Wrongly Accused

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about angry supervisor:

A few days ago I worked a closing shift and now I’m on my days off. The day after I closed, my supervisor phoned me and snapped at me, asking what I did with the wristband tickets. The supervisor every night is supposed to put the tickets back in the office and count them to make sure everything adds up, so I assumed that she had put them in there.She went nuts when I said that and said that she didn’t, and hung up. That was around 5:15 p.m. and I got off at 12:30 a.m. the night before.

Later on that same night the manager of the store called me and asked me if I had anything to ‘fess up” to. I told him that I didn’t and he responded with, “Are you sure?” I told him that I was. He then said that they have footage of everything that happens behind the tills, and I said that I know. He told me then that they would be sending in the tapes for examination and I said good because I have nothing to hide.The next day the same supervisor who had first called me started to text me on my cell phone. She was trying to get something out of me when there’s nothing to be said. I’m wondering why this is being done over the phone. I go in for a shift tomorrow, and I’m just wondering about any rights that I should know about if they start asking me questions again.

Signed, Worried

Dear Worried:

You have not been charged with a crime, so there are no specific legal rights involved. If a police report is made, an officer or investigator might ask you questions about this matter. Be absolutely truthful. If they say you are being charged with a crime, THEN you want to say you must have your parents (if you are a minor) and an attorney, before you will talk any further about it. I don’t think it will come to that however! There is apparently nothing that could prove you took anything, and we will assume that you did not.

Think about the facts. If I understand you correctly, you had access to some wristband tickets which have value from the viewpoint of being used to get into a store or concert, but don’t have large value otherwise. You left work assuming that the supervisor on duty would have put them away and counted them. When the supervisor came to work the next night she couldn’t find them and called you. When you said you didn’t have them because she was supposed to put them away, she got upset and said she hadn’t put them away–and implied that you must have done something with them. The manager called and tried to bluff you by reminding you that there would be a video tape showing you took the wristband tickets, so if you took them you had better confess it. Since then the supervisor has text messaged you about it.

Really, when you think about it, even the manager knows that if you weren’t shown on video tape to have taken the wristbands, there is no way to prove what happened to them. The manager may also suspect the supervisor or some other employee. You don’t know the full story because you have been off work. By now they may have been found.If the manager doesn’t work the hours you do, consider calling him before you go back to work and ask about the status of the missing wristbands. Be open and show that you are not afraid to talk about it. If you really didn’t take the wristbands, stick with that. Don’t offer to pay for them, or say that maybe you don’t remember what you did with them. Just say you didn’t take them and that the supervisor was responsible for them, not you. Say that when you left work you thought the supervisor would take care of them. If the supervisor had already left when you were closing up, then you need to figure out what you did and report that accurately. But, if the supervisor was there when you left, she is the one responsible.Keep in mind that if the wristbands are missing, someone had to take them or they have been misplaced. So, the manager will obviously question everyone who might have had access to them. But, that is as far as it can go legally because no police investigator would file a charge against someone if there was no evidence of some kind.Your manager may decide to fire everyone who was working that night.

I hope that doesn’t happen, but it is something for you to be aware of. That’s why it’s important to keep the attitude that you want to help solve the mystery. That attitude will be better than getting defensive or angry about being accused, or acting afraid. Instead, show concern, stick with your true story and let the manager know you can be trusted in everything you do.This will take courage and maturity to handle it well. Many people who are accused of something like this at work, get so afraid that they act guilty about it, or they get so angry they alienate the very people they want to have support them.Many years ago when I was a teenager, I was accused of taking cash out of a cash register. I was called at home and the store manager did almost exactly what the manager in your case did–he told me if I paid back the money he would drop the matter. My mother very wisely said she wanted them to completely investigate it so my name would be cleared, and that I would not pay back money I didn’t take. I went back to the store at night, to show them I wanted to help solve the mystery of the missing money. When they investigated further, they found out there had been an error on a purchase, and there was less money in the cash register than they had thought. Rather than be angry about being accused, I told the manager I understood why he was worried and why he thought I might have taken the money. But, I said, I hoped he would get to know me well enough to know I would never take anything, anytime. He felt so badly about the whole situation he was much nicer to me after that than to anyone else! Don’t avoid talking about this to your supervisor or manager. Get it out in the open and be one of the ones who tries to help. Maybe you can help develop a better way to handle the wristband tickets in the future–like having employees sign for them and sign out when they leave.I hope this has been helpful. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens. Good luck and best wishes.

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.