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I have a part time job where I go to different retail stores to promote and demonstrate various products. I do it for the extra money and because I enjoy it. My manager recently informed me that a scheduled shift had been cancelled because the store staff said I was rude to them and left early. She also said it would count as a strike on my record. I was able to prove that I did not leave early, though something as subjective as I was rude to them I don't know how to defend against. I asked if there were any specifics and my manager said she hadn't been given any. After having a conversation with my manager, she agreed to remove the strike from my record. But at the end of the day this still has caused me stress and loss of work. Also I've been doing this job for a long time (longer than my manager) and this was the first incident of its type. Seeing how she was quick to take the other side I feel like I should trust her less in the future.

When being accused of something subjective like "being rude" what is a good response? This store in particular seemed to have a sense of animosity towards me. I'm technically not an employee of the store but every other place has let me use their bathroom and their staff area to store my personal belongings. Should I have told my manager this in the first place? If you can prove that (at least part) of an accusation against you is false, what sort of compensation should you expect if even if just an apology? It's seems like people care very little about evidence for accusations these days.

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    "Seeing how she was quick to take the other side I feel like I should trust her less in the future." Even if we definitively assume a mistake on the manager's part (and not her being given outright incorrect information), there's a possibility that she jumped to a conclusion not because of her opinion of you, but her experience with other complains about other people that consistently turned out to be true. If you have no other issues with this manager, I wouldn't jump to distrust from a one-off. I'd give them the chance to learn from a mistake and avoid it the next time before I'd judge.
    – Flater
    Apr 13, 2023 at 4:19
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    @Flater honestly this still doesn't sit with me well. I feel like this has shown that there is no point in doing a good to earn the manager's trust. Apr 22, 2023 at 19:53
  • If you cannot forgive a single lapse of judgment; will you accept that no one should forgive any mistake you make either? Because you're effectively arguing that someone cannot come back from having made a mistake.
    – Flater
    Apr 24, 2023 at 0:13
  • @Flater: accusing people of something without proof isn't JUST a mistake. It shows that one doesn't care about individuals and facts, but rather believes in generalizations. This isn't easily forgivable and requires a lot of work to regain trust.
    – red-shield
    Aug 18, 2023 at 8:05
  • @red-shield: Context matters here. If we're talking a courthouse and legal proceedings, I very much agree with your point. But everyday life and human interaction hinges on inference and sometimes the need to temporarily make an assumption until you are able to actually definitively confirm it. The fact that such a strike can be trivially removed when counterevidence is presented is meaningful here. I do agree that the optics would be better to not add the strike before at least having talked to OP, but this is easily attributed to a bureaucratic process that needs some polishing.
    – Flater
    Aug 20, 2023 at 23:55

2 Answers 2

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What is a good response for a subjective accusation?

The short version is that you stick to the objective:

"What am I accused of doing?"
"What is the evidence of this?"
"Is there anyone else that saw this incident and what did they say?"

Unfortunately, workplace complaints aren't held to the same standards of law and sometimes it's a He said/She said situation.

In your specific situation, if you can objectively prove that one part of their story is a lie (e.g. you left early when you didn't) this is generally enough to swing the balance of probability that your version of events is more accurate.

In terms of compensation - the best you can generally hope for is a 'Sorry for the accusation, but I have to investigate and treat all claims as valid until I have all the facts'.

This can vary if you have a Boss who knows you particularly well and will know if something is in/out of character for you. E.g. if you are someone who is known for having infinite patience with even the biggest A-Hole customers, then someone levies a complaint that you blew up at them, your boss might smell a rat.

Your best course of action now, however is to put it to bed. Someone raised a complaint - they were probably just annoyed at the world and saw you as the avatar to vent their frustrations against. Don't raise it with your boss, don't try and push for an apology - just let is naturally whither and go away.

I wouldn't start being overly cautious with your boss yet, it's a once-off - but if this happens again, it might be time to start with a process of CYA and perhaps raise something to HR (Toxic workplace, false accusations) or simply look for employment elsewhere.

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    My manager said that this had been an "extra important shift with lots of eyes on it" but after our phone call she said she would tell her manager that this won't go on my record. Should I ask to get a copy of such emails? Maybe I'm being naive but whoever was responsible for lying about me leaving early should be held accountable or at least find out where the breakdown in communication is. Also someone pointed out that being rude is not really a professional comment but its a judgment and not objective, does that logic make sense? Apr 13, 2023 at 8:18
  • No, it’s incredibly naive. If you start asking for copies of emails and saying “well how can rudeness exist” you’ll be out of there.
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 14, 2023 at 15:01
  • @mxyzplk well it's not as if I went in with the intent to be rude. Saying something entirely objective like "he was rude" is nonconstructive in that it's impossible to learn from or defend. Giving details like "he said xyz which was rude" would help. May 12, 2023 at 20:47
  • It's sad how the workplace justice system works exactly in the opposite way than the normal one. You're guilty until proven otherwise.
    – red-shield
    Aug 18, 2023 at 8:12
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Just move on

If you want the incident to live on in your manager's mind then keep talking about it. Otherwise just chalk it up to bad luck.

Your manager has zero control over whoever complained about you. Be glad they are taking your side and count that as a win.

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  • The manager has no control over the complaints, but they should have demended evidence of that accusation instead of blindly believing in whatever whoever says.
    – red-shield
    Aug 18, 2023 at 8:11

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