my manager complains about me online

by Ask a Manager on March 25, 2010

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A reader writes:

I’m having a problem with my manager. I work at a convenience store to help put me through college. She’s hated me from the start, most people say it’s out of jealousy, I learned to ignore it.

Now she is discussing my work performance online with a coworker who is not even of management position. Never once has she come to me to tell me I’m doing something wrong but she posts all these horrible things about me online saying that I screw everything up and my paperwork is always a mess! It’s on their Facebook so everyone in their network can read it and everyone in their network also are customers in the store I work at. They come in and tell me the things she says. I got online and looked and sure enough it was all there.

What should I do? This is completely unprofessional and an invasion of my privacy! No one needs to know my work performance! I feel like I’m being harassed because they are criticizing my work, I don’t even want to go into work I’m so embarrassed. I had no clue I was such a burden to everyone! What should I do? Isn’t that illegal for her to do that?

Illegal, no. Jerky and terrible management, yes.

If your manager has a problem with your performance, she’s not doing her job if she’s not discussing it with you straightforwardly. So even if she’s right and you’re having performance problems, she’s having even bigger ones by not doing her job as a manager.

And obviously, she’s being horribly unprofessional, toward you, toward the coworkers she’s talking to about you, and toward the customers (!!) who she’s sharing this with.

You should do the following:

1. Be as professional as she’s being unprofessional. Talk to her face-to-face and in private and say, “I understand that you’re unhappy with some of my work. I’d really like to hear your concerns so that I can work on whatever I need to do differently.”

2. After you’ve done #1, tell her, “I really want to have a chance to resolve these problems. Can I ask you to give your feedback to me directly and not to share it with people online? Customers have seen it and asked me about it, and I’d prefer to keep these conversations between us.”

3. Although her behavior is in no way excusable, you should still think about whether her complaints might have any validity. Is your paperwork always a mess, as she claims? Do you make a lot of mistakes? Try to divorce your anger from the substance of what she’s said and think honestly about whether there are changes that you should be making.

4. Consider going over her head and reporting her behavior to her boss or your company’s HR department. Take screenshots of some of her most outrageous posts so that you have them even if she removes them, and say that you’d like advice on talking to her about giving you feedback directly rather than publicizing it online. They will not be happy about this once they learn about it.

Good luck!

{ 19 comments }

Anonymous March 25, 2010 at 2:48 am

This person is a manager? I will never understand how things like this happen.

Anonymous March 25, 2010 at 3:05 am

I can believe that this person is a manager, I've worked for similar ones. A favorite would commonly say things like "I just need you to be sure that you don't do that, because so in so does that and I just can't handle it anymore. I'm about to go ballistic and fire her." During new hire training… and wonders why the training class goes from 14 to three that day.

I love the screen shots idea! Also print them and keep a backup in a safe place.

Anonymous March 25, 2010 at 3:16 am

Let's say that the OP is correct that this manager has had a problem with her from day one and the online (and public) complaints are unfounded…do you mean there are no legal grounds the OP can go on whatsoever? If not, then I can't believe that the only punishment is to be considered a jerk.

OP: follow the AAM's advice here and print/screen shot those complaints. In case you don't know how to do so, go to the page where the complaints are. While they are on the screen, hit the PRTSC button on your keyboard; then open up a new word document and hit paste. A picture of the screen you had been on should appear. Just keep a record of it.

christie March 25, 2010 at 4:42 am

Isn't there such a thing as slander and defamation of character? This certainly sounds like such a situation.

Anonymous March 25, 2010 at 5:03 am

For those complaining about the lack of legal protections, understand that in other civilized nations this falls under "workplace harassment" or "workplace bullying" and workers have protections from such disgusting actions.

If you feel strongly about the issue, make a call to your state representatives and read up about the issue here: http://www.workplacebullying.org/

Inside the Philosophy Factory March 25, 2010 at 8:34 am

I think she should capture the on-line evidence BEFORE she mentions anything to the manager face to face.

If the manager is malicious and not stupid, s/he will go out and delete any evidence that will get him/her in trouble. Better to have it printed out and stashed so that the employee has absolute proof.

Also — the worst comments aren't enough, the employee should print out every negative thing they can find — because the volume of complaints is significant as well.

Rachael March 25, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Thanks for the great advice. Before I sent in this question I went onto my boss's facebook account and "print paged" the screen where you could see the comments made about me. I did confront my boss in a professional manner about her posting these things and she denied it right to my face and said I'm making stuff up. She said she's never complained about my work and that she doesn't know what she'd do with out me. That night I got on facebook and she had made yet another post about me being "whiney" and that I needed to mind my own business and that she just wishes I would quit because there is no way she'd fire me and give me an opportunity to collect unemployment. THIS IS LUDICROUS!I've worked for this company for almost 3 years, has she felt this way the whole time? I made a very formal email to the supervisor not complaining necessarily just stating facts and I asked him how I could alleviate the situation. My supervisor has a heavy accent so he said he would email me back with advice and that was 3 days ago, I have yet to hear from him. Now what should I do?

Anonymous March 25, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Your manager needs to be fired for sheer stupidity.

Anonymous March 25, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Anony @ 1:03:

I am not complaining; I was reacting to AAM's statement that what the manager is doing is not considered illegal. I would think that anyone going online and publishing direct slanderous remarks about anyone else is liable for slander and defamation. We are seeing it with school children with tragic results of suicide, and I was wondering what the legal grounds are here, even if it happens to be the person's immediate manager. This is something that should definitely be looked into, especially if the boss/manager/supervisor can get away with it legally despite emotionally/mentally damaging the employee.

To the OP who updated us: Good job on keeping these records. Make sure to note when you talked to her, what you said, and how she answered. That way you are fully documented. Although you see it for yourself on FB, keep track of when the customers alert you to this online behavior; that'll show the person you contacted that the info is really out there in the community and your reputation is being soiled (even though your customers know you better and are demonstrating that by telling you about her words online).

They always say the employee should be very careful about FB and other social networking sites. How about the employers? Sometimes the reverse can happen and the potential employees can see them.

Anonymous March 25, 2010 at 3:52 pm

It's not slander unless you can prove it's false, which we don't know in this case.

Anonymous March 25, 2010 at 4:24 pm

As to the questions about if the statements could be considered defamation, from what I understand to be libel (printed defamation) the statement(s) must be false, cause damage to the individual the statement(s) were about and be written in such a way that they are accessible to the public or a third party.

Posting statements about a coworker or subordinate on your Facebook page that is accessible to other employees and customers would certainly be considered public, and if the statements were false and caused damage to the individual it could possible be considered libel. You would have to be able to show that the statements were false and that they caused damage, which is the trick. Also, an opinion made about someone doesn’t necessarily mean it is libel, from what I understand it also has to be made as if it was a fact and that the statement of fact was untrue, since truth is the main defense against the charge.

Also, I believe false statements made as an attack on someone’s character (professional or personal) can be considered defamation.

Personally, if I was the owner and/or manager and found out that one of my employees or managers was talking trash about another employee or, worse, a subordinate on FB where customers of the organization could see the statements; I’d have a cow. It wouldn’t matter if the statements were true or not, you don’t air your dirty laundry in public. At the very least the manager would be disciplined and have to take the statements down, most likely they’d be fired. This, of course, would be after a thorough investigation into the situation.

Anonymous March 25, 2010 at 4:33 pm

One, get a clue that this job may not be the right fit. If it's so bad the boss is talking about it online the boss is either a tool or the employee is making her lose her mind. Although I think the manager is a maroon (facebook, really?!), I'm amazed no-one sees this issue cuts both ways.

If we're going to hold the manager to a standard of internet behavior the company needs to hold the staff to the same. That means everyone needs to reel it in and not discuss work in any way online. Including blogs and blog contributors.

If those policies were policed and enforced the advice, vent, jobvent, indeed, blogs, chat and forums would disappear.

The manager is guilty of is indiscretion. A sit down, sign off reprimand and page removal is in order.

Anonymous March 25, 2010 at 8:32 pm

I feel terrible for the poster – she is just working the job to get through college and this is what she gets!?
I really hope that the situations gets sorted out for the better.

Anonymous March 25, 2010 at 9:11 pm

I am amazed at the number of people who don't consider Facebook to be a public forum (including those who have no privacy measures set). It is quite public, and people should post accordingly. I would suggest to the OP that she make sure that she is wise in what she posts on Facebook – if she hasn't been in the past, she should start deleting.

Rachael March 26, 2010 at 1:56 am

Thanks for everyone's advice, as for my facebook account I keep mine set to private so you have to be my friend to view anything. Since a lot of my professors at the college are friends with a lot of us students on facebook I keep mine pretty clean seeing as I am going to be a teacher, I need to set a good example. As for talking about my boss in general I've kept my comments between me and my boyfriend/parents none of whom go into the store where I work. I work at a convenience store so there really isn't a high criteria for working there so I understand that a lot of the people that work in convenience stores aren't exactly professional.. but it's still no excuse I feel. As for whether I've been a pain to my boss I'm human I make a mistake here or there but if you make mistakes you get pink slips, I've only had 2 in the almost 3 years I've been there. I think it's just a clash of personalities or something..

Anonymous March 26, 2010 at 2:53 am

Anon 12:33

In this day in age, the OP is lucky to have a job; perhaps it may not be the best fitting one for her, but if she doesn't have it, she might not have another. You do have a legitimate point that the OP might not be telling us the whole thing, but I really don't think people would write in to AAM with a false story. Furthermore, she has been responding to comments so the story seems legitimate. And as the OP stated after your post, she is not the one strewing her side on her FB; it is only the manager posting the "dirty laundry" out there for the world to see.

To Anon at 12:24 – Thank you for the legal definitions. Your post rang a bell about how you can state opinions without being held accountable, but if it is stated as fact, then that's a new playing field. I had heard that, but if she is just stating it opinion-like, she should still be told to stop.

Anonymous March 26, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Is the manager using this person BY NAME? Or just complaining about 'someone' they work with?

I'm wondering if it is possible that the complaints are actually about someone else.

I would still wait for a response from the supervisor. Three days is not a lot of time for someone who has a lot of other things to deal with too. Likely the company doesn't have a well-established social media policy and is having to catch up with that first before they can properly address the manager's lapse in judgement.

Continue collecting evidence in the mean time and do not engage in any sparring verbal or online with the manager.

Rachael March 27, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Yeah, she mentions my name in every post she's made.

I haven't said anything on my facebook about the situation.

My supervisors have gotten a hold of me and they said they are going to go to the store this week and talk to her in person about it.

Thanks for the advice.

Anonymous March 3, 2012 at 12:31 pm

you know what don’t work for driveline Retail ever they pay poor and expect so much work out you could get a heart attack wroking for them and they aren’t even grateful for it. My boos there is a jerk who took every single job off my schedule over someonee’s lie about me.

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