Told To Sign Letter Of Insubordination!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being bullied:

I believe I am being bullied, if not harassed by my department manager. I was selected, by the senior engineer in a different department (engineering) to attend an engineering class out of town to enhance my ability to address engineering issues for my company. My dept manager initially told me I could go, along with my direct supervisor and another engineer, but that he (dept mgr) did not want to pay for it. When his boss approved the $ for me to attend, my dept mgr. remarked that he didn’t know if both my direct supervisor and I could be off at the same time. I replied to him that our staffing levels for the week of the class were sufficient so as to not disrupt operations. He replied by stating that he would look into it. I understood that based on his response, he would decide whether or not I could go and communicate that with all affected parties. He then took a weeks vacation, during that time, my direct supervisor, the senior engineer and the my dept manager’s boss all told me I could go to this class. The engineer signed me up for the class and my supervisor gave me the expense forms to fill out. When my dept manager returned, he ordered me to cancel my class and acted outraged that I would sign up for this without his permission. I cancelled the class and my travel plans.The week after the class took place, (my supervisor and an engineer attended) my dept manager gave me a letter to sign that stated I signed up for this class with total disregard for his orders and that my behavior amounted to insubordination. I have copies of emails that support my claim that not only did I not sign up for this class, but that I was permitted to attend upon receiving approval from my dept. manager’s boss. The dept. manager has a history of using his position as a means to bully and intimidate subordinates and co-workers. I am not a problem employee or poor performer. The reason I was asked to attend this training session was due to my job performance during my time employed for this company. I have received the best performance review by two separate supervisors two years in a row.

My concern is that I am being harassed as a result of my efforts to excel in my job and the fact that I am an hourly (blue-collar) employee. I have not been with the company long (3 yrs) but many who have been there longer have told me of similar events that involving my dept manager. With a proven pattern of intimidating behavior, and evidence to support this presumption, do I have a case for workplace harassment? I do not wish to sue my employer, but I am afraid that this dept manager is trying to find a way, legitimately or otherwise, to fire me or get me to quit.

Signed, Just Want To Keep My Job

Dear Just Want To Keep My Job:

Forget about having a case. Your problem is not legal. Rather it one of being put down by your department manager. Apparently, he assumed that you signed up and sought by the letter saying that you did so to have an example of your insubordination. You should request that his letter with your rebuttal, including the e-mails that support the fact that your attendance hinged on “upon receiving approval from my dept. manager’s boss” be put in your personnel file. (Keep copies.) Your manager probably assumed you signed up because your engineer co-worker had signed you up. His assumption, therefore, had some substance back of it. Right? And if that is possible, you should acknowledge that to him.

You like your job other than this incident? You need your job? What would it take for you to be really enthused about keeping it? Take the time to jot down the answer to those questions, and then think though a plan to cope with or transform what you think is intimidation to support for you staying. You already earned to favorable appraisals. So once you have clearly in mind the way you would like to be managed and what you have contributed, schedule a meeting with your manager.

Assertively, put your cards on the table: your disappointment in being asked to sign a letter stating insubordination, requesting that you letter explaining that you did not be put in your file, and asking what are the chances that you can work cooperatively with him. Have the list of your accomplishments and state you desire to continue as a responsible employee. Present it orally and in writing at an appropriate time. Also have in writing how you want to be communicated with by your manager. Present them one by one. Ask your manager if these are reasonable and if he can work this way with you. Ask what he wants from you, and pledge your cooperation on those policies that you feel are reasonable. The goal of such a confrontation is to clear the air and to gain a civil, and hopefully a supportive, working relationship. Possibly, you might request that your boss’s boss or a representative from Human Resources or the union if you have one be part of this meeting.

Weigh these thoughts. Possibly they will help you plan or find an alternative plan that will, if followed, prove effective. Taking action is much more healthy than talking with co-workers about how much you resent what you feel is intimidation. Working together collaboratively with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOs. And it seems that me, me, me much needs to be replaced by we, we, we where you work. Achieving that is a continuing process.

William Gorden