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Monday, June 09, 2008

Gossip

I worked at car Dealership One for about six months. I was named sales person of the month. I consistently sold more cars than anyone else on the sales floor and I actively participated in all sales meetings and even started training other new sales associates who started working at the dealership. I was eventually promoted to the internet sales department and did very well. I was scolded and reprimanded for having too many people there and selling too many cars. After that conversation, I quietly spoke to the general manager of the dealership and turned in my resignation.

I was hired on by Dealership Two as an internet sales manager. I was thrilled about the move up and shared the news with a few of my friends and former co-workers from Dealership One. Of course, I knew this news that I shared with them would make its rounds through Dealership One. I was fine with that because I left on good terms and had nothing to hide from Dealership Two. In fact, I listed the general manager from Dealership One on the application that I filled out for Dealership Two.

I started work and was doing very well. I shared this news with one of my co-workers from Dealership One. As soon as the general manager of Dealership One heard of this news, he decided to place a call to the manager of Dealership Two to find out how I was doing.

He asked several questions about my performance, how much money I was making, and how many cars I had sold, as well as how my personality was fitting in with the new group. My current supervisors refused to answer any of these questions stating that it was not appropriate for them to discuss my performance or achievements with him without my prior consent. Good job, new dealership! At least someone was acting professionally.

After this phone conversation took place, the general manager from Dealership One told everyone during a staff meeting that he found out where I was working and how I was doing. He said I was making less money at Dealership Two than I was when I was still working for Dealership One and also that I was worse off and unhappy. He said it was a shame that I was headed toward a downward spiral and that he would be there to "give me a good talkin' to" if I ever came to my senses and asked for my old job back. He also made several comments about how my poor performance and attitude problems got me into this "situation" and that he hoped none of his current sales people went down the road I was traveling down.

How should I handle this situation? Should I contact him and ask what he was hoping to accomplish by spreading false rumors? I want to handle this very professionally so as not to compromise my integrity or my name in the car industry, but I also want to ensure that he does not continue to act in this manner going forward.


Well, you have some advantages here. People talk--but they don't only talk to this one sales manager. Your current sales manager not only didn't say bad things about your--or believe any of the bad things your former manager might have said--but told you about it. That is an excellent sign. People who lie eventually will not be trusted. Keep in mind that after your former boss blasted you, the co-worker who knew the truth about your success undoubtedly told the other sales people that your boss was, ummm, incorrect.

They just lost respect for him as well.

I see two options for you. Option one is to just let it go. Your record at your new job will speak for itself. If you are performing at a high level, your current manager would be a fool to let any rumors bother him. You can just wait for the natural order of things to occur, and boss one will eventually get what is coming to him.

Option 2 carries risk, but it is also a little bit more fun. Your previous boss said what he said because he assumes he can get away with it. He assumes that either you won't find out (dumb assumption) or that you won't say anything. He also assumes that his position as the boss ensures that his current salespeople will suck up to him, so he has no worries. You can pick up the phone and call him. Just be direct. Don't ask for an apology or an explanation. Just tell him that you know what he is saying about you. Something like this:

"John, I hear you've been talking about me in staff meetings. I'm honored that you are still concerned about me. Trust me, I'm doing just fine in my current job."

The advantage of this approach is that he's not expecting you to say anything, but in the back of his mind he thinks that IF you say something you'll be a screaming mess and he'll get to be all defensive and this will justify his statement because you are obviously unstable. By just letting him know that you know he's talking, he's been warned.

If he continues, I'd just let it go--unless it starts to affect your current job. The nice thing about sales jobs is that there are hard numbers to go along with performance. If, for a future job, he bad-mouths you, you'll be able to produce your actual sales numbers to show your performance.

14 comments:

pelican said...

Hmmm. In these situations, I'd also vote for "living well is the best revenge." After all, your old manager's lies are hurting him a lot more than they're hurting you.

Perhaps you should get together for dinner with an ex-coworker or three from Dealership One. Exude joy. Be unable to stop talking about the high levels of support you get from management at Dealership Two. Enthuse about plans to expand your section in the coming months/years. Put out subtle feelers about poaching away high performers from Dealership One. Buy another round of drinks. If someone mentions your manager's gossip, laugh ... then take the (mostly) high road ... "oh, that Bob, that's just sad, that he'd actually be so low as to make things like that up, what a load of crap ... I'm so glad I don't have to deal with that anymore- it's so nice to work somewhere where my manager's got my back." Perhaps add "Dealership One's numbers must really be down if Bob's that fearful about losing you guys, that he thinks he's got to make stories up like that?"

The world is a small place. When your previous co-workers see you happy and successful at Costco, at Little League, out to dinner, wherever, they'll be reminded that maybe they don't have to put up with Bob's crap either. And, when you're ready, you'll be able to lure the high performers from Dealership One with ease.

Sandi Mays said...

I like Option 2. This is an opportunity to help Boss 1 grow up a bit. It may not help you, but it could help the next guy who he thinks about bad mouthing.

Wally Bock said...

I vote with Pelican. All his/her reasons make sense. There is also the question of what you want to spend your time on. Do you want to spend your time selling cars and enjoying your success and its fruits? Or would you rather wallow in the silliness of the place you used to work? I choose for option a over the psychological costs of option b.

Kelly said...

See, I disagree with Pelican in that I would do absolutely nothing to try and lure away other workers, or make snide remarks about the old boss. Those sorts of things are just bad karma (yeah, it's a little hippie of me) but you don't want that negative stuff floating around about you.

If you need to do something, I would take EHRL's advice and go with Option 2. Just say how honored you are that old boss is so concerned with your happiness and well-being, but you just want to reassure him things are just wonderful. Just ooze kindness and concern when you talk with him or leave a message. Nothing negative, no bragging or attempts to do anything but express your "gratitude" that he's still so invested in a former employee.

Although, anyone with any sense at all can see what's going on here, and your silence would probably speak volumes in a situation like this, both to current and former co-workers and management. I forget who said it, but the saying goes something abou better to be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt. It's definitely true.

HR Wench said...

Please forgive the generalizations...but I have hired tons of sales people and many have been from the car dealership world.

If I know anything about how small the car dealership world is and how much car sales people move around job wise, I vote for just letting it go.

Do not get into a fight with a junkyard dog. Don't even tempt him to be even more of a jerk to you. Pretend that he does not exist unless what he does affects your family or your job. Then, take only above-board, NON passive aggressive and legal routes to solve those problems.

What he said and did are all about HIM and his problems. They have nothing to do with YOU.

HR Godess said...

I agree with HR Wench. I always go by the old saying "two wrongs don't make a right". I think if you bring yourself down to his level, it's no better than what he's doing to you. Let your work ethic and record speak for itself. Most people know there are two sides to every story and in most cases, they are just looking for gossip to keep the rumors going. Let them die down while your career thrives. Good luck to you either way.

jaded hr rep said...

Agree with the general advice given, but I would go one step further. Certain job circles are tight and incestuous, and sales is one where reputation is paramount. Stupid boss who lies to employees would likely not hesitate to lie to peers and colleagues, all of who could be co-workers or managers to this person one day. I suggest the Sales Manager have the call as EHRL described but add: "Appreciate your concern, but please understand your words can damage my reputation and future opportunities in this field. What you're saying may constitute slander and I may have no choice but to pursue legal damages, if I continue to hear of this happening." If there is a competent HR presence in the company, I'd also alert them to what ex-boss is saying. No need for raised voices or anger, but a clear and strong (needed) warning.

The Engineer said...

I vote for number one. Just ignore it. You know you are better off. Who cares what others think or "know."

Number two is to be avoided even if you could pull it off. Everything comes around. Even if you move onto another field of work, chances are good you'll run into those you "tweak" at some later point. That encounter may even be second hand (i.e. you deal with an associate or friend of the "tweaked").

Rachel - Employment File said...

Move on. Be the mature one of the two.

Dave Ferguson said...

Well, *I* think you should sign up on Monster.com, using Dealership One manager's name, and put up an in-search-of ad for "auto dealership general manager."

Reason for leaving current position: "It's impossible to express how well I do in my current position." Either that, or "auto warrior needs to crush his enemies, drive them before him, and hear the lamentations of their women and/so significant others."

For best results, salt the thing with the sort tortured prose you'd expect from Dwight of The Office.

Include the G.M.'s work phone and a clever code like "leave a message that you want to talk about deluxe undercoating."

rile2haha said...

How you deal with this depends upon your value system. You need to choose this yourself. Here are some examples:

Rational (wanna make as much money as possible): Let it go.

Vindictive: spend years plotting revenge.

Normal: I agree with the above people where you have to do something. Calling him and telling him you know he is talking without making threats is best. You did nothing that can be blamed, but you did _something_ to him.

Enlightened: I'm NOT enlightened and sainthood is far away, but I tried this for fun. I was really, really nice to my old supervisor who said bad things about me. Each time he saw me, he got really nervous. The nicer I was, the more nervous he got. I sent him holiday cards with praise. I gave up seats for him, etc. When I tried to give him my seat at a talk, he freaked. He said, "No, no." It was really funny. And fun.

Plus, I was blameless. Nobody could say I couldn't "let it go" or anything.

jetro said...

>I was scolded and reprimanded for
>having too many people there and
>selling too many cars.

Does this set off no one else's bs detector? ("I got in trouble for making too much money for my company!" uh...yeah...right.)

And car salesmen acting sleazy? Who'd have thought?! :-)

Chris Young said...

Personally, I find this type of behavior beyond disgusting. This type of behavior should not be allowed to continue and the worst thing I think a person could do is ignore it or address it lightly.

I would hire a lawyer to place a phone call to the owner of the dealership saying, "My client is being slandered and if it continues in any shape, manner, or form, I will sue on behalf of my client."

Clearly this person has enough friends at their old place of employment to confirm if anything is said in the future.

Unless the owner of the dealership is an idiot, the problem will stop immediately.

It is sad that stuff like this happens...

Dataceptionist said...

Now matter how incestuous the industry, I think the best course of action is holding your head high and ignoring it. I think a phone call is too risky, and if he's a skilled manipulater at all, he'll just tell everyone you were grovelling over the phone to him for your job back. If you don't seek further contact with him, it will die down and he;ll get caught in his own web like he deserves. As EHRL says, he's not the only source of information coming in, and people will soon see he's lying.