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I'm currently serving my notice period at my current job.

There has been an e-mail sent to multiple people (naming 16 people including me) where an accusation of sabotage is made.

I have done nothing wrong and I am not the person who did this. However, I'm one of only about 2 people out of the 16 who could have done it and I'm also leaving the company, so I bet most people will think that I did this. Is it okay to say that I am not the one or should I stay silent?

  • Somehow yes. Out of the 16 people mentioned I am the one that could to this and maybe another guy excluding me and the accuser. – Darkov Oct 10 at 18:18
  • Yes. Not just me. – Darkov Oct 10 at 18:43
  • What is the scope of the accusation? Is it just an assertion sent around to everyone, is it a prelude to an internal investigation, a prelude to a criminal investigation, or something else? – Upper_Case-Stop Harming Monica Oct 10 at 18:51
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    The sabotage was done by causing delay, so yes, it was said there was a delay caused by something bad that was done on purpose. I don't think it is possbile to have an audit trail. I don't know who did it or even if it was actually done on purpose or it just happened. – Darkov Oct 10 at 19:27
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    The question doesn't give enough information to tell us whether this "sabotage" is a serious criminal act or something relatively minor. In traditional usage, "sabotage" would be something like pouring sand into the gears of a machine in a factory. This would be a crime. From the information we have here, it's possible that "sabotage" just means something like choosing not to reply to an after-hours email, which had the effect of delaying the roll-out of version 2.0 of the server-side software by 24 hours. The appropriate response seems to me to be completely different in the two cases. – Ben Crowell Oct 12 at 22:53
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should I stay silent?

Yes, if it doesn't involve you, don't get involved. There is no benefit to replying unless asked directly.

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    Worth noting - if you do get asked, it's also easy to deflect without committing to much: "Why didn't you answer?" "I didn't see the need to - accusations should come through the proper channels, not email". Or something along those lines. Basically, if confronted with an implication that "You didn't answer, thus you're guilty", shift the focus immediately to the fact that an email is not authoritive. Or you can even deflect to "It's being looked at, I don't want to discuss". Both true statements - somebody is likely looking at that and you don't care. – VLAZ Oct 11 at 6:47
  • I agree. Denying might only make you look more guilty. Only deny when asked directly. – user74534 Oct 11 at 9:15
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    Being accused is a form of (involuntary) involvement though. I agree that responding to a wide net accusation isn't particularly needed here, but not so much because OP "isn't involved" (because the accuser has involved them), rather that the accusation is a fishing expedition with currently no reasonable blowback on OP. – Flater Oct 11 at 12:02
  • People send garbage via email all day long. So when asked "Why did you not respond?" personally I would say something like "Since I haven't worked on sabotaged component x and y and since I was not mailed directly I have not felt the need to answer the email". – BlueWizard Oct 11 at 15:04
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    @BlueWizard or ' it didn't have anything to do with me so I didn't reply.' – Kilisi Oct 12 at 3:19
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Reputation is everything, guard it jealously.

Just because you are on the way out of this job doesn't mean the accusation ends with your notice period. An accusation this serious can haunt you throughout your industry, especially in some industries where connections are important, mobility is high, and people tend to circulate throughout the industry.

Never let a lie that could damage your reputation go unchallenged.

If there is a direct accusation, simply reply with something like:

Every day I have worked here, I have worked for the betterment of the company. That is no different now. I have not, did not, and never will engage in any act of sabotage towards this employer or any other. This is all I will say of this matter.

If not, say nothing.

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    Agreed, to a point you have to protect your reputation. People move on to other companies any may talk badly about you. Heck, they may do it whether you defend yourself or not, but still.... – Mister Positive Oct 10 at 18:34
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    I agree that some situates my require quick action but in a situation where you are not directly being accused staying silent is probably best. – Sierra Mountain Tech Oct 10 at 19:06
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    @SierraMountainTech I edited the post, I assumed it was a direct accusation. Thank you for the constructive comment, much appreciated – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Oct 10 at 20:08
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    I think you might want to make it a little clearer that your advice is that if anyone accuses you directly (versus in a 16 target email) of wrongdoing then you should respond, but otherwise if you're just being targeted as part of a blanket, "okay, who did this?" email, you should keep quiet. – bob Oct 11 at 16:59
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    "This is all I will say of this matter." - someone who said that pre-emptively would seem suspicious to me :) – P. Hopkinson Oct 12 at 19:42
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Should I respond to a sabotage accusation e-mail at work?

You are serving your notice period and you say that you have done nothing wrong and are not responsible for the sabotage. If this is the case, I would not bother responding to the email. You gain nothing by engaging in a back and forth with your accuser during your last days.

I would stay silent. If anyone directly asks you if you did X, you simply respond "No."

Also, if people at that company believe an accusation spread in an email without any supporting evidence simply because you are leaving the company then you should be glad that you will no longer have to deal with such people and should not care what their opinion is.

  • "your accuser" no one was specifically blamed in the mail. – FooTheBar Oct 10 at 18:42
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    @FooTheBar But someone did send an email making the accusation, correct? – sf02 Oct 10 at 18:51
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While I suspect they know. I would ensure that HR are aware. The person making the accusation should not have done so publicly. If they had suspicions they should be made privately to management/HR.

Don't respond publicly to this unless you have to. Don't give it credibility. Treat it as a nonsense thing unless it goes further. As soon as you take it seriously and start being very vocal in your denials people will wonder why but if you are challenged then you have to respond. Say it is nonsense.

This is something management need to get a hold of as random accusations (naming 16! people) is very harmful for a team. Bad if true, even worse if false as everyone looks at everyone else and the accused feel victimised and publicly judged. This is why company policies tend to say to do this stuff behind closed doors.

Oh and double check your references before you leave. No need to mention this case but just ask them to confirm they are happy to give a reference.

5

First I want to say an email going out to everyone about possible sabotage in itself sounds odd/fishy to me. If such a thing was suspected then they would not try to give anyone time to build a story to or to cover their tracks. They would simply notify HR and management depending on the person who suspected it in the first place. Then HR would take appropriate action.

You say you and maybe one other person could have done what was being accused so at that point I would just gather some info for yourself in case you are questioned. But I would not reply to the email saying it was not you. There is no reason to bring attention to yourself.

As long as you know you did nothing wrong then you should be fine. The data will reflect that. Where you where when it happened what you were logged into at the time and so on. Unless some "Master Mind" has your credentials and used your identity to sabotage then you have nothing left to do but keep working until you finally leave after you notice time is up.

I would like to add some situations require a quick defense for example (Personal accusation of you specifically did something) as staying silent might be seen as accepting guilt. But when it is a group email saying something has happened but you are specifically asked if it was you then keep it that way and don't being it up.

Based on your comment:

It is an assertion sent to everyone involved in a project that was allegedly sabotaged(not the entire project but a tiny piece of it).

The accusation is against your group on a small portion of a single project. This sounds like even if someone did do something it cant be that big a deal it is likely not worth any anxiety you might be having.

One last note: As your decisions will ultimately affect you there are resources that can help you answer this question. If you are truly worried (IE. It is possible you made a mistake and it is being taken as sabotage) I would reach out to your internal resources with this question. IE Most companies HR can answer you but keep in mind that will likely be recorded in some official capacity.

2

One additional thing to consider is how long your notice period is and how much longer you will be staying with the company. Even while working your notice, your actions may differ depending on whether you'll be out of there in 3 days or have another 3 months to go.

In case of 3 days, I would most likely keep silent and if asked directly, deflect with "I see no point replying to baseless accusations". In case of 3 months (or may be longer), I would be much more likely to address the issue - whether with my manager, HR or whatever is the right channel. You don't want to come to work for 3 months with the "saboteur" sign over your head.

Ultimately, it's up to you to decide what works best for you and what the implications one way or the other might be. Generally accusation of sabotage is a serious matter; if it's done maliciously, it's a clear libel and you could potentially have grounds to sue the employer for libel. Do remember that the main role of HR is to protect the company (including from employees and ex employees). They would most certainly want to know if there's a possibility for the company to be sued by an ex employee. You may decide to mention this in your exit interview.

P.S. In some senior roles in Europe, a 6-month notice period is not that uncommon. I personally have 3 months notice period.

  • It is not very likely any company management would let someone that is on notice and seriously suspected of sabotage come to work for 3 minutes, let alone 3 months. – rackandboneman Oct 12 at 20:24
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    The management didn't suspect the op if anything. The accusation was from a random colleague. – Aleks G Oct 12 at 20:26
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I'm one of only about 2 people out of the 16 who could have done it

Based on this sentence alone it sounds like they are sending an email on narrowing down the possibilities.

and I'm also leaving the company, so I bet most people will think that I did this.

Yes, bailing out as soon as the email hits put you on a 50/50 odd as the person who done it. That is assuming they have no physical proof and can only be based on circumstantial.

Is it okay to say that I am not the one or should I stay silent?

I believe being silent is the best course of action. The more you try to fight it the harder it will be.

2

Recently an email was circulated in my department which made accusations of a criminal nature against 16 colleagues including myself. I am shocked and appalled by these libelous accusations and I demand imediate action be taken. If some of the accused are indeed responsible of such acts, due diligence should be exercised and I expect active action so that my name is cleared. I vehemently deny any sabotage.

In either case, such public accusations profoundly damage the morale of the team. They demonstrate an internal culture on the brink of collapse and an utter failure of the company to safeguard its own, as well as its employees interests. Such accusations left unchallenged can easily destroy a career.

I am open to solving this issue privately, but if no decisive action is taken to quench such libels I am committed to pursue this issue further.

Sincerely yours, Biggie Settlement.

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