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"But Boss, I Am Telling the Truth..."


"But Boss, I am telling the truth..."

People lie.

Supervisors lie to discredit employees whom they dislike. Co-workers lie either to shift blame away from themselves or to tarnish someone of whom they are jealous.

Because most employers operate on a chain-of-command structure, whatever your supervisor says about you to his or her supervisor is likely to be believed: if the company did not trust the supervisor, he or she would never have been promoted.

The thing about lies, however, is that they wither in the light of truth. Here is how you protect yourself.

One, document, document, document. If you get any inkling that there is a controversy looming, or that someone is trying to set you up, not only keep good, contemporaneous notes, but confirm conversations in e-mails. For example, if your regional sales manager tells you to meet the competitor's price, even if that means going below your company's normal margins, do an e-mail that says that you just wanted to confirm that here is what the regional manager said. As much as possible, use exact quotes and keep any handwritten notes you have. In today's laptop world, the time stamp on your e-mail - even if it is to yourself, to a trusted friend inside the company, or, assuming it is not against company policy, to a friend outside the company or to your lawyer- nails down the time that a message is composed and sent. Do not secretly tape record any conversations without getting legal advice as to whether you can do so: in Florida, secret tape recording can be a felony. On the other hand, if someone is stupid enough as to leave a self-incriminating voice mail message, save it.

Two, have witnesses. Although this is not always possible, try to avoid one-on-one's with either an antagonistic boss or a co-worker who is troublesome. That way, rather than having a he-said/she-said situation, you can produce a neutral witness to what really happened. If you anticipate less than honorable behavior, or a less than truthful account of what really happened, avoid being alone with either Suzy Sexpot or Larry Lech.

Three, don't hold back. Although it might be good politics to rebuff the first unwelcome sexual advance or dirty joke by firmly but politely telling whomever that you are not interested in dating or that you do not like that kind of talk at work (and immediately sending yourself an e-mail about it), couple the at-most second incident with a warning that any further behavior of that type is going to be reported up the line. Document that with an e-mail to yourself, too. At strike three, go to the harasser's supervisor, or human resources, and bring printouts of your previous e-mails. Don't be afraid: virtually every anti-discrimination law has an anti-retaliation provision. If what is going on is not harassment (gender-, race-, religion- or whatever-based), but rather dishonesty, do not wait until Incident No. 2 to go to higher-ups - in writing. In Florida, you would be protected by whistle-blower statutes covering both public and private employees. If you are employed by a publicly traded company, and you find that someone is "cooking the books", report that immediately: not only do you need to protect the shareholders, with your being protected from retaliation by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act; but also you do not want to be later accused of complicity by remaining silent. The sooner you report it, the more likely it is that your employer can get documentary evidence - including digital evidence - concerning what happened.

Four, when you are falsely accused of doing something wrong, or when your accusations against a supervisor or co-worker are denied, consider getting yourself polygraphed. At The Amlong Firm , we send our clients to Slattery Associates, Inc. , founded by the late (and legendary) George Slattery, and now owned and operated by John Palmatier, a former Michigan State Police detective sergeant who earned a Ph.D. in psychology from Michigan State University. Although your employer generally cannot require you to take a polygraph examination because of the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, it sends a powerful message to your bosses that you were willing to submit to an objective test of your truthfulness on the subject. What the polygraph examination does is to monitor and chart you pulse, blood pressure, breathing rate and perspiration as you answer at most five "relevant questions": if you are telling the truth, everything stays the same; if you are lying, you cannot help but to have an increased heart rate, a spike in blood pressure, faster breathing and sweaty palms and underarms. It is so reliable that federal courts now admit polygraph evidence. The questions must be ones that you can answer "yes" or "no" without any hesitation: "Did Ms. Jones tell you to meet ABC Company's price on this deal?"; "Did Mr. Smith grab your breast at dinner?"; "Did you take the $75 missing from the petty cash box"? Slattery Associates even uses a new, peer-reviewed software that assesses the probability (for example, 99.5 per cent) that you are telling the truth. When your lawyer sends your employer a copy of that report, it should give your supervisors pause about firing you - or about rejecting as unfounded your accusations against a co-worker or supervisor. A positive polygraph exam is a powerful settlement tool.

Five, most importantly, tell the truth. Do not shade, fudge or weasel . If you do, you will get caught and the "little lie" you told will swallow the larger truth. For example, if your boss patted your fanny, do not turn this into "He groped my whole body"; there may have been a surveillance camera in the elevator that will show exactly what did happen. The only people who are able to lie successfully are trained intelligence agents, and they generally keep their cover stories very simple.

Bottom line: the truth really will set you free.

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