I work in Maryland, USA and have been working with a company for almost 10 years. For about the last 3 of them, I've been warned about, a newly hired regional manager that had eyes on me by my direct manager. Never mentioning anything about my issues with said individual myself. Since then, I've been even more careful about documenting my work, just in case the day would come when I would need to defend my integrity and my job. I've fended of harassment and accusations ever since. And in good faith (more like desperate hope) that the professionalism and understanding of the way my job works, I just kept my position on things and hoped we could come to some mutual ground.

Fast forward to today, under a new direct manager, that day has come. I have been presented with documentation on my "lack of performance" noting wild and untrue accusations. Thankfully, I have documentation that disproves it. But I can't help but feel that even though I work for a well established company, I have few people in my corner willing to even at least mediate this issue fairly, simply because this has gone on for so long and nothing has been done about it before.

Is it safe to go to HR about this? I don't know for sure, but it feels like I'm not very significant on the food-chain if this abusive behavior goes 2 levels up and is ignored.

  • Hello, and welcome to the workplace. For future reference, when posting questions, you may want to wait at least a day before picking a best answer, as you may get more answers that way. Nov 15, 2018 at 12:52
  • I will remember that. Much appreciated. Nov 15, 2018 at 13:29
  • Related: What does HR do for me? Nov 15, 2018 at 18:17
  • "noting wild and untrue accusations" ... should that be "noting BUT wild and untrue accusations"? I don't want to edit without being sure
    – Mawg
    Nov 16, 2018 at 9:42

4 Answers 4


HR is not and never will be your friend.

If you really have solid proof that all the lack of performance notes are untrue, and you can provide documentation of this, you can go to them. They can possibly help you remove these notices if they feel this is necessary.

However, keep in mind that your manager might have done this on purpose because for whatever reason he might want to get rid of you. Going to HR will not fix this relationship with your manager, but might save your butt from possibly getting fired. You might want to ask yourself in the following months if you want to keep working at a place where you are labelled with untrue accusations for whatever reason.

  • 4
    I wish people would stop saying "HR is not your friend". It's technically true (they are a department of the company you work for, not a 'friend' of anyone) but they are often a trustworthy ally in navigating the workplace. This repetition paints them as the enemy, which they usually are not. Nov 15, 2018 at 14:51
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    @DJClayworth So, you wish that people would stop saying that HR is not your friend, even though you admit that HR is not your friend? The reason for that meme is that people these days think that going to HR is like reporting someone to the police or like going to the principal's office to rat someone out. Going to HR opens a can of worms even in the BEST of situation Nov 15, 2018 at 15:06
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    @DJClayworth HR portrays themself as being on your side, wanting the best for you. Which is not the case. They work for the company and want what's best for the company. They are the right person to go to in a situation like this but you must not forget that they are not there to help you out or to be on your side.
    – Summer
    Nov 15, 2018 at 15:11
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    @RichardU Good analogy of not like going to the cops. In my experience, HR generally defers to management in most cases, asking the bosses, "What do you want to happen here?" And they work for the bosses to protect them and the company, not to be fair and helpful to the employees. Again, in my experience. Nov 15, 2018 at 23:56
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    @RichardU: "What do you want to happen here?": This is simply not true. Any HR rep worth a dime will tell the bosses quite frequently "no you can't do this" or " you have to approach this differently", Of course, that happens privately so you never see it, but it DOES happen a lot. HRs job is to ensure compliance with stated policies and local laws. In order to do this they have to call out the managers that are non-compliant. Since there are more rules for managers, this happens at least as often as it does with individual contributors.
    – Hilmar
    Nov 16, 2018 at 16:42

Slightly different spin: HR is not your friend, but they can be useful if leveraged the right way.

The main purpose of HR is to make sure that all federal laws and rules are being followed (within reason) and that the company doesn't get sued. Anything that feels like a legal exposure risk will get you a lot of attention. Maybe not positive attention, but they are unlikely to ignore you.

It's possible that your situation could be interpreted as "harassment". A harassment law suit is a nightmare for any company: it's very expensive and a PR disaster.

Keep very detailed notes on any interaction and then take your notes and your existing paper trail to an employment layer who is familiar with your local code and process. Let him assess how "actionable" this may be. You DO NOT want to sue the company but you want to create the impression that you can!

Then go to HR. Describe what has happened, why this is not acceptable to you and what would need to happen to fix it. You do NOT want to threaten legal action directly, but you should weave in that this is a possibility. A sentence like "in reviewing this with my lawyer, we felt that this action was bordering on harassment". This will set off terror and alarm in any HR person.

Once HR is concerned and you have their attention, they can try to go two ways: Either they actually address the issue or they will try to manage you out the door. It's unlikely that they would directly fire you since this creates an even bigger legal exposure risk: Getting fired after making a reasonably well founded harassment complaint is frowned upon by most judges.

If they fix it, you are good. If they want to manage you out the door, you can try to get a really nice severance package out of this. To get the package you will have to sign paperwork that prevents you from suing. That paperwork is very valuable to HR so you can use this to negotiate a good package. No money, no signature.

  • Thank you for your balanced and accurate assessment of the role of HR. Nov 15, 2018 at 14:52

Consider your position. Management is either trying to get you to resign (probably to save on unemployment insurance) or excuse freezing your pay until the Antarctic ice cap melts. Realistically, what can HR do to you that isn't already done? You have very little to lose by going to HR, and could potentially win something useful.

You have documentation of your performance. This is good. (What's even better is if you have access to it independent of work, so if they walk you out the door you don't lose it.) Find out how you challenge such an evaluation (HR will tell you that) and do so. Try to stay calm.

I don't think complaining about management to HR will help. You're providing evidence of serious mismanagement, so you don't need to tell them anything further. Whether anything will be done about the mismanagement is something neither you nor HR has much say over.


Well, as many of us say here: HR IS NOT YOUR FRIEND

That said, you were very wise to maintain a paper trail and you have a very realistic idea of what is going on in your workplace.

It is rarely safe to go to HR, but you may be in the position where it is needed.

Regardless of any other action, protect your self by doing the following:

  1. Update your resume.
  2. Put out a few job applications
  3. Start networking with people in your industry.
  4. Do some self-promoting in your company. Become more than a face in the crowd
  5. Build such a reputation that no baseless accusation about you would be believed.
  6. Pick up THIS BOOK NOTE, I am not in any way affiliated with the company or author
  7. Reach out to an employment attorney.

Then, go to HR with your evidence. This will likely not save your job, but it will put you in the position where you can negotiate an exit where you might get some severance and a recommendation.

It is never easy to go against someone above you, and two steps above you, even more so. I've done it myself, but you need to be VERY careful.

I don't mean to paint a bleak picture, just make you aware of the worst case scenario. HR may well run with what you give them, and since you've documented everything and been very diligent, the odds may be in your favor, just protect yourself in case things don't work out. That's what I did.

BTW, in my case, it was me vs a DIRECTOR, I won, but it wasn't easy. But if you are careful, as you have been, you may win as well. Good luck.

  • "It is rarely safe to go to HR" Yet another example of blackening the reputation of HR professionals. Nov 15, 2018 at 14:53
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    I didn't object to you saying "HR is not your friend" (though I do raise the issue elsewhere). But your statement "It is rarely safe to go to HR" is alarmist, false, and is likely to cause people to avoid bringing in HR when they could be helpful. Nov 15, 2018 at 15:47
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    @DJClayworth, For anything other than routine benefits/employment-related paperwork, it really is a risk to go to HR. The degree of risk can vary, but the important thing is that when there's a problem HR's JOB is ensuring the well-being of the employer and not the employee (unless the two parties happen to be congruent). So the best advice is to be aware of the risks.
    – teego1967
    Nov 15, 2018 at 16:25
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    @DJClayworth As I said in my answer, I deliberately point out the worst case scenarios so that a querent is not caught unawares. There is always a risk in going to HR for anything that involves conflict. It is, in fact RARELY safe to go to HR because once you do, it's no longer an interpersonal matter, but one that gets the full focus and attention of the company and word of such action will spread. To do so lightly is to invite trouble many may not be willing to deal with. Nov 15, 2018 at 16:41
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    @DJClayworth Often getting another job is the best course of action, especially if the person is more than one level above you, you have no support, and said person has already written you up for lack of performance. But, if you have a better answer, the OP would certainly appreciate your wisdom and experience, as you are a major contributor here. Nov 15, 2018 at 18:30

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