Recently, a co-worker had an inappropriate item from her bachelorette party in the office, and was passing it around, teasing about it. It was amongst friends whom we all knew were tolerant of the situation. She asked one employee to hold his hands out and close their eyes (not knowing what the object was, but still a part of the “understanding group”). They did so, and when it was placed in their hands, I shot a picture on my digital cam. Then, I passed it along to another co-worker who runs a web-site to post the picture, in a teasing manner. When the employee in the picture saw it posted, they went to management.
I was called into my managers office, admitted my role in the situation, and was spoken to with “extreme vulgarity” and sent home for the day. On the way out, I apologized to the employee, and have done so another time since.
A week later, my manager asked me to discuss the situation. Again, I admitted my role, and what I did. He took notes of what I said, and also said that if the stories don’t match up, he will send us all home for a week at a time, and call us every morning to see if we want to change our story. He did mention that there were discrepencies in our versions, and wouldn’t put up with “covering someone’s a**”.
I have admitted my role, and apologized. All of the other managers involved seem to have decided to discipline and move on. However, he has launched a grass-roots investigation of sorts, and is seeking to get others involved. Now, I feel that I’m being badgered by him to change my story, which I won’t do.
How can I best approach this? As a side note, the employee that was photographed has said they told management the didn’t want anything to happen to all involved, except the one that posted the picture on the website.
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY FRANKE JAMES
Dear Paparazzi Employee,
Yikes! That’s quite a mess you got yourself into, with a nifty little camera and a tech savvy co-worker ‘webmaster’. The thing that really upped the ante was publishing it on the web!? The National Enquirer wasn’t buying I guess… Anyway, it illustrates how easily sexual jokes in the office can backfire, and I thank you for submitting your dilemma to Office-Politics.
I can only imagine how embarrassing it was for the person involved. No wonder they freaked out! But it certainly sounds like you learned your lesson. And that this particular Manager is going to extremes. Virtually every work environment has some degree of off-color humor, and it’s best not to react too prudishly.
On a serious note, and considering that your job might actually be in jeopardy because of this naughty little prank, I sent your letter along to Arnie Herz who is a US lawyer, and Author of LegalSanity.
“I have many more questions for you than answers. Does the company have a policy that covers harassment claims and investigations? Is the company following the policy in dealing with you? Where do you work and what do the laws of that location say about harassment investigations? I recommend you consult with an employment lawyer in your State/Province to figure out what your rights are and what you may be able to do to put an end to the investigation without jeopardizing your job.”
Now as Austin Powers would say, “Behave!” Let us know how things work out. Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.
Franke James, MFA
Editor & Founder, Office-Politics.com
Inventor, The Office-Politics® Game
Publication note: This letter was originally published in 2005. We are republishing the best letters from Office-Politics and integrating them with our blog format.
Franke James, MFA is the Editor & Founder of Office-Politics.com. She is also the Inventor of The Office-Politics® Game a dilemma-based social game that teaches you how to play, and laugh, at office politics. It’s used by HR departments, and corporate trainers worldwide. The Office-Politics Dilemmas have been inspired by the hundreds of letters submitted to Office-Politics.com.