Have to face my boss tomorrow; reported her to internal auditing today
March 11, 2013 7:26 PM   Subscribe

I am a temp employee in a very small office. Obviously I can't comfortably say what kind. My boss made a dangerous error Friday, repeated the error today and then covered up both errors, in front of me, and not giving me any plausible deniability of knowin what she was doing. I reported this over her head and am now nervous about handling the fallout.

I called our internal auditor and emailed a brief factual description of the problem. No emotion or blame. I sandwiched it between 'I need training on our official corporate policy for dealing with these things when they happen.'

Not only were the mistakes dangerous (in the medium term, to one specific individual), they would constitute fraud and both lf us would be prosecutable.

A few weeks ago the same boss handled another employee's mistake poorly and then chastised me for....calling our auditor. (that one was medium level - signing off as witnessing things before they happened. The latest is more serious.)

The auditor has told me I did the right thing, should always err on the side of reporting, and thanked me. But there is nobody else at work who could possibly know about this error (and definitely not about the coverup). Recall that I am not a permanent employee.

Hive mind, please help me brainstorm what I should say tomorrow if/when boss confronts me. I need to be unapologetic, yet sympathetic. I may need to defuse anger, and not become angry myself.

Bonus round: I need to deal with some internal shame that I didn't try to stop her from covering up.
posted by tulip-socks to Work & Money (20 answers total)
there's something I'm not clear about - is the auditor you spoke to involved with the company you are temping at, or is the auditor at your agency?

Either way, you should alert your temp agency about what's going on. It's possible they will intervene on your behalf with your boss, but it's also possible they'll get you the hell out of there. At the very least your agency can advise you how to handle this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:33 PM on March 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

IAAL, IANYL. You should not be posting about this on the Internet.

Tomorrow, just tell her you acted according to your judgment and you are sorry if it's meant difficulty for her. Leave it at that and look for a new job.
posted by murfed13 at 7:33 PM on March 11, 2013 [16 favorites]

When entering a tense conversation, it helps to have a plan for what you're going to do once the conversation is over: "I will write down any slurs, threats, or accusations she says, as soon as I get back to my desk." It gives you something to focus on other than the tenseness of the nonverbal cues you're getting, etc.

Also, are you a regular short-term hire or are you working through a placement agency? If it's the second, you need to contact your agency. If it's the first, figure out if you have any allies and if the final decision about whether or not you work there is actually made by this person. Be ready to talk to them as soon as the initial confrontation stuff is over.

And... ummm... seriously look for another job. The fact that this person has a position of authority and is behaving like this bodes poorly for your future (and frankly, that of the business.)
posted by SMPA at 7:34 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

When you say "dangerous" do you mean physically dangerous, as in a mistake that could have killed or injured someone in other circumstances? I would say go ahead and be angry, in that case.

But even if you're just saying it was business-perilous, I'd still say that the fact it's something you could be prosecuted for is enough that you ought to go for righteously angry instead of any sort of meek reaction. I doubt they pay you enough to take any bullets for your boss or keep him/her out of jail.
posted by XMLicious at 7:34 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

You need to go to your temp agency and ask for another placement and make sure they know what is going on. There's no way you're going to stay at this company.
posted by empath at 7:36 PM on March 11, 2013 [18 favorites]

To the last point: this is why you have internal auditors. It is not your job to stop a superior from fucking up. It is the superior's job to do her job properly and make sure you do too. When that fails, you need recourse. You used that recourse. It's what you're supposed to do.

If you don't know, find out what your recourse is for chastisement/retaliation and use that recourse too. Did you report her for chastising you before? You should report that. If she gives you shit, just walk away and send it up the chain. You're doing your job. You don't have to be sympathetic. Just disengage. It is appropriate to protect yourself, your career, and your legal record.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:36 PM on March 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

You should know, going into it, that a good employment lawyer may be able to make things very uncomfortable and expensive for your employer if they fire you or retaliate against you for refusing to break criminal law. (NOTE that this advice is complicated by the fact that you are a temp of some sort or other, but it's not necessarily THAT complicated by this fact. Consider calling an attorney before too long.) Keep good records and protect yourself.

You should probably be looking for another job, and probably not be talking about this on the internet, but ultimately your boss is the bad guy here, not you, and if she created a situation where people have to lie to protect her from prosecution, she's created a situation in which other people have the power to make her life very difficult.
posted by gauche at 7:45 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bonus round answer:

If your boss gets angry with you for

-being forced to witness fraudulent/hazardous/illegal/deceptive behavior
-subsequently reporting it to a higher authority

then I am afraid that she has only herself to blame.

It seems that it's already obvious to you, on an intellectual level, that you made the ethical choice to go over your boss' head with this. The uncertainty of the yet-to-be-seen consequences of your decision is probably what is triggering your sense of guilt and anxiety.

If there's anything you do that typically calms you during periods of anxiety, do them. Video games, trashy reality TV, a pint of Ben and Jerry's. Anything to calm and distract you from the situation (which your boss created herself).
posted by triceryclops at 7:48 PM on March 11, 2013

I think you ought to be prepared for the attack that if you see an error being made, you should have tried to stop it rather than letting it go by and then going behind the boss's back. That failing to speak up when you knew it was a mistake was a failing, and that then going behind boss rather than raising the question directly with boss is another.

But, I don't think you can pour any oil on this water, because I think that unless you've succeeded in destroying boss, you've made an enemy who will work against you no matter what you do; and if the boss has any input, there won't be any permanent hire at the end of the tunnel. Bearing that in mind, I suggest you pitch it as obviously having had a professional disagreement, but hoping that you can keep things on a professional level.

Expect boss to document every mistake you make. Be careful on time reporting and scheduled work breaks.
posted by tyllwin at 7:48 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Expect boss to document every mistake you make. Be careful on time reporting and scheduled work breaks.

And using the internet at work - you don't want ask.metafilter.com to show up in your logs and/or browser history.
posted by empath at 7:59 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

n-thing the contact your agency with this, and double n-thing the you won't be there long after this hits vibe upthread.

The best and worst thing about temping somewhere is that you're expendable, either on your terms or theirs. You don't have to sit and fret over some other employees' obviously unscrupulous and unethical behavior. You can move on and find another gig with a normal company and not sweat this the way a perm would have to if they were in your shoes.

Prepare for some drama, but get your mind right in the morning and be somewhere else in your head when it comes down. Walk away from this knowing you did the right thing and lived out proper values instead of having to break yourself down and live by your supervisor's values. You have more career choices than she does and now's the time to exercise them.

And don't feel remorse or guilt over your actions - you did the right thing in the most professional way you knew how in this situation. Just be prepared to move on and leave on a professional note.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 8:28 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Whatever you do, don't sign any documents your boss hands you during the meeting, especially anything that sounds even vaguely like an admission that you made a mistake.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:47 PM on March 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Shame nothing. Sure, you could have gone street and taken her aside and tell her to cut it out like it's The Wire, but ultimately I agree with above: you did what you're supposed to do and use the auditor. Heck, you had already gone to the auditor once before and she still continued!

The company can place you somewhere else, and as long as they do (the temp company would be stupid not to see your actions as leadership), I say just ride this out and see what happens as long as they keep giving you checks for working there! How often does this kind of thing happen to people? You did the right thing, and I'm sure you'll get an education from it.
posted by rhizome at 8:52 PM on March 11, 2013

I am an employment lawyer, not your lawyer. Please go to NELA.org and look for a lawyer near you. Do not answer any questions regarding your case here. Call in the morning. Tell the lawyer you do call of the problem.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:17 PM on March 11, 2013 [9 favorites]

IANAL, but I have read enough of Ironmouth's advice over the last few years to know that he is giving you as good an answer as you could hope for in this thread.

You have integrity, and you have courage. Continue to be strong, and do as Ironmouth suggests.
posted by mosk at 10:39 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Without knowing the details, I would maybe say it was about keeping the company and the employees out of trouble and making sure everything was OK; it was not about any person, but rather about a mistake that could result in your getting in trouble. I would continue covering your ass -- this place sounds shady and you are temporary.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:18 AM on March 12, 2013

Hey, having seen a similar situation which I was (thank God) not a direct party at a previous job, my answer would be TALK TO A LAWYER. Shit ended up desperately fucked, including a lawsuit where everyone else in my department got deposed, and it dragged on for the entire year and a half that I worked there, and a lot of the head and heartache of the whistleblower could have been mitigated if they'd talked to a lawyer early in the situation rather than later. I'll echo not signing documents presented by your boss without having a lawyer look them over.
posted by klangklangston at 12:40 PM on March 12, 2013

Get this anonymised ASAP.

Document everything about this incident, including conversations with your boss. Keep these notes safe. Give them to your lawyer. Also, get a lawyer, as Ironmounth recommends.

Bonus round: I need to deal with some internal shame that I didn't try to stop her from covering up.

Your fucking excuse for a boss is responsible for her own actions. You were just a bystander, and a bystander who is subject to the control and directions of your idiot boss, no less.

In any case, you did stop her from covering it up - you contacted the auditor. Coverup averted.

If person A attempts to shoot person B, bystander C is not and should not be ethically obligated to step in front of the bullet. That is what trying to directly stop your boss from initiating a coverup would have constituted. You would have been putting yourself in the firing line, and you would have been hit.

You not only did the right thing, you did the smart thing. You kept your head. Kudos.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:10 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

That's a sockpuppet account, I am given to understand.
posted by XMLicious at 9:18 PM on March 12, 2013

Following up.

My notice has been given (obviously, I can't say the details of how it went down, but so far it's been smooth-ish sailing.) Agency surprisingly seems to have my back. They can't place me again until I'm out of the current spot. Which is fine. Because I'm getting paid and I like getting paid.

Because I didn't know there was a problem before the cover up there is no documentation of when things were changed, so it just "looks like" a normal sort of error. But I have been assured that I did the right thing. And thanks to all of you for your kind responses here with the same assurances.
posted by tulip-socks at 3:12 PM on April 7, 2013

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