and because of his friendships.So, those are things to consider as you decide what you want to do.

6. We often advise employees to make the effort to develop a better relationship with a manager, as a way to work through problems. However, that is primarily for minor misunderstandings. This seems to have gone far past that. That approach is still an option for you if you prefer to take that approach. Here is the guideline: If your manager were to act better from here on out, would you be willing to put the recent events aside? Or, are these behaviors so intolerable that you definitely want organizational action taken about them?If you make a formal complaint about the actions of your manager, his feelings about you will be worse. However, his actions might improve, and that could be worth it to you. If you work to improve the feelings of your manager about you, you may not be successful. However, if a formal complaint is inevitable, you could at least say you tried to take positive action first.

7. If you want to try to work directly with your manager you will need to be willing to accept that his views are valid to him–even if they are not to you. You may also need to talk to him about an improved relationship. Can you do that?If you want to take that approach, let him know you are worried about how things have been happening and that you would like to focus on work without worrying about being in trouble. Ask if there are key areas in which you need to work to improve or if there are specific issues you could discuss with him.

8. Another approach would be to simply keep your head down and fulfill every aspect of your job description well. Most managers won’t cause problems for someone who is getting the work done and who is not creating problems for the manager or others.Look at your performance evaluations; even a blank one; and see what areas are important to the company. Then, purposely work to demonstrate those knowledge, skills, trait and performance areas every day. Let your manager know you are using that approach.

9. If you want to go the route of making a complaint, you will need to get your information together and write a letter to support your concerns. If you can prove his inappropriate actions you should talk to your HR section, or go higher than your manager to make a formal complaint about his actions. It sounds as though you have plenty of reasons to support that more extreme approach.Your manager told you he wanted to fire you but couldn’t. That indicates he didn’t have a strong case and those with firing authority could see that fact. Also, it indicates he does not have the clout he needs to railroad you into a disciplinary action. So, it isn’t likely he can fulfill his threats anyway. It also shows he may already be on shaky ground with his own managers. When they hear that he told employees he tried to get you fired but couldn’t, they will certainly resent his sharing that information. And, since it did happen that way, they will be more likely to believe that he said it.

10. If you have proof that he has said inappropriate remarks based on ethnicity, race, gender or other areas protected under the law, you have a much more serious complaint to make. We are not legal advisors so can’t provide legal advice, but you may find you will want to contact an attorney to see if your situation merits stronger action. Or, by contacting an attorney for a free consultation, you may receive advice about how to best approach the situation in case civil action is taken in the future.

11. When you contact HR or a higher manager, write your letter with the strong emphasis on wanting to work there and wanting to do a good job, but also wanting to have a manager who is respectful. Also say you feel very threatened with the current situation and are concerned about his actions once he knows a complaint has been made. (That could help you down the line.) Specifically ask for an investigation of the overall situation with your manager, otherwise your letter may just be considered a general complaint that requires no specific action.Asking for an investigation is a request that is difficult to ignore, and if it is ignored, it provides you with evidence of your organization’s failure to respond if that evidence is needed later. (Hopefully it will not be!)Be prepared to provide the names of witnesses to the actions you are complaining about. Or, if there were no witnesses, have as much detail as possible–dates, times, circumstances, etc.

12. The bottom line: I’m sorry things have developed to this point. But now you have a decision to make about what you want to do next. As I said earlier, if you feel some aspect of this will involve allegations of violations of laws related bias or hostile work environment, you may want to at least talk to an attorney or a paralegal first, to get the best advice on how to proceed. Otherwise, either try to communicate with your supervisor or go directly to HR or someone higher than your manager, to ask them to assist you.Best wishes with this. 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.