Dear Crucial Skills,
About a month ago, my director was investigated for violating policy. I provided information against her in this process. During the investigation, my director told my coworkers that the allegations were all lies. This caused my coworkers to view me as a troublemaker and a liar. I suspect she said the same to the heads of our company. As a result, she has been able to keep her job and I feel like my credibility is damaged. How do I move forward from here?
Dear Credibility Crisis,
Some decisions are hard. This one isn’t. You’ve got to go.
The only way I would temper that advice is if you think there is a possibility you are wrong. If the following are facts and not fear-based stories you are telling yourself:
1. Your director violated the policy.
2. The violation is a serious ethical breach—not some trivial technicality (e.g., she used company funds to refurnish her beach house vs. she used an outdated company logo in a PowerPoint presentation).
3. Your senior leaders believe you lied in your testimony against your director.
4. Your colleagues likewise believe you lied.
. . . then you are in as compromised a social situation as you could be.
You’ve got two problems here. First, you are working in an organization that seems either unable or unwilling to hold high standards. Do you really want to work in that kind of place? And second, you have none of the social support you will need to get things done and to be rewarded for doing so.
You owe it to yourself to put yourself into circumstances where you will be honored for your integrity, where you will be able to do your best work, and where you will be recognized for doing so.
I wish I had a magic answer that would allow you to remedy the situation. But I would be less than a genuine friend if I suggested I have ever seen a situation like yours end well. Your choices are a quick exit or a slow meltdown. A graceful redemption isn’t in the cards.
However, if objective and informed people among your colleagues disagree with #1-4 above—then improvement is possible. For example, if:
1. Your director’s actions are more of a gray area.
2. The policy isn’t morally significant.
3. Your senior leaders disagree with your view, but don’t believe you lied.
4. Few of your colleagues are especially aware or see this as an honest disagreement between you and your director.
. . . then there is room for hope. But only if you are willing to hold a truly humble, open, and honest crucial conversation with your director. You will need to come to this conversation curious. You will need to suspend your judgments and be open to new information that might revise your view of her actions. But you will also need to come prepared to be honest if the new “meaning” you acquire does not change your view. The only path forward is through this conversation in which the two of you open up the possibility of gaining new insight into each other’s actions, motives, and perspectives.
I wish you the best in this profoundly important decision.