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Rebuildling trust in a work relationship

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by BaileyCatts, May 10, 2010.

  1. BaileyCatts

    BaileyCatts Well-Known Member

    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.
    Eden and (deleted member) like this.
  2. Wyliefan

    Wyliefan Well-Known Member

    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.
  3. soxxy

    soxxy Guest

    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 a moderator: May 10, 2010
  4. BaileyCatts

    BaileyCatts Well-Known Member

    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. :shuffle:

    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. essence_of_soy

    essence_of_soy Well-Known Member

    Did he catch you logging into FSU at work without permission?
    Last edited: May 10, 2010

    MOIJTO Banned Member

    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!
  7. soxxy

    soxxy Guest

    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!"? :lol: That's all.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2010
  8. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

    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. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

    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. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

    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
  11. BaileyCatts

    BaileyCatts Well-Known Member

    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?
    LynnW and (deleted member) like this.
  12. Stormy

    Stormy Well-Known Member

    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. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

    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. snoopy

    snoopy Team St. Petersburg

    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.
  15. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

    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.
  16. overedge

    overedge Janny uber

    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. BaileyCatts

    BaileyCatts Well-Known Member

    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. Stormy

    Stormy Well-Known Member

    I think I get what you mean? In your Outlook, there's folders that are his e-mail and folders that are yours?
  19. BaileyCatts

    BaileyCatts Well-Known Member

    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. overedge

    overedge Janny uber

    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.
  21. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

    I see your point overedge about being prepared if this gets bigger or comes up again - however, if Bailey is spending work time on FSU and other personal sites or sending personal emails etc, this is not a can of worms you want to open.

    The fact that she's always had access to her boss's email makes me wonder what the fuss is about - did he not know you had access? You might have an opportunity to show that you are proactive and responsible by suggesting to him that you contact IT yourself to remove those folders from your Outlook set up. If he needs you to action something in future, he can send it to you.

    Also, just a word of caution - if you have access to his emails, maybe he also has access to yours, or other people do (other than IT of course). Best to keep your nose clean at work and not use it for anything personal (including online shopping etc).
  22. BaileyCatts

    BaileyCatts Well-Known Member

    That's the part I can't remember. When I started working for him 1.5 years ago, I sat at his desk and fixed the delegate page and clicked all the boxes (which is Calendar, Inbox, Tasks, Notes, Contact List), because I always click all the boxes. I can't remember if I specifically asked him if I should have access to his email, or I just automatically did it and asked him later and he said no he would manage, and then I never went back and removed it. So maybe he knew and maybe he didn't. I really can't remember. When he saw that message he had sent on my screen, I think the first thing he did was look at that delegate page and saw I had his Inbox and that other stuff, and clicked off all the boxes except calendar.

    Yes, I'm still freaked out. :shuffle:
    Last edited: May 10, 2010
  23. snoopy

    snoopy Team St. Petersburg

    BaileyCatts, do you do desktop support? Where I work only IT can set access like that.
  24. BaileyCatts

    BaileyCatts Well-Known Member

    No. In Outlook, as long as you know where to go to set it, you just go on the person's computer in their Outlook box, click Tools, Options, Delegates ... its all very self expanaltory and you just do it yourself. IT does not have to go behind the scenes and do anything. You would only need IT's help to walk you thru it if you really didn't know how to set that stuff. But you do it yourself at your own computer while you are logged into Outlook.
  25. overedge

    overedge Janny uber

    I can see why you're freaked out...but on the other hand I can think of a lot worser things that people at work do, and get fired for (sometimes).

    I think what Jenny has suggested you say is excellent. Even if your boss is an ex-military by the book kind of guy, I am sure he isn't so hardnosed as to think that clicking on his calendar by mistake is something worth firing you over. And I can't see why he wouldn't understand that you "lied" - I don't think you did in a deceitful manipulative way, just that you misspoke what was going on because you were confused and upset about your mistake.

    It sounds like you really haven't sorted out who has access to whose files - that you've just been operating on an informal understanding that has worked until now - so it would also make you look proactive and solution-oriented to bring that up with him, and to reach some sort of explicit mutual agreement that will hopefully avoid this issue happening again.
  26. Stormy

    Stormy Well-Known Member

    If you've had access to his e-mail all the time, I'm surprised you didn't click on it accidentally before. So you were on his computer when this happened? If you were on his computer, he must have seen in Outlook there were two sets of folders, one for you and one for him. He must have known you had access to it.

    Sounds like a good solution is to have yourself removed from his access all together, so he's assured it won't happen again.
  27. Quintuple

    Quintuple papillon d'amour

    How did it turn out? I typed out some thoughts, but everyone else covered it. I hope it turned out for the better!
  28. Rock2

    Rock2 Well-Known Member

    Often times, crises are the best times to (re)build a relationship such that you end up in a great place. This may be one of those times.

    I'll keep in mind he's ex military and make some stereotypical assumptions there.

    I agree that you want to be factual but you want to be 'real', too. Being human is often times the tie that binds.

    If it were me, here are the types of things I'd do/say:

    *schedule a meeting
    *don't worry about being eloquent or polished since you are likely to be a loss for words on certain things. This works for you in terms of being sincere.

    When you meet, be totally up front but tell him you don't have all the answers. Put yourself in his shoes and think about him. I can't emphasize this enough. The meeting is about him...not you. Points I'd make:
    *I'm here because of what you saw and how I handled the situation
    *I want to explain as best I can and leave you with some feeling that I can be trusted...because I can.
    *I'm absolutely disappointed in the whole situation and I can't imagine how you're feeling.
    *Here's what happened (and then explain it as you did earlier)
    *Include an explanation about how you reacted when you were confronted, indicating that your embarrassment was overwhelming that you worked to minimize it by deflecting the situation rather than living up to your mistake
    *Now you're here to live up to the mistake...and apologize
    *I'd tell him (if this is true) that this is the only time this has happened, which you realize might be hard to believe, but you are telling the truth. If email activity can in any way be investigated by the company, you are happy to have that happen and that he'd find no suspicious activity.
    *Finally reassure him that you feel terrible, he's in no danger having you as his assistant but realize all you can do is tell the truth and apologize. You appreciate that he has to make a judgement and you'll live with whatever he thinks is fair.

    He'd probably let you off the hook if you are sincere and "real" enough without being emotional.

    Those are my thoughts.

    Good luck
  29. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter

    We all make mistakes but it the ones who can discuss them openly and honestly who usually gain the most respect. I would try and see him first thing when back at work and just be upfront about it. Taking the initiative is always a good thing.

    On the other hand it sounds like you are freaking out about it because you are going over it in your mind again and again. It could be more than likely it has moved to the back of his mind. And thus creating a mountain out of a molehill for yourself. And if you are away from work this is only playing on your mind more because you are not there and not in a position to deal with it.

    In the end this is only a small thing in life. Live and learn. But I understand how easy it is easy to get bogged down in detail.
  30. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Hit ball, find ball, hit it again.

    So, what happened? Did you work it out?