Unfairness Designed to Drive Me Out?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about feeling pushed out:

I had deep misunderstanding with my boss due to slandering and defamation from my subordinate for 11 months. I felt the biases were really obvious when I was due for promotion (as indicated by boss himself, when we were in good terms) but I was not given that promotion. Instead, a newcomer was promoted upon confirmation, which was unheard of.

My boss abused me constantly with verbal shouting, screaming and several false accusations. It was really humiliating and depressing. When my unethical subordinate left the company because she could not deliver, my boss blamed me and cut my appraisal marks one grade down (let’s say “K” grade). To my disbelief he even jumped into the conclusion that I did something to cause him to be transferred out of my operating unit to HQ!

However, after few weeks he summoned me and informed he had restored the grade to what was reflected in my KPI (Key Performance Indicator) which was a “J” rating. My boss’s superior, the big boss, assured me that I shouldn’t feel guilty as the boss’s transfer was not connected to me. He even complimented me on several occasions on the final excellent grade of “J”.

Since my boss’s transfer, our whole operating unit has been reporting to the big boss. He was very supportive and things were peaceful for four months. However, I found out by accident recently that I was paid the bonus of a “K” grade-one grade down from the original I thought I had. When I confronted the big boss he admitted he changed the marks. I was dumbfounded that the grade could be cut without informing me. I always thought the main objective of an appraisal was to motivate an employee to perform even better through highlighting strengths and weakness.

When I further inquired what can I improve in my work, he said there was nothing wrong in my work. Then he vaguely stated I have a problem with everybody! I was stunned at such a cruel and false remark from someone I had put in my hard work for through the years. When I asked for names so I can approach them to rectify the relationship (if there where problem in the first place) he refused to elaborate.

I doubt I had any problems for we were all working happily together. Since that, I have been struggling to keep a positive outlook, but keep slipping into depression again. Last month, suddenly my assistant resigned with 24 hour notice. I found the letter on my desk, but it didn’t give any clear reason. I tried contacting him through many sources, but without success. I suspect he could not stand that too many vice presidents are asking him to do work without going through me.

I did try to stand up for him once but was shot down by my big boss saying he should know to concentrate on his actual job scope and learn to say no himself. When the big boss started acting angry toward me after my assistant quit without the proper three month’s notice I asked if he (the big boss) know the reason why my assistant left in such an irresponsible way.

The big boss said he didn’t know, but he suspected the culprit is me! Again I was speechless, as my assistant had told me on several occasions he enjoyed his work and was happy working with me. A few weeks after the last confrontation, out of the blue the big boss called for a new appraisal for me, where he briefly listed out several Key Performance Indicators and gave me marks that totaled to justify the lower grade of “K”. I could not believe it, as firstly the form was not the formal HR form, secondly it did not have big boss’s signature nor did it give me the opportunity to comment or agree or disagree like the standard form has.

Thirdly, several “KPI” listed there were never in my job description or original KPI. Apparently management can change our job scope and KPI without our knowledge and penalize us through that?When I tried to salvage the situation to find out what can I do to improve, again I was told my job was fine but I had problems with “everyone”. When I persisted to find out who, he named several that I did not feel there were any issues with. He even named himself! I was in shock again. I did approach one of the persons he named, but that person denied having any issues with me.This is such a sudden change as I always enjoyed my big boss’s trust. Sometimes he believed in me more than I believed in myself, causing me to achieve much more than I could imagine. His attitude changed since the first confrontation and now even showed apparent distrust and hostility towards me.

This drove me into deeper depression and I find it hard to function in an environment of falsehood and ill intentions. If I perform badly in work I would love to be corrected, but the unfairness of punishing me for phantom problematic relationships which strictly speaking did not effect my productivity caused me constant waves of anger and sadness.Ten years of work in this company have been demanding (I was in charge of three very diverse section teams), yet I had loved my job and team. Friends in same line of work in other companies have given me feedback in which they say they normally never combine these three teams under one person.Slowly the management had realized the truth of that and started separating out of two of my teams and asked me to concentrate on one by end of this month. The big boss also wanted me to start a new section. All these had been promising and exciting until this incident on the appraisal in which I feel cheated as the big boss lied to me. I also no longer feel hopeful for advancement in my career as the big boss seemed to have started believing the slandering and defamation and doing it too.

I have yet to ascertain the source of this rumoring, but I wonder if it is my ex-boss who is located in the same location in HQ with big boss since his transfer. There is also the possibly of it being the supplier who had created a big scene threatening to see the COO when I just told the supplier the truth that what they delivered did not match the PO. (After some hassle at last they delivered what we wanted, but sent invoices requesting additional payment for other items we did not even order!)It might also be the COO where

I had reported plainly what was discovered during my checking on a problem. My COO quickly asked me to cover it up. I’m just wondering if I naively stepped into some hanky-panky without realizing it. Did that make me hidden enemies? Or, is it that my over-zealousness for justice and a firm stand in saying no towards doing some illegal thing, is now making me a liability to the company and they want to get rid of me? Or, is someone jealous of my good achievements, especially in the past few years?I know it is useless to speculate but I am totally at a loss. I’m seriously considering just throwing in the towel, as I feel helpless and hopeless.

Signed, Confused and Depressed

Dear Confused and Depressed:

It certainly sounds as though you are viewed in a negative way and are not likely to change that view very quickly. It could be that the situation is a combination of unfairness and untruths as well as misunderstandings. However, you seem to not want to accept that your behavior has in some way lost friends and supporters that you formerly had and turned many people against you. That may not be the truth of the matter and I don’t want to sound excessively harsh. However, I don’t read any comments from you that involves self-analysis to see why there have been so many events in which people have shown their dislike of you. Nor do I see you being able to mention that many loyal friends and supporters have gone to your boss to explain that you are being falsely accused.

Sometimes an employee gets in a rut of negative feelings and reactions that seems difficult to get out of. When that happens one complaint by a coworker can lead to another and another. The employee starts to feel targeted. In most of those situations someone should have been more honest and direct with the employee the very first time he or she did or said something that was taken badly or that was a problem. Instead, everyone hopes the situation will magically improve or they hint around about it and things just get worse. Maybe that has happened in your case.

It would have been helpful–and still could be–to say, “Please tell me some specific things I could do to help my interactions with others and with you.” That is far more effective than asking, “Who said that about me?”If there is no truth to the allegation your boss won’t have many things to suggest. If there is truth to it, your boss will probably have several things to suggest. Even if you don’t agree with him, you could work on those things and show him clear evidence that you are making an effort to get along better with others and with him. At least your boss would have to admit that you are trying to improve. As it is, he only can report to those above him that you haven’t been happy with the critiques and have acted as though you’ve never been told anything like that before–even though you say in your letter than you have had some conflicts in the past.

In addition to taking more personal responsibility for the situation, even if it isn’t all of your making, you may want to consider going to your company’s HR section to ask about the change in ratings and the additional KPI. Perhaps they can explain exactly what is happening and where you stand as an employee. They are the ones who ultimately must administer the bonuses and ratings and are probably well aware of your situation.As I review your letter the things you mention make it clear that right now you are not a highly valued employee. Your performance may be good in some ways, but your behavior is considered to be a problem.

If you want to stay employed there, you only have one option: Do what it takes to show improvement in the areas in which your boss has indicated are problems, even if you feel it is unjustified. If HR says some aspects of the forms you were shown were in error, that still doesn’t change the obviously negative opinion your boss has right now and you need to work on improving that.If you think you can find work somewhere else, it seems to me that you should do so before you are dismissed. However, you know your work situation best. If you think you can’t easily be dismissed no matter how bad things are, perhaps you’ll prefer to stay and hope for changes in your upper management team.I also think you should seek some counseling to help you with the feelings of depression you mention. Someone who could learn more about you and your work situation might be very helpful. Perhaps your company has an employee assistance program or there is another close by resource.

I wish there was something very positive I could say to help you think you can easily turn things around, but I don’t think there is. Your manager’s could probably change some things about the way they’re doing their work, but it sounds as though there are things you can do as well. I hope you will take that on as a challenge that is crucial for your future.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.