Posted in Considering Legal Action on May 4th, 2012
If you are a worker in a dispute — whether it’s a dispute with your current employer’s management, a dispute with your former employer about unemployment benefits, etc.– there is something important you should know.
Regardless of what the employer may have done wrong, YOU are probably the person who is under the most scrutiny, and who has the most to lose. That is, you are probably the one on the hotseat.
For example, if you are subject to a disciplinary meeting or grievance process at work, it may well be that the discipline is unfair. However, the nature of that sort of proceeding (whether the discipline is fair or not) is to decide whether YOU did something wrong. That sort of proceeding is NOT a proceeding to determine whether others (coworkers, management, etc.) did something wrong. You are on the hotseat, not them.
Similarly, in an unemployment hearing, it is usually the judge’s job to decide whether the WORKER did something wrong. Whether the worker committed misconduct or not, whether the worker quit without good cause or not, etc. It is usually not part of the unemployment judge’s function to decide whether the employer did something wrong. So again, YOU would be on the hotseat, not the employer.
If you are in a dispute at work or in a legal proceeding, before you make any assumptions or take any actions, ask yourself this: “Who is on the hotseat here?” That is, ask yourself what the purpose of the proceeding is– to examine YOUR wrongdoing or the employer’s.
Chances are, the proceeding is geared to investigate your wrongdoing. Chances are, you are the one on the hotseat. If you are not sure who is on the hotseat, then don’t make any assumptions, and talk to an attorney.
If you are in fact the one on the hotseat, then it is very important you know this: the worst thing to do while on the hotseat is to blame others for their wrongdoing. If you’re accused of starting a fire (falsely or not), then that is not a good occasion to talk about others’ tax fraud.
For a more common example, if you are in a disciplinary meeting with management, you should not speak during that occasion (i.e. a proceeding for which you are on the hotseat and being reviewed for accusations against you) about what other people did wrong, about how you are being disciplined unfairly, etc. The hotseat is not the place to cast blame from. Because of the context, people in authority will be suspicious of what you have to say, and think you are playing the blame game; that you are being defensive and trying to divert attention from yourself. If you case blame from the hotseat, it will only make people more upset, and more inclined to take action against you.
So what DO you do while you’re on the hotseat? Three things. First, you LISTEN. Second, you ANSWER. (If no one asks you a question, then you don’t say anything). Third, when you have to answer, you SPEAK WITH FACTS. Fact-talk is talk like this: “On June 1, the sky was blue.” Blame-talk is like this: “Manager Smith was being unfair and lying when he said the sky was green. That’s ridiculous. Why are you giving me discipline, when he’s the one that’s wrong? Management has not given this matter a fair investigation.”
Hopefully, what I’m saying gives you pause. Hopefully, you’ll give thorough thought to whether you’re on the hotseat, and if so, you’ll take great care not to cast blame.
If you have any doubts, talk to an employee rights attorney to sort it out before you say or do something that may make the hotseat hotter!