Finding fraud won't help you escape watchful boss

(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,

I have been with a major company for over a year and a half. Starting about six months ago, they have been "nit picking" everything I do and I found out they plan to present me with a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) this week.  

I have been hard-working, not late, nothing...I don't understand why they want to get rid of me. I do have information that can get a lot of people (my managers) fired and also have knowledge that they are aware of fraud that is being committed with our client. 

 I don't know what to do. I have written a long letter to my manager with dates and witnesses (a temp in our office that tells me what goes on when I'm not there). She tells me because she does not agree with how I am being treated. If they try to get me to sign the PIP and I refuse will they fire me or consider that as a resignation and should I present the letter before or after they try to give me the PIP? I also plan to send the letter to higher ups in the company and to our client as well. I only get one shot at this and want to go about this the proper way without hurting myself and a chance at getting another job.

Let's first slow down. There are several different issues going on here.

1. You feel your boss is being nit-picky.

2. You are going to be placed on a PIP.

3. You have evidence of fraud.

The latter is not a get out of jail free card (or rather, get out of PIP free card). If it's true, honest-to-goodness fraud and not just violations of internal policies, then you will likely be protected under state and/or local whistle-blower laws, but those vary so much from place to place that I cannot give you a definitive answer on that. But, the reality is, there is no retaliation going on here. Presumably, they don't know you and the temp have been keeping lists, so the performance issues are completely separate from the fraud issues.

With the fraud issue, if this is illegal, you are under obligation to report it immediately. Do not hold onto it in order to use as a bargaining chip with the performance issues. This will not go well for you. In fact, if I'm working with a manager on a PIP, it gets presented to the employee and then the employee produces a list of questionable activities by others, while the investigation will be done, everyone will start out with a negative idea about the employee. You do not want this. 

Determine who is the proper person for fraud reporting. Some companies have a designated person. Some have a hotline. Some do not. If you're in the last category, present it to the person in your chain of command who is not involved. So, if your boss is involved, but her boss is not, that person gets it. If your boss and her boss are involved, then it's the boss's boss's boss. If that person is too high up the food chain and is unlikely to even look at at your email, then go to Human Resources. Regardless, copy your HR manager on the email reporting the fraud.

And yes, you want to do this via email. You want a record. Blind copy your home email address. (Unless your company has a policy against sending things out externally. In that case, print a copy of the email.) Include dates and times and facts. Do not include any personal opinions or criticisms of the people involved. Just the facts. 

Once this is done, let the chips fall where they may. As much as you'd like to control that, you can't. Please notify the temp who has been collecting information before you do this, as it will affect her as well.

And now that that's done, it's time to talk about the PIP. Your boss will, mostly likely, be upset about the fraud allegations, but it's doubtful that will stop the performance improvement process.

First, nit-picking is annoying, but sometimes it is necessary. Sometimes, even employees that show up on time and work hard all day are not doing what the boss needs them to do. Sometimes, they are not working effectively. Sometimes their focus is off.

And yes, sometimes managers are jerks who micro-manage people. I don't know which one is the case here. But the reality is that the boss gets to decide what does and does not constitute acceptable work performance. And if the boss wants your performance to change you have two choices: Change or leave.

Yes, this is harsh. And, yes your situation is complicated by the the fraud stuff going on. But, it is absolutely critical that you realize that the boss gets to choose.

Not signing the PIP won't mean you aren't subject to it. It means that you're antagonistic. Most signatures on those things simply mean that you are acknowledging that you have received it and that you understand that if you do not comply with the terms you will be terminated. It doesn't mean that you agree with the boss's conclusions about your performance.

If it says that you agree with the information contained therein, then by all means sign it and next to that write, "as to receipt only, rebuttal to follow." Then write your rebuttal. But most performance improvement plans are things that the boss wants to see improved on.

Your boss may not care one whit if you're in the door on time, but she may care that your focus is on project A, instead of on project B. This is an ideal opportunity to find out exactly what you need to do in order to make your boss happy.

As much as you'd like to come out of this whole experience with great references, it's not likely to happen. If the fraud you report is taken seriously by the higher ups, your boss and her cronies may well be fired and all will be well with the world. If it's not taken seriously, your boss will dislike you even more and every tiny bit of your PIP will have to be fulfilled perfectly to even keep your job.

You should continue to work hard and be professional, while looking for a job on the side. Be honest when you're questioned about the fraud and try to keep emotion out of it. And don't discount the terms of the PIP because your boss is micro-managing jerk. She's still the boss.

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