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  1. #1

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    Unhappy Rebuildling trust in a work relationship

    I know people hate novels (and I'm novel writer), so maybe we can keep this short and hope the specifics don't really matter. Generalization story ...

    In just a split second matter of time, I did something stupid at work that has caused my boss to lose trust in me. He confronted me, I panicked so stalled and sort of tried to deny it, then finally said something stupid like "if I did, I didn't even realize what I was doing and I apologize". Yea, I know ... stupid!! But its too late to change that now. Like I said, I panicked and my brain was not working.

    I don't know what to do. I am now off work until Thursday and I know he is very angry at me. Heck, he might even be working with HR to discipline me (taking the pesemistic view). What should I do? Should I call him tomorrow and explain how sorry I am and explain why I .. let's call a spade a spade ... I lied at first? Or should I let it rest until Thursday when I return to work?

    I feel like shyte. I have never felt this bad about myself in my entire life, for anything, E-V-E-R! It was a stupid thing to do, he caught it, he contronted me, I lied, then threw out a "fake apology". How can I ever repair this and gain his trust again? I think the worst part was I lied at first. When he confronted me, I should have said it was a mistake, I did not mean to do it, I quickly realized it and stopped ... but I didn't so I can't change that now. How do I fix this?

    And no, it was nothing criminal. Just a stupid office mistake.

  2. #2

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    I think I'd call. If you don't, you'll probably stew over it until you see him again -- and as you say, you don't know what steps he might take in the meantime. Call and explain it just the way you did here -- it'll help clear the air. And this will be hard, but try to be relaxed, or at least to sound relaxed; don't panic or explain it four times in a row, just explain it as slowly and calmly as you can. Best wishes.
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  3. #3
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    I agree with Wyliefan, except, put it in writing. Can you get a short note to him tomorrow? You're sorry, you made a mistake, whatever, and again, you're sorry, etc., but keep it short. If you call, it will probably be awkward and that kind of "make-up" telephone call always goes on too long.

    In general, when I have something nice to tell you, I put it in writing, there's a record of it you can keep forever. (Something negative, I'll tell you, the memory will fade).
    Last edited by soxxy; 05-10-2010 at 04:02 AM.

  4. #4

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    Thanks. Please keep advice coming. I'm not kidding when I say the worst part is knowing I disappointed him, that is KILLING me. I am sort of glad I won't have to face him until Thursday, and I don't know how I can when I do. I mean I sat there, looked him right in the eyes, and lied.

    Let me add that what makes it even worse, its not like I'm 21 years old working in my first real job. I would be less critical of someone like that. I am MORE than old enough to know better than to act this way. I really can't explain it other than the panic of being confronted (and I don't handle confrontation well in ANY situation). Especially when we had such a great work relationship and he has really backed me up and supported me in petty office personality conflict type of things. I feel like I have completely destroyed his trust in me and don't know how I can ever make it up to him.

  5. #5
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    Did he catch you logging into FSU at work without permission?
    Last edited by essence_of_soy; 05-10-2010 at 06:18 AM.

  6. #6
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    Make an appointment with him, admit your mistake, appologize and let the chips fall where they will.

    Most important you want trust again, do this face to face don't be a coward and hide behind pen and paper!
    Without fear you cannot find courage

  7. #7
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    Oh, please. Of course it's preferable to discuss it in person, but BC is not back to work until Thursday. Sending someone an apology note is not hiding behind pen and paper. If BC is not going to see his/her boss until Thursday when they can discuss the issue face-to-face, it's best to have some contact beforehand, (given BC's anxiety), IMO. What's his boss going to say, "How dare you send me a note apologizing! You coward!"? That's all.
    Last edited by soxxy; 05-10-2010 at 07:54 PM.

  8. #8
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    There might be another path here - send a *very* short note saying that you are concerned about what happened and would like to discuss it in person when you are back in the office on Thursday.

    Then, your boss knows it's on your mind and knows that you are ready to discuss (and therefore hopefully does not take any action in your absence, and is not left fuming). At the same time, when you are still clearly distraught over this, you don't make it too emotional (ie unprofessional) in a phone call or email.

    Email can actually be dangerous in that you might end up saying some things that will be misinterpreted because you can't see his reaction, plus as I said you are too emotional right now.

    Your main goal at this point should be to regain your professional reputation - which will in turn result in a repaired relationship with your boss. Once you've had the conversation in person and made your apologies and let him know you've learned from the incident, then let it go. From there, it will be your good performance and professional attitude that will serve you well in future.

    Hopefully with a solid plan of action in place, you'll also be able to take a few days to calm down, so that you can present yourself with your usual professionalism and focus on Thursday.

    Good luck!

  9. #9

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    I agree with Jenny's approach.
    It shows that you are ready to face the issue; yet, allows you to do so without "acting in haste".

  10. #10
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    Agree with Jenny's advice...and I'd emphasize keeping all communications about it with your boss professional, not emotional. Hyperbole like telling your boss that this is KILLING you is not going to make you look better in his/her eyes (I'm not saying you would do this, but it's worth noting). Owning your error (two errors actually) is the first step, but regaining trust can only happen over time based on performance. The lie is the greater mistake and will be far more difficult to overcome, and could follow you after this job in terms of a recommendation.

    The best way to show that you've learned from this is - next time you make an error (and let's face it, we all make mistakes), be proactive and alert your boss instead of waiting for him/her to come to you. And come to him/her with ideas on how to solve it. We don't know what happened, so maybe you didn't know about the mistake until you were confronted, but if that's the case, perhaps building a way to review your work after it happens.

    Good luck
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  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by essence_of_soy View Post
    Did he catch you logging into FSU at work without permission?
    No. Worse. I'll just tell you. He caught me in his email. I never go into his email, just his calendar. But I really didn't realize what I was doing and didn't realize I was in his box ... I was thinking I was in my own, I clicked on a message that had chart only in it that he had just sent moments before. He was walking right by my desk at the time and saw it. I did quickly close it, but looking back, it was like I closed it quick because someone was walking by. Well, it was part "oh no" and part "someone is walking by" and he saw it on my freaking 21 inch monitor.

    He waited about 20 minutes (I guess running to HR deciding what to do), came over and tersley said "can we talk", took me in the huddle room and told me "I just saw a doucment on your screen that I only sent to HR" (of course it had to be HR .. but it was just some stupid chart about nothing; not personnel issues or anything). He waited for an explaination, I panicked, I denied it, he said "are you telling me I didn't see that on your screen?", I still panicked, I said something like "I don't even remember what I was doing the last 20 mintues .. .I was talking travel, I answered some messages, I was working on org chart", I kept denying it. Then finally I was like "if I clicked on something I shouldn't have I apologize for that". He repeated several times "are you telling me I didn't see it on your screen", and something about "I have shared a lot of information with you that normally I wouldn't have. I feel like I have kept you in the loop (referring to reorginzation ..which he did)." I could tell me he was very angry and disppointed. Oh GAWD the look on his face looking at me! I never really said "yes I was in your email. it was a mistake", which is what I should have said. I continued to lie (I panicked!!) and then finally did say the lame fake apology.

    I'm really scared. He is an ex-military, by the book man. I am really scared I am going to go back to work on TH and he is going to fire me! Can you get fired for that? When I started working for him, its just habit that I give myself access to everything on the delegate box, but when he said he didn't want me managing his email, I just never went into it, but I still had the access. This goes for two other managers as well. I have the acces, just don't manage it. One of those disappeared on Friday (like he went to her), the other was out on FR, but I bet its gone today. This is why I am scared. "They" didn't give me the access, it was automatic thing that I just click all the boxes in "delegate" so I have it.

    Why didn't I just admit that when he confronted me! Why didn't I just say "yes, you saw it on my screen. I know you don't want me managing your email. I don't go into it. I really wasn't paying attention to what I was doing and I didn't realize I had clicked into your box". But I didn't .. I panicked and lied.

    I'm really scared I am going to get fired. Can they fire you for that?

  12. #12
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    I honestly think if you were going to get fired, he would have done it already. If you have a good track record at work and there's been no issues to date, I'm sure you'll be fine in regards to not getting fired. I've been in a situation where I've panicked and tried to glaze over an issue and I agree, it would have been best if I'd just admitted the mistake right off the bat. But we all make mistakes. I agree with Jenny's approach, send a short e-mail now. I think I'd say that you are completely aware you are not supposed to manage his e-mail and that you mistakenly clicked on his. I'd apologize for the mistake and say that you can assure him it won't happen again in the future. After that, it's out of your hands.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by BaileyCatts View Post
    I'm really scared I am going to get fired. Can they fire you for that?
    So clearly you are still freaking out, which is why IMO you should be very careful of any emails you send or other action right now. You need time to collect your thoughts.

    Again, I'd send a note today saying that you'd like a word on Thursday as you've been thinking about what happened and would like to discuss with your boss. Short, simple.

    Then, you need to gather your thoughts for this meeting. It should be short and to the point - most bosses would rather do anything than deal with personnel issues, so the easier you make this on him, the better for both of you.

    You simply need to say that you realize that what you did was wrong, and you particularly regret being evasive about what happened. At the time, you were unsure of how you had ended up opening a file you shouldn't have, and you take full responsibility for reacting inappropriately. Then assure him that you fully understand what you did wrong, that you regret any trouble this caused him, you've learned from your mistake, and that it will never happen again.

    Then go back to your desk and concentrate on being the best whatever it is you do that you possibly can, and he'll see that the incident is over and no cause for concern in the future.

    Don't make this bigger than it needs to be - deal with it swiftly and surely, and move on.

    And again, good luck - we're here for you!

  14. #14

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    If the managers had the ability to remove your access from their email but didn't then I don't think they would fire you over this. Geez, you were on your machine as it was. There is some loss of trust to be sure as they apparently had you on the honor system so I would follow Jenny's suggestion...but still, some of this is on management for the way it controls (or doesn't control) mail access.
    What would Jenny do?

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jenny View Post

    Then, you need to gather your thoughts for this meeting. It should be short and to the point - most bosses would rather do anything than deal with personnel issues, so the easier you make this on him, the better for both of you.

    You simply need to say that you realize that what you did was wrong, and you particularly regret being evasive about what happened. At the time, you were unsure of how you had ended up opening a file you shouldn't have, and you take full responsibility for reacting inappropriately. Then assure him that you fully understand what you did wrong, that you regret any trouble this caused him, you've learned from your mistake, and that it will never happen again.
    If you tend to get flustered during meetings of this sort, then feel free to write yourself notes, and to rehearse what you'll say, if that makes you more comfortable. As part of that, I reiterate what Jenny says, above - keep it short and formal. Heck, print out what she said, above, reword it so it sounds like you, and use it.
    Use Yah Blinkah!

  16. #16

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    There's a big difference between clicking into someone's email by mistake (which I have also done) and logging out again as soon as you realize the mistake....and going into someone's email account without authorization, multiple times, reading all their messages, sending messages pretending to be them, etc. etc. *That* is the kind of email abuse that people get fired for.

    You have some very good advice already about what to say to your boss and how to say it. But if what you did and/or saw becomes an issue, I assume that your organization has some kind of email logging that shows who logs in when to what account and what they do. IF your boss is going to accuse you of abusing his email - which I don't think he is, but just in case - ask him to review the records of his account activity. From what you've said it sounds like you were in the account only briefly and didn't actually do anything with what was in there. You can tell him that the records will show that, if it becomes an issue.

  17. #17

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    We have Outlook 2003. I don't understand about email logging? Does Outlook 2003 do this if you are just a delegate? It not like I had the man's password and logged in as him. Its like a little link on your list of your folders, and you just click the link?

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by BaileyCatts View Post
    We have Outlook 2003. I don't understand about email logging? Does Outlook 2003 do this if you are just a delegate? It not like I had the man's password and logged in as him. Its like a little link on your list of your folders, and you just click the link?
    I think I get what you mean? In your Outlook, there's folders that are his e-mail and folders that are yours?

  19. #19

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    Yes, that's right. I log in with my password and of course see my Inbox and I have a list of folders I sort things in (its listed on the left side of screen and alsoincludes a deleted folder, sent folder, draft folder, junk mail, etc.). On this same list so another little "tab" that lists his inbox, sent, deleted, junk, etc. folders. So does email logging mean they can tell when I clicked "his" boxes versus mine? I just want to understand what this means.

  20. #20

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    It's not email logging in Outlook (it might be, but I don't use Outlook so I'm not familiar with it). What I mean by "email logging" is that somewhere in the IT department there is a server that tracks *all* the activity that *everyone* on the system carries out....be it email logging in/out, what applications they open, what websites they are looking at, etc. etc.

    The records on that server should show which computer or location opened which account when. So yes, if there is a folder with your boss's stuff on your computer, and you clicked into it and out of it, that activity should be recorded, as long as the system recognizes that your computer and his are different (some servers only recognize a single location or node and not all the individual computers that might be networked to that location).

    But really, this is only something you should have to worry about if he accuses you of doing something other than going into his folder, realizing your mistake, and going out again.

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