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For the past 3 yrs I have been goaded and harassed on a daily basis by two managers, even though I've been there 14 yrs.

I bit their bait and had a row with them but I didn't swear or use bad language. They are collaborating their stories and have a witness testifying that I was using an aggressive way of talking, even if not aggressive language - it was merely a heated conversation. I now have to attend my first disciplinary meeting ever!

They intentionally orchestrated this situation knowing that the company does not tolerate aggressive behavior of any kind, and are ganging up on me to finally get me out.

I'm in a union, but I want to prove they are liars and clear my name!

What steps can I take to defend myself?

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  • 6
    Let me just make a suggestion. You're going to find it hard to be unemotional if you confront people verbally first, even if it's a union rep or HR person. Write it all down, and get a totally neutral 3rd party to read it over for aggressive language -first-, and then take that cold, calm, and logical piece of language printed out with you to the union or HR and use it as your script. Don't let your voice betray you, and give yourself as much time as possible to calm down. The calmest party in this argument is likely to be the one that comes out on top, and you want that to be you.
    – Kzqai
    Nov 24 '15 at 15:00
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    What country are you in? Nov 24 '15 at 15:22
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    If you spoke anything like you wrote above, it's clear you were aggressive. Furthermore, you deliberately left out crucial details (which may or may not help your case). Why do you feel these two managers have it out for you? You must have done something to get into their crosshairs if so.
    – SnakeDoc
    Nov 24 '15 at 16:32
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    @SnakeDoc - it's honestly both sad and hilarious that his is what has come to be called aggressive.
    – Davor
    Nov 24 '15 at 20:49
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    I pretty much agree with @SnakeDoc, even though he may not have meant it to be aggressive, it probably was, similar to how the post was written. The use of exclamation points are the primary reason it sounds that way to me - "I now have to attend my first disciplinary meeting ever!" (What an outrage!) "I want to prove they are liars and clear my name!" (It's an aggressive goal, to prove them liars and not just to clear his name, made more passionate by the exclamation point) - That being said, the last question was the correct one to ask. Nov 24 '15 at 22:34
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What you don't do is use the aggressive tone you just used with your question. Instead focus on your strengths not your anger. You have 14 years there, that will count a lot with the bosses. Go in, apologise for your outburst and explain why you acted unprofessionally giving causation as you see it. Don't get upset during the meeting either. Hold your ground calmly and factually. Explain that it is totally out of character for you and was a build up of several factors... blah blah... and then find a way to work through it.

This will go down a lot better than mudslinging and could have the two managers biting their own nails and contemplating their own actions in a different way. I have seen this done calmly by a tech, and shortly afterward the manager was in a disciplinary meeting of his own.

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  • If OP's assessment is correct then "the bosses" are precisely the people working to bully her out of the company. If you're referring to higher management then mentioning a long company history isn't going to help much when you have two managers and a witness supporting false claims. Your advice might work if it's one manager with a known reputation or the employee is known to be a great performer but for this OP your suggestions won't work.
    – Lilienthal
    Nov 24 '15 at 11:56
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    how do you work that out? 14 years of productive employment with no prior issues means nothing? I'm not sure what country you work in, but it certainly would mean a lot to me, there is ALWAYS two sides to a story, any good manager will give both sides their full attention in this sort of case. Ganging up on someone is not a new concept, it can and does happen and good management is aware and looking for it. When a 14 year employee is disciplined it can affect the morale of a whole team. If unfairly disciplined even more so. This is the best advice I can think of for the OP to plead their side.
    – Kilisi
    Nov 24 '15 at 12:48
  • It could be that such an employee was never managed properly in 14 years, it could be that they turned toxic, paranoid or lazy at any point in that time. "Past performance is not an indicator of future results." If OP's version of the story is to be believed, unfair discipline is the least of this company's (morale) problems.
    – Lilienthal
    Nov 24 '15 at 12:51
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    fair enough, but I'm not answering anything but the question of what to do in the disciplinary meeting. Not going to wander off in to other realms.
    – Kilisi
    Nov 24 '15 at 12:53
83

I understand your anger and frustration. Let's discuss your issue:

1. You made a mistake by confronting them

You played right into their hands. How did you end up in that situation? By letting your emotions get the better of you. Don't do that again. Your words radiate anger - you have to let that go.

You're dealing with mean, petty, conniving people. If you walk into that meeting with this attitude they've got you.

2. Get help from the union

Meet with a union rep ASAP. Explain exactly what happened, tell them every detail of their behavior, and the exact words and attitude you used that day. They will back you up, but you have to give them ammunition.

Your union rep can probably coach you on how the meeting will go. What they will ask, what and how you can answer. Even if they don't, always keep one thing in mind: be polite and calm. Do not display frustration, or anger.

3. Ask for your union rep to attend the meeting

I wouldn't walk in there without someone in my corner. Calmly and politely demand that your union rep attend. Maybe explain it to your boss in person that you will not attend if your rep is not allowed.

4. You can't pin the blame on them

I'm assuming you don't really have proof of the bullying you've endured at their hands. We'll get to what you can do about that later. In the mean time however, you have to set your goals are priorities.

Proving they are liars is probably not on the table.

You want to come out of this alive to fight another day, as it were. In other words, you're avoiding being fired. You should probably admit that you were very frustrated, and spoke in a heated manner - never admit that you were angry, or spoke aggressively!!! If they ask you if you spoke loudly I wouldn't even admit to that. Say simply I was frustrated and passionate. Nothing else.

Try to explain the situation objectively, but don't seek to cast the blame solely on them. On the contrary, defuse the situation as best you can - by admitting partial blame.

This is what happened: ... (your story, delivered in a neutral voice, without casting blame) ... I have to admit that this was a very frustrating situation for me, and my attitude reflected that. I was never aggressive, nor would I ever be. If I spoke harshly, I apologize, it was simply in the heat of the moment. My employee record will show that in the 14 years I've worked here I have never once had a complaint lodged against me. (this is when the rep can jump in and defend you further)

Anyway, you see where I'm going with this? Remain neutral, don't cast blame, as you will once again appear to be "on the offensive". You are trying to refute claims of "verbal aggression", so that's the last thing you want to do.

5. In the future

This whole situation might spark an entire chain of events (meetings, consultations, etc.) During this time you might be working alongside these managers the same as always. Don't allow yourself to be baited into another conversation. Keep your interactions with them short, and polite.

If the bullying persists (which it probably will), document it. I don't know where you're from, but in Canada (Ontario) it's actually legal to record a conversation as long as one of the participating individuals is aware that a recording is being made (in this case yourself). Find out what the law says in your particular area. Maybe in a future conversation get a witness of your own to back up your bullying claims. Better yet? Get a new job. These people are entrenched, and they have it out for you. I don't think working there is going to get any easier from you from now on.

Good luck, and remember: get help from your union!

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I want to prove they are liars

I don't want to sound discouraging. But, in a professional setting, if you do not have evidence for something, then you cannot prove that fact.

So, try to rope in somebody who has been aware of the bullying (as you say it has been happening since 3 years), and ask him/her to speak for you as a witness.

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  • Rope in the supervisor and HR rep to begin perhaps?
    – Bluebird
    Nov 24 '15 at 3:52
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    @BobtheBuilder Not necessarily. It can be anyone who has seen the bullying(or whatever allegation the OP has) , and can support him/her as a direct evidence.
    – Dawny33
    Nov 24 '15 at 5:49
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    Also look for others who have been bullied who can join you; presumably if theyre picking on you without good reason theyll have picked on others also.
    – JohnLBevan
    Nov 25 '15 at 8:16
  • I have timeline taken and corroboration as evidence and a witness warns to remain anon to the company but willing to tell the union I am in. I have a good case of constructive dismissal and now they know I'm up in a union they are going to try smoothing things over with my cooperation. As I am such a pushover etc. I've had enough i need to get the best out if this situ and start over on my own now. They've had the best of me 14 years loyalty and I'm disappointed in their lack of support and cowardly lazy ways not stepping up to the managers when the could or should have.
    – user44329
    Nov 30 '15 at 20:18
4

You are labouring under the delusion that HR's role and responsibility is to allow you to defend yourself, and to reach the truth. Nothing could be further from the truth. HR's sole responsibility is to protect the organization.

You are going to get fired, if not immediately then in the near future unless you recognize, absorb, and act on that understanding. In that case you have a slim chance of living to fight another day, but under threat of immediate dismissal, for cause, if another incident occurs.

In order to protect the organization HR will solidly back the managers with whom you have disagreed. They will do so until you can present evidence sufficient to prove harassment by the managers beyond a reasonable doubt; except you will probably not even be given proper and sufficient opportunity to do so. They will do so because those managers are each more singly valuable to the organization; because there are two of them and one of you; because they are more senior to you (related to the above but not completely dependent); and because that is less expensive than allowing you to participate in anything more than a kangaroo court.

Your union rep gets, or at least should get, all of this. Take his/her advice. Don't argue; just do; everything he/she suggests; else you are done.

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  • This is right. I considered answering and going a little further: look for a new job. I worked for a small company. My friend was subject to a disciplinary, and she didn't have a union rep, so she asked me to come. The night before she told me she would "fight on" but I told her "don't sweat it, your boss wants you out, look for a new job." The real reason had little to do with her: the company was gearing up to move to a different country I didn't realise they were going to shut down our office, but I was already looking for work because I saw no prospects with the company unless I relocated. Nov 25 '15 at 7:03
  • Thank you some great honest advice. Am looking to leave when I finish my courses, am in a union. Have since confided in a senior member of staff who will have a word on my behalf.
    – user44329
    Nov 25 '15 at 8:48
  • Early days yet but after confiding in senior partner of the firm he will be having a word with certain seniority. There is evidence of them being in cahoots with each other due to the 3 wks taken to serve the notice on me. Coroborated stories. Also people seen to be saying it's a clear case of constructive dismissal. No looking for longevity in the firm but still need to earn a living..
    – user44329
    Nov 25 '15 at 23:26
  • @user44329: Perhaps you will be lucky - it is true that b---s--- will eventually stick to the person spreading it. Going outside the bounds of HR is risky, but can pay off in certain cases, as seems to have occurred here. Nov 25 '15 at 23:44
  • They said it will be another disciplinary if I don't attend even if my rep cannot attend that particular day. Another disciplinary threat for not attended regardless of rep situ and I have this in writing. uk law says I'm entitled to a rep. Luckily my rep finally got back to me saying she can attend even it it's less than 5 days notice. I'm thinking maybe let this all get to tribunal as I do have evidence on their bullying and corroborating stories
    – user44329
    Nov 29 '15 at 16:01

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