Sunday, May 11, 2014

Is It Truth or Slander?

Is it slander to mention being fired on Facebook?

I was fired, posted about it and was threatened with a lawsuit.

In truth, I was extremely careful to not say anything that could be considered as a personal attack or in any other way inappropriate.  I said what the owners said when they fired me.  I was good at my job but they felt I threatened their authority.  I also said I liked and respected my co-workers.  Finally, I said that they told me I made numerous mistakes but were unable to back that up with any examples.

Is that slander or the truth?  Here are some details.

At the beginning of March I started a new job in a totally new field.   I thought the job was a gift from God.  I'd been looking for full time work for almost 10 years without success.  Out of nowhere I got a call from the owner asking if I would be interested in interviewing for a position even though I'd never even applied.  I got the job and began to learn as much as I could as fast as I could.

In the beginning, it was wonderful.  I liked the people in the office.  I liked interacting with the customers.  If I didn't know something, there was always someone to ask and they would explain it.  I learned the daily routine of the front desk and was slowly beginning to understand the details of my new line of work.  For the first few weeks, I spent an hour every day at an on-line skill training program.  I was told I was doing an amazing job.

Then it all changed.  I can pinpoint the day when one of my co-workers started to feel I was a threat to her job.  Her sudden animosity was like a slap in the face.  I still have no idea what triggered it.  At first I tried to attribute her change in attitude to a health issue she was facing.  We all have bad days and days we vent towards people for no reason.  After a week or so, I couldn't use that excuse for her behavior anymore.

Around this time, my "training" stopped.  I was no longer allowed time for the on-line training program.

Office procedures were changed frequently.  When I started, I was told to take notes, do whatever needed done and then shred the notes.  That evolved into a very elaborate system of recording activities.  I actually think that this was a huge improvement.  I also documented everything I did in the parent company's client management computer program.  Since the system was designed for adding information about customer contacts and follow up reminders, I used it extensively and wrote in the phone log.  I did not realize these changes were really a way to "catch me making mistakes".   For that, it was a failure.

Around the same time as my training stopped, I was told I had to start making outbound phone calls to customers.  My knowledge was still very limited but before my boss would agree to let me order study materials for licensing, he said I had to prove I could do the job.  That made no sense to me.  How could I discuss something with customers that I don't understand.  He wanted these phone call to be a way of cross-selling products.

I became frustrated by the increased pressure and his refusal to provide study materials.  I bought my own.  I started with a Dummies Guide to the industry and then order my own set of licensing materials.  If there is one thing I am good at doing, it is studying and learning.  So, I did what I do best.  I studied..

I tried very hard to be pleasant and friendly with everyone.  I worked hard to make sure I made no mistakes.  The biggest mistake I made was telling my boss that I didn't think I should be making these outbound phone calls until I was licensed.  Through my studies I learned that much of what he told me to do during the phone calls was not legal for an unlicensed person to do.  Those phone calls were not worth six months in prison. Another month or so and I would be licensed to make all the phone calls he wanted.  He got very upset and defensive.  He said the blame would be on him as the boss.  Since he is not an expert on the law, I wasn't convinced.

Three days later, he asked how things were going.  I told him I was concerned that the co-worker was not happy with me but I had no idea why.  I also said I got the feeling she wanted me to quit.  Somehow that turned into a big discussion where I was to blame for not going to her with my concerns.  He also started throwing all sorts of accusations at me like being defensive about my mistakes and not asking for help before doing things.   I asked what mistakes.  He had nothing.  When he started talking about "after you quit", I got mad.  I never once said I was considering quitting.  After almost a half hour of this nonsense, I asked him to leave my office.  I had nothing further to say.  I went back to work.  He came in an hour or so later and said we needed to work this out.  I had no idea what he wanted.  I told him I felt that they were trying to make me quit.  He flatly and emphatically denied it.

One week later I am told all of my faults and numerous errors are unacceptable.  I still have no idea what errors they mean.  When pressed, the owners list opening the water bill, making up a potential clients phone number, volunteering to do more than my share of a project, and not completing a contract for a client.

Since when is the company's water usage confidential?
The client gave me an old phone number and I am blamed?
Doing more than my share of editing a tedious spreadsheet was horribly presumptuous?
Why was it my responsibility to ensure that licensed staff do there job correctly?

After an hour of this ridiculous talk, I finally asked if I was being fired.  Oh, no! They didn't want to fire me but they also didn't want me to work there anymore.  I should take the high road and quit. Another 20 minutes of the owners trying to convince me to quit.  They turned all of their character flaws around and blamed me.  The even had the audacity to tell me that I had some deep seated issues that prevent me from being employable.

The truth hurts those who choose to believe a lie but it is not slander or libel to speak the truth.