Monday, October 30, 2006

Being "Back Doored" At Work

"Joe" sends in the following email:

I experienced rather unprofessional communications from "Sally" the other day in regard to an issue she was having with a computer system I manage. Having a zero tolerance policy for unprofessionalism, I subsequently contacted her manager, "John," in confidence, via email. The reply amazed me.

First, John's response was canned and did not address my concern at all. Second, and most surprisingly, John copied Sally on the response, effectively allowing Sally to see what I had sent to John about her bad behavior!

Why the hell would someone do something like this, other than to intentionally throw someone under the bus? He completely undermined my trust in him and will surely have created animosity between his employee and me. Anyways, I thought you would have some experience with these types of issues.

Wow - did you get back-doored. There are two ways to look at this:

1. Giving the Manager the Benefit of the Doubt - By copying Sally and sending you boilerplate, he is letting her know that he got a message about her unprofessionalism, but isn't doing anything about it at this time. The manager is hoping that Sally sees this and takes it as a warning.

This is not the right way to do management, and would be employed by someone incompetent or unwilling to confront employee problems directly. If you interpret it this way, the manager is being naive rather than evil, and he isn't taking in account the secondary effects between you and her.

2. Not Giving BOD - In this scenario, he doesn't really care what she did, what you think, or anything else. He is protecting his employee against you, essentially, and he is letting you know this by copying her on the email and sending you a "no big deal" response.

Either way, you are going to have to be very careful how you deal with this pair in the future.

What I would probably do is somehow communicate the situation with your management before John or Sally has the opportunity to do it for you. Don't bring it up as a problem or something your manager needs to get involved in, but just let him know the situation and what happened. This way you get to frame the situation before anyone else gets to. Basically CYA.

As for John and Sally, you will just have to be careful with both in the future. I wouldn't change how you work or act around them, but you are going to have to be circumspect how you handle future issues. If you get another nastygram from Sally, you know it was scenario 2 that you are facing, and in this case you may be forced to get your management involved.

Either way, don't expect a Christmas card from Sally this year.

Anybody else have any comments?

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