Handling accusation via good communication skills is vital. How effective you are able to manage the spread of accusation against you shows maturity and tells a lot about your personality. When accused wrongly, the usual first line of action is to be defensive; but this defeats the purpose of communication. When we are defensive, messages we intend to pass across are poorly communicated and we have done little to stop the accusations against us.
In quelling accusation at the workplace, an employee should bear in mind that effective communication is key. It helps to clear doubts, stop the spread of rumor, gossip and false information which many may not take time to verify but often have their roots in false accusations which originate from various sources.
After you have ascertained the source of the false accusation, it is not a time to begin name-calling or counter accusation. You may have to sit down and gather your thoughts together and communicate with the person who is the source of false accusations against you via email. Email has an advantage of documentation of the interaction between you and your accuser(s). It is crucial to have a proper documentation of your interaction with your accuser(s), the fact presented to him (or them) and the kind of response you received. This record will help with future reference, and may as well vindicate you.
Why People Accuse Others Falsely
People have reasons for leveling accusation against others at work and some of the reasons could be ignorance or maliciousness. Often, one can understand the motive behind an allegation by identifying the source. Whatever the motive behind the action, it is important to make use of effective communication to tilt the tide and win an opposition over. But, the purpose should not be for this. The use of good interpersonal communication skill does not mean the absence of opposition but one can reduce it to the barest minimum at the workplace.
Addressing the Issue
At the core of every false accusation are lies. This should be what you address via email when communicating with the colleague who is the source of this. The purpose of your interaction through email is to find out through your interaction the true motive behind the allegations against you, after which you should let your supervisor or employer be aware of what is going on.
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How to Reply False Accusations
Now let us deal with how to go about the email.
Be Fast About It
Send your email to the person(s) concerned as soon as you can identify him (them). Delay could be expensive. Your reputation, hence your promotion and stay at your workplace could be at stake. Grievous allegations that may lead to disciplinary actions or work termination if divulged to your superiors should be addressed promptly and with all seriousness. Even if the parties involved retract their initial accusations, your superiors should be informed about what transpired.
Be Polite About It
Your email should be devoid of a rude approach. Be courteous. Politeness may get the accuser(s) off guard and may lead to him (them) choosing to retract the lies. Politeness is powerful in communicating with ones’ adversaries. When people mean you harm, they often expect the same from you. Being nice to them could surprise them, and this can change the unwarranted hostility towards you.
Be Expressive About It
If the accusation is from a source that you believe the motive is not malicious, then you may state how the allegation affected you emotionally and psychologically. People in this category may have taken an innocent statement you made out of context or totally misunderstood you or did not consider what they did as an accusation.
For instance, a colleague that thought you were the person he saw leaving an office shortly before an amount of money was declared missing there. However, you were nowhere near there. He only saw someone who made a similar hairstyle with you, and therefore innocently assumed you were the one. It is important to be certain of the motive behind any accusation before sending your email. If you are not sure, it is safer to assume it was not malicious. You will have a far better result with this approach than to assuming that the motive was malicious.
Be Factual About It
Present facts to handle allegation and not emotions. State your facts in the clearest of terms. Ambiguity will lead to confusion, and the situation may become complicated. Present undeniable evidence and mention witnesses if it comes to it. If it involves finances, go out of your way to get strong facts and evidence in form of record to prove your innocence. You may be termed a criminal and may be taken in for questioning if the management actually gets to believe such false accusation.
Be Professional About It
Remain professional in your approach. The matter can affect your productivity at work, therefore deal with it professionally, and let the colleague understand the implication of the allegation on the workforce and overall interpersonal relationship among staff members. Some allegations may lead to termination of one’s’ employment. These should be clear to your accuser(s).
Sample Email: Using Email to Reply a Colleague Who has Accused You Falsely
Hope your day was great?
I became aware of certain information I learned emanated from you. I really felt uncomfortable with what I heard, and in fact, I considered it to be an allegation. It centered around my integrity and the manner by which I conduct my work. I believe I was misunderstood, and the onus lies on me to clarify this matter with verifiable evidence.
I do not hold the key to the central store. This means there was no way I could have gained access without the full knowledge of the central store head.
I have not held the samples of the containers that I was alleged to have shown the competitors though I have seen it. And this is because as we all know, the department of transportation, where I work, handles little from what has to be done with production packages.
I am well aware that carrying out such act will sabotage the progress of the company; therefore I have no reason to do such a thing.
We have had a good working relationship so far, and it is unfortunate that this has happened. I believe you meant no harm. I, however, hope you will let the others know the facts I stated. As it is, I am viewed with suspicion by my supervisor, who got to hear the rumor. Michael, the new guy in my department has not been collaborating with me like he had been doing earlier.
This past week has been quite depressing for me on account of this. The whole thing is affecting my work, and team spirit is fading gradually in my department. I honestly hope this does not get to the management before I report it to clear myself. You need not worry; I will not mention your name while reporting the issue to the management.
Please, check things with me whenever in doubt or not certain.
Thanks for your kind understanding.
Written by Teju Duru; a communication expert and freelance writer based in Ibadan.