What Rights As A Supervisor?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about supervisor accused of bullying: What are my rights as the supervisor being unjustly accused without written documentation of the allegation (s)?

Approximately 3 months ago my manager called me into his office stating that approximately 5 of my employees are accusing me of bullying. I think the reason for this charge is due to my adhering to the rules when these employees have had “free reign” in the past. This includes being tardy for work, leaving early, taking extended lunch breaks etc. Prior to my tenure as supervisor I was supervisor in this department for 10 years at which time I was “walked out of the company” with several of my colleagues due to restructuring of the company. A third party sub-contracted with that company and was informed to hire me so that I may return to the same job as supervisor before yet now being employed by the sub-contractor.

The employees, charging me with harassment, have gotten away with this previously under a different supervisor. Now being held accountable for their actions presents a big problem. I have not seen any written statement documenting these allegations yet have been requested by my manager for the sub-contractor to write a written statement and submit to him copying the HR department of the sub-contracting company I am employed with. My employees are unionized UAW employees and I have previously spoken with their union representative about the supposed allegations, again there has been nothing in writing. I have all my write-ups and documentation of conversations with these employees. What are my rights as the supervisor being unjustly accused without written documentation of the allegation (s)?

Signed, Old Supervisor Rehired

DearĀ Old Supervisor Rehired:

Your new role that has generated a charge of bullying has no quick fix. I doubt that you will find any solace in an answer to your question: What are my rights as the supervisor being unjustly accused without written documentation of the allegation (s)? Why? I doubt that “your rights” are a matter of law, unless they are spelled out in the agreement made by your subcontracted company. Our site provides advice about communication-related workplace questions, notĀ  legal advice. So might not your first route to learning what support you have be to follow a chain of command; to learn the protocols and practice of when subordinates make a complaint against a supervisor?

Obviously, when a complaint is made, management is expected to investigate and to then rule in light of what is learned. But even before a formal investigation, it seems to me that your boss has a responsibility. You seem well aware of the need for documentation and bringing a complaint of bullying will require supporting evidence. What you do not mention is your understanding of you job description and how that has been communicated to those in your charge.

Here is what appears missing. Often an immediate problem-solving between the parties involved is recommended as the first and most effective approach, even before a formal investigation. Have you spoken to your boss about what is expected of you and then of scheduling such a meeting? When a complaint is made is it not your boss’ responsibility to clarify what is and what is not your role regarding making assignments and monitoring what is and is not done? And should not those who have complaints prompt you to reflect and modify your behavior if some of it borders on bullying? Shouldn’t those who make charges be confronted?

To be sure one’s subordinates can conspire to get back at a supervisor who rules a tight ship, but they can only get away with that when those above a supervisor fail to support her/him. Start by defining your “rights” with your boss and if need be with the company that holds the subcontractor responsible. It might be also a matter of what is the policy and practice of the union. So your boss and you also probably need to clarify your role in light of the union contract. That said, does not the real issue also hinge on whether you and those who have complained can come together on an overarching goal; of doing what is necessary to help your companies (old and subcontractor) survive and thrive? Is not your challenge to find a way to bypass the adversarial boss/bossed way of work and to create a WEGO against apathy about how well your workplace fares?

I don’t know if that sense of we-must-work-together or be sold or shut was present in your previous ten years, but I think that in this economy surviving should not be far from the mind of both management and those lower in rank. Soooo rather than taking only a who’s in charge approach can you engage your people in skull session to that end; delivering the goods and services that are valued by internal and external customers? If this thought makes sense to you, confer with your boss and seek her/his advice about how you and your associates might do that. That’s the kind of team building I have done plant wide. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and isn’t that what you really want? Not just to have the rights of bossing but of enlisting a can-do gang. As I said up front, there is no quick fix, but I predict you will have a solid chance of working through this complaint if you don’t allow it to sour you.

William Gorden