Good employee disillusioned about unfair reprimand

Dear Joan:

I am a young professional who is working in an information technology department. I recently graduated and this is my first “real” job. I’m becoming very disillusioned about working in the business world because of my boss.


I have complained to her about some of my coworkers, who take long breaks, come in late and don’t get much done because they are always playing around on the Internet. She doesn’t seem to do anything about my concerns, since they continue.


A recent incident really made me angry. She received a complaint from a department manager about someone from our team (the complaint didn’t specify who it was and there are four of us). This manager said that the person from our department wasn’t responding to their requests for help and when she finally did go to work on their equipment, she had an “attitude.”


My supervisor’s reaction was to put a letter of reprimand in each of our files! I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even do any work for that manager. I refused to sign the letter but she put it in my file anyway. She said that we are a team and all of us should take responsibility for this incident.


I have received complimentary notes and letters of praise for the work that I do and I doubt that she has ever thought to put those in my file. Now that this other letter is in my file, it will make me look bad if I want to move out of this department or leave this company.


This company gives employees little “treats” to motivate us and keep us from leaving. We get T-shirts with the company name on them, coffee mugs, ice cream and other trinkets and gifts but they are a joke.


Can I do anything to get this letter out of my file? Is this the kind of treatment I will find in other companies, too? Should I leave?



Seventy-five percent of people don’t leave their job, they leave their boss, according to a recent survey by the Gallup organization. With stories like this, is there any wonder?


The short answer is no, all managers are not this bad. Many take a personal interest in their staff, step in when someone isn’t performing up to par and balance positive and corrective feedback.


Your manager shows all the signs of being out of touch with her own department. I suspect she is more comfortable hugging her computer than hugging her people.  Perhaps she is also expected to perform some technical work, in addition to her management responsibilities, which keeps her too busy to notice what is going on. She may be in too many meetings. Or, she may be simply incompetent as far as leadership skills are concerned.


Here’s what you can do. Draft a letter of your own and put it in your personnel file. Describe the situation in objective language, stating the facts. Explain that you have never worked with this internal client and that you were not a part of this complaint.


Do not get emotional in your letter. Do not say that you have complained about your coworkers or that your boss hasn’t treated you fairly. You don’t want this letter to look like an attack on your manager. The facts will speak eloquently for you.


You have the right to see your own personnel file. I’d suggest that you contact your human resources department and set up an appointment to go and look at it (a scheduled appointment is usually required). At that point, bring your letter along and explain to the HR representative that you are placing this letter in your file. If the HR person is on the ball, he or she will take steps to coach your boss out of this unacceptable action and show her how to deal more appropriately with this complaint.


You may want to make the decision to stay or leave based on whether you are learning skills that will make you more valuable as an employee. If you are building an impressive resume, it may be worth staying a little longer, since the technical field is relatively weak now, due to the slumping economy. Start networking and when jobs start opening up, you’ll be ready to move and be worth more salary when you do.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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