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 I am the owner of a small business with 9 employees and 1 manager.  I recently (within past 4 days) became aware of a statement my manager made two months ago to a team member while at work:  "If you make it appear like I'm doing something wrong or not doing what I should be, it will be like hell at work." Needless to say, I was disgusted and outraged by this hostility and confronted my manager. My manager stated that she said it, jokingly, while the group was drinking at a bar. In private, the team member reiterated that it was said to her while on the job. I tell my Manager that one of them is lying and now is the time to set the record straight. She proceeds to say, "How dare I not believe her…yada yada yada." So I say I will meet with each of them again in the morning. I then get a call from my team member stating that my manager had just called her and stated my manager, "was in trouble and possibly could be terminated and to please go along with the story about being at a bar."

So I've got a few issues here:

1) Manager that makes threat and creates hostile work environment 

2) I'm just learning about this past incident and need to address it now

3) I only have he said/she said to go by in terms of where the comment was made

4) I potentially have a lying manager or team member

5) How I handle this can set the tone for the rest of the team in terms of me supporting them when they have a frustration/concern regarding manager

 Is is appropriate to demote my manager to team member?  Is it more appropriate to terminate?  

donm's picture

One of them has broken a cardinal rule. You have only "he said/she said."

I think I'd tell the manager in private that you have no idea who is telling the truth (and don't care who is telling the truth), so I'll lay down the law:

  • Don't ever lie to me
  • Don't ever threaten team members to get them to lie
  • Accept responsibility for both the successes and mistakes
  • There will be no CYA activity

And go from there as you see fit. Make sure she is aware that you are not saying she has done any of these things. You are making absolutely certain that such behaviors don't happen henceforth.

I would then have a team meeting, including the manager, and lay out essentially the same rules and standards.

What I would not do is rehash or investigate or try to determine/decide who is lying. That's past behavior and cannot be changed. You need to target future behavior. If this never happens again, then you've achieved your goals.

Edit: I would also not discuss the specific incident in any of the conversations. It is over and done with.

mrreliable's picture

 If I didn't know better I'd say your manager went to work for you after she was terminated by me. Disclaimer, I don't know what happened either, but the pattern looks identical.

Your problem isn't just that someone told a lie and it's blown up. Your problem is that someone has a pattern of lying to take other people down, or at the very least to throw other people under the bus for their own convenience.

The most striking similarity in these scenarios is asking other people to lie to give her intial lie credibility.

The person I dealt with was not only an employee, but also in the family circle. I witnessed many episodes where it was obvious she was lying, and there were situations where she'd ask me to lie to someone else to cover for her. I also got, "Oh, that was a joke, ha ha!" as a fairly standardized response when a quick-thinking plausible excuse didn't pop into her head.

I did everything I could to work with her, counsel her, and support her. It did no good. The last straw came when she was very late on a project. The president of our company came into my office and said, "Why did you tell So-And-So to stop working on that project?" In a way it's fortunate that her reputation for lying was wide and earned, so there was no question when I said, "We never discussed anything like that."

As I was soul searching before the termination, I thought back to the time she told me to say something to another person that was an inside joke, it would be so funny, ha ha ha. Foolishly I did so, and it turned out to be a nasty, hurtful comment. I thought about all the people who had been soiled along the way, "I never got that message," discussions of clever lies to tell to gain an advantage over people instead of discussions of clever ways to tell the truth.

The "How dare you" also resonates. I think there was a bully aspect, which turns to victimhood when the intended target wheels and stands up.

One of those folks is engaging in an aggressive, thoughtful plan to trash the reputation of integrity of the other person. I think it's possible to emphatically lay down the law and move forward, I certainly tried to do that in my situation. However, if I had to do it all over again, or encountered someone with those traits, my level of tolerance would be minimal. I would also worry about erosion of trust of the person who is the honest one in this situation. They're defending their reputation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mike_bruns_99's picture

First, they're either trusted or they're not.  If you don't trust them in their current role and demote them, it, they'll just be resentful.  

I agree with DONM, you don't want to play Sherlock Holmes here.  His approach is perfect.

The only thing I would add when talking with manager, is to say:  "Whether you said it in a bar, or whether you were serious, it was still a galactically stupid thing to say.  It damaged the relationship with your team, and your relationship with me.  It makes me question your judgement.  If anything like this happen again, I will fire you."

Use the words "I will fire you".   It sounds like this manager is playing games, and she needs to realize this is no game.  If it happens again and you will fire her, the right thing to do is to let her know, now.

=================================

That being said, it you have any question whatsoever about your Manager's integrity, you can and should terminate now.  It's telling that your first instinct wasn't "This is just a misunderstanding".   If you think it's possible that she lied in this circumstance, that means there's more than just this incident.  Fire her now.  Not for lying, but for losing your trust.

DRD282's picture

I just don't remember what it is. I think if you listen back through the Feedback casts it is in there.

Basically the MT guidance (someone please correct me if I'm a bit off) is that you evaluate your source and the subject of the secondhand information. If you trust the source and believe that it happened then you *act as if* you were there to see it happen, case closed. There is no "so and so said this..." and no sussing for the truth. You act as if, give feedback accordingly, and move on. 

Does anyone remember that cast(s) where they discuss this?

 

 

 

 

edcrawfordlv's picture

You can still formally document this incident.

Meet with the employee involved and formally communicate your company policy on truth and your policy on a hostile work environment.  You don't need to make any acquisitions, you just want proof that you specifically communicated your expectations.

Be sure to date it and keep it in a file.  If this is a legitimate complaint, chances are you'll need plenty of documentation later.

Ed

chriswesley's picture

Before taking any major action in the working environment, it is important to be as sure of all the relevant facts as you can be. I would follow the old adage of "getting all the liars into the same room". So I'd call a meeting which I would chair. I would lay out the reason for the meeting - to establish facts and consider options. I would lay out the rules - no aggressive or abusive language - just the facts - positive and constructive. Then give each participant a change to say their piece and interact.  Of course, it's still not definitive but it's far better than acting on the isolated hearsay of any single team member.

If you can be sure that your manager made this malicious threat - then fire them. They are not the kind of person you'd ever want to run your business, and they'll pollute and damage your team and your business. You can't easily change this kind of person - so let go and start again. Hiring correctly is THE most important things any employer can do, so learn from this and build some tests into your interview process for next time.

Chris 

mattpalmer's picture

 is entitled "Third -Party Negative Feedback", I suspect.

Also, to the OP: I'd fire your manager just for the call to the direct after you talked about it.  There's no plausible explanation for your skip knowing that you'd just talked about it with the manager, other than the manager calling them up and trying to get them to lie.  It's dishonest behaviour, and that'll get you fired immediately in my book.

dan west's picture

The subject is blunt, but it summarizes what I think should happen here.

I think you have two issues going on. First, it's important to remember that feedback is about changing future behavior. As managers going back and forth between two people is futile. We hire adults to behave like adults. DonM summarized the steps I would take as well. Simply lay down the law and do not get into a debate. 

Second, MattPalmer also made a good point. Going back to the employee and pushing them to lie is abhorrent behavior. This calls into question *EVERYTHING* they've ever said to you. Quite frankly, this manager is creating a culture of deceitful behavior within your group. If you believe that is happening, you should fire him. This is a rotten apple.