Unwarranted Complaint To Boss

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a complaint of my talk: that I have commented something about her unfortunate son to the peon.

I work in a big bank. I am the private secretary (officer rank) of my boss. My boss and I, a personal assistant (clerical) and a peon (general assistant), comprise the section. I was hired a year ago. The personal assistant thinks she knows everything, but alas, I am very doubtful. She has a mentally retarded son. She comes to office late, after the boss arrives. I am not dependent on her in anyway, because the work I am carrying out does not demand any help from her (which she expects me to ask) as I manage my own things.

Recently, she complained about me to my boss, that I have commented something about her unfortunate son to the peon. In turn, the peon conveyed it to her, she alleges. She could have asked me directly, whether I have uttered something like that, but she directly complained to the boss. My boss is out of station. How I should react, when he enquires. If he asks me to tender my apologies to her, what should I do? If so, why should I, when I have not told anything of that sort?

Signed, Unfairly Complained About

Dear Unfairly Complained About:

It sounds as though there is an ongoing conflict between the two of you that needs to be resolved. Maybe this recent complaint will be the thing that helps you find a way to have a better working relationship.Since you know about the complaint, take the first step by having a letter ready for your boss before he asks you about it. You have several options for the letter, according to what really happened. And, you will want to tell the absolute truth about all of it. If you did not make the statements or if you did not say anything at all that could be viewed as a comment about your son, the peon with which you work lied to your co-worker. Or, the co-worker is lying about both the peon and you. That should be investigated.

In your letter adamantly deny that the conversation being complained about ever happened. Ask to have the peon and the co-worker, and others who might have heard the conversation, questioned about when it was alleged to have happened and the exact words that were alleged to have been used.Unless the peon has proof of what you said, or your remarks were heard by someone else, you might be able to show that you did not make the statements attributed to you.

The person who lied should certainly get in trouble for that fact. I would think it would be the peon who told a falsehood or exaggerated. A history of not having such conversations, will help in this case.If, on the other hand, you said something that could have been misunderstood as an insult or an obvious negative remark about the co-worker’s son, you should apologize. All you have to do is say, “I did make the remark. I shouldn’t have said it, and I won’t again. I’m sorry this happened and I’m sorry Ms. Co-Worker was hurt by it.” If you said something, but of a very insignificant nature, say that in your letter, to make it clear you did not spend a lot of time saying bad things. You might say, “I made one brief statement of a few words, that concerned the condition of Ms. Co-Worker’s son. I didn’t say or do anything that was cruel or that made problems for her. I regret the way Ms. Co-Worker feels about my remarks, but they were statements of fact, said in a courteous, civil way, in an appropriate discussion.” Or, you may want to say you were not being unpleasant in your remarks, but you will apologize for the hurt felt by Ms. Co-Worker when she heard about it. You could also say that how it was repeated to her apparently sounded much worse than the actual conversation.

The final option involves what to do if you said something that was quite negative and said in a ridiculing or cruel way. You may have been frustrated over the work of your co-worker. Or, while talking you may have said unkind things that would have been better left unsaid. Almost all of us have done that at some time. If that is the case, acknowledge it and apologize more deeply. “I don’t know why I would have said such things. It isn’t like me to do so, and I don’t have such unkind feelings in my heart. I am very, very sorry and I will never say such things again. I hope Ms. Co-Worker will forgive me and know that I will work to regain her trust.”

That will be embarrassing, but at least will show your sincere regret. If you take action on your own, before you are required to do so, it will show your sincerity and help your actions be viewed less negatively.Your Co-Worker probably went to the boss, rather than talking to you, because she wanted to make sure the boss knew about it. That indicates that it’s time for you to take the first step to at least calm the tension between you two.From a purely human viewpoint, consider the constant stress under which your co-worker operates, if she has a son who needs extra care. He may also have medical conditions. He may be both a mental and physical challenge for her. It certainly is likely to result in her spending much more money than the average parent, to handle various costs. She probably has much more to deal with in her life than most parents do. And, perhaps much more to deal with than you do. Allow yourself to feel compassion for her life challenges.She should still be doing good work–but perhaps your boss accepts that her work will never be quite up to the top level, because of all the things that take her attention.

If some aspect of her work keeps you from doing yours well, that is something you need to discuss openly with your boss and perhaps with her. Otherwise you should probably just let it go and let your boss handle it.Maybe your boss would have ideas about how you could approach the issue of developing a better working team. Ask for a truthful evaluation of your work in relation to that of your co-worker. Ask if your boss has had similar situations and how he has handled it.

Above all, make it clear that you regret things have come to this point and that you are going to do your part to make things better. If your boss has been aware of the conflict, he will probably be very happy to know it will be eliminated! Your organization’s culture may have a lot to do with how all of this is handled. You know that best. However, I do think you need to make your statement about this as soon as possible, and with the attitude of wanting to deal with it honestly and openly. Best wishes as you develop a plan, not only for this situation, but for the future of your relationships there. You can lead the way to an even more successful group.

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.