13

This is a rather complicated story that I will try to keep as brief as possible.

Basically, I was hired by a company right out of school last year into a more senior position that included senior position salary, with a verbal agreement from HR that I needed to sit for a specialty certification exam within one year of my hire date.

6 months in, my boss and her supervisor sat me down to tell me that HR stated I needed to sit for said exam within 6 months, which was written in my contract (again, see verbal agreement above-yep, know I should've asked for it in writing). My salary was cut by 20% and I was told that it would go back to the previous salary once I passed the exam, which is only given twice a year. During this whole ordeal, I was trying to buy a house and lost financing once my pay was cut. I requested a letter from HR stating that my salary would be going back up once I was certified and they gave me a very abrupt "no".

So naturally I got a new job and am leaving this current position in a couple weeks. Co-workers keep asking me why I'm leaving, and for the most part I'm giving a very generic "time to move on". My immediate supervisor leaked the reason and now people are angry and confronting her supervisor about the unfairness of the situation. I was called into her office and chewed a new one today, accused of "stirring the pot" and fueling the rumor mill in an already turbulent company. She told me I had 2 weeks to "fix this false rumor" that I had spread (problem is, there is nothing false about the rumor nor did I spread it, which I told her) because she is afraid of losing more staff.

I love this job, my co-workers, and really hoped to use this place as a reference in the future, but now I'm wondering if I should ever speak to these people again. What should I do? How can I save face when I really feel rather innocent here?

  • Did your supervisor confront you about the rumour, or your supervisor's supervisor? – Dukeling May 3 '14 at 11:45
  • My supervisor's supervisor. My direct supervisor has been nothing but supportive throughout this process (bellyaching every day about how much she is going to miss me) so I was rather shocked when I was called into her boss's office--with her--and was accused of this. – Valerie May 3 '14 at 12:09
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    She told you you had two weeks to "fix this false rumor" - or else what? You already have a new job lined up, so what power does she have over you? If she wants to withhold pay, that gets to the point where you tell her your lawyer will be calling them. – David K May 5 '14 at 12:34
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    You were told verbally you had one year, but your contract said you only had 6 months? Or were you being warned that you only had 6 months left to get the certification? – thursdaysgeek May 5 '14 at 16:44
  • @Valerie - I hope you learned a lesson about verable agreements. If you have told anyone the reason then you have done nothing wrong. The the company is turbulent isn't your problem. The one risk you take by doing nothing I will admit is if your supervisor's supervisor knows somebody at the other company. I personally would go to HR about this conversation. I also would confirm the reason, its not their business, take the high ground but understand the risks. The world is a smaller place then you might realize. – Ramhound May 6 '14 at 11:09
25

A rumor is not a rumor when it's true. You're leaving because your employer acted unprofessionally, reneged on a verbal agreement, caused you significant personal hardship as a result, and refused to help mitigate the damage that they caused.

It's not your fault that information became public knowledge, and even if it was I don't see that changing much. The company will continue to do the same thing to others unless something happens to make them change. If the natives are restless and they lose a few more employees over the matter, I think that's fair enough. Maybe they'll learn something. And in any case it's not your fault or your responsibility in the slightest.

You've already made plans to move on, so apart from chewing you out there's nothing the supervisor's supervisor can do to you. The question you have to ask yourself is:

Are you willing to lie to appease this person?

Because that's the only way to fight the "rumor" now that it's public knowledge. You'd have to deny it, and perhaps provide a plausible explanation of what the "real" reason is. So basically, if you really want to fight the rumor, you have to start telling lies.

Though personally, I don't recommend that you do that (if anything, personally I'd make sure that everyone knows that those rumors are in fact entirely true; but I have a low tolerance for unethical employers and in particular for the ones who think that the truth is best swept under the rug). Your employer has made their own bed. Let them lie in it.

If your main concern is getting a positive reference, I think you have that in your immediate supervisor. She'd not have aired the reasons behind your departure if she were not sympathetic to your situation. So get her personal contact details and see if she'd be willing to provide you with a reference. I suspect she'd be happy to do so.

And if your main concern is your relationship with your co-workers, suddenly coming in with a different story may cause more harm than good. In particular, publicly and loudly refuting your supervisor's story may cause a lot of friction with her. And she of course will know that you are lying through your teeth. Depending upon how she reacts, that could cause significant harm to your relationship with her and your other coworkers.

So really, I don't think you should worry about the rumor mill or about what your supervisor's supervisor wants (and even if you did fight the rumor, there's no guarantee that she would ever see you as anything more than "that troublemaker who stirred the pot").

Just quietly and professionally finish up your notice period, and move on. If people approach you wanting to discuss why you are leaving, you can politely say that you'd rather not talk about it.

Or tell them the truth; that works too and will kill any untrue rumors that may be floating around, just like the supervisor's supervisor asked you to do. ;)

9

Use your immediate supervisor as a reference, move on and make sure that you stay in touch with your former co-workers :) You are leaving in two weeks and her supervisor calls you into her office and tells you that you have two weeks to "fix the rumor" - or else what ? i.e. what is her threat here, given that you're gone by then? Threats of serving the chicken for dinner the chicken work on the chicken only before the chicken has flown the coop not after - even I could see that :)

As for the rumor mill, her supervisor is absolutely right and you should be ashamed of yourself - I suggest that you put on the sack cloth and do your level best to kill all rumors by systematically going with your co-workers on good bye lunches over the next two weeks and exchanging gossip and contact information :)

8

Turn the problem around. Say to your supervisor's supervisor something like this

Whenever someone has asked me: "Why are you leaving?" I have replied "for personal reasons" and I have never brought up the topic on my own. I don't know how any other stories got out there. I'm happy to help and support whatever communication you feel is appropriate. Please let me know what you would like me to say if I get approached again.

With this you clearly state that you have done nothing wrong, that you are open about what you are doing and that you are willing to do what they ask, but it has to be specific and actionable. There may be a few different few replies that you can prepare answers for. For example:

  1. Boss: Just go out there and fix it. You: I don't know how to do this. What specific actions would you like me to take?
  2. Boss: Go tell everyone that you won the lottery. You: I'm sorry, but this is not true and I'm not comfortable with telling something that's not entirely accurate.
  3. Boss: you need to come up with a good communication strategy for this. You: As I explained, my strategy was to not bring it up at all and cite personal reasons when being directly asked. What other strategy do you suggest?
4

Don't do anything. You already have a new job. Its no longer your problem. They are the ones who reneged on a verbal agreement with you. You have no obligation to help them deal with the repercussions of their actions.

Sure, having references is nice. But you already have a new job lined up, so you won't be needing one until the next job hunt. Hopefully your new job will provide whatever references you need. Its not the end of the world if you don't have a lot of references. Its certainly not worth lowering oneself to act as an enabler to an employer who broke an agreement with you and cost you a house.

And of course, in the future... get everything in writing!

3

Unfortunately, you've been painted into a corner. You're probably not going to be able to use this employer as a reference in the short term, although people may come to their senses later. I wouldn't burn any bridges.

For the moment, write down a complete narrative of what happened and give to the HR people. They are required to keep these records for some time period, probably four or seven years. Point out the terms of your original employment, the changes that were incurred later, the consequences (relating to your house), the circumstances of your departure, and the fact that you didn't 'spread the rumors' - people found out through other channels.

Do not attempt to 'set the record straight' with co-workers - they don't care and are, in general, paranoid (I'm saying this from having worked in such environments - people see all kinds of things, real or not). Communicate with your immediate supervisor in the presence of HR (if possible) that you were not the source of the leak. Don't try to find out who did - no one will admit anything.

It's not your responsibility to 'fix' anything. Whether they lose staff is their problem, not yours. Their risk of losing staff is due to mismanagement, not malice on your part.

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