Here’s a life tip I learned that some of you will hugely benefit from.
I may have studied law, but it doesn’t take an academic background to know this. I learned the hard way over the years that I always need to be able to prove everything.
Context: I do have one of those lives that is often an uphill battle. I get accused of a lot for someone who is so polite and moral! In the last 6 months at work, I’ve been accused in writing of lying, being immature, unprofessional, unreceptive, arrogant, and more, for various scenarios that were fabricated or exaggerated. And that’s just the stuff they put in writing. This has been going on for 3.5 years, so if you can relate to any of this, then read on.
Be able to prove everything. Gather evidence. Much like it’s wise to screenshot SMS conversations when one is being harassed. Evidence, evidence, evidence. Witnesses are great, but there’s also such a thing as false witnesses, so other forms of hard evidence are ideal.
Record critical conversations. If I’m going into an appraisal or a meeting with senior leaders, always record it. This is because I know they’re often trying to pull some shady s***. Now, the law in the UK states you’re allowed to record conversations, but if you do it secretly without notifying them, you’re not allowed to go waving the recording or transcript around to anyone except those who were in the room (and even then, be careful about when to play that card). In the US, it’s state-specific whether you need consent from everyone involved or not. Still, it’s useful to have the recording to prove things if you ever go to court, and often, you can use this proof – or the fact that you have the proof – to stop people bullying you.
Get everything in writing. If you had a meeting where your boss accused you of, say, lying to a stakeholder. that aren’t true, make them send a follow-up email afterwards putting it in writing. Then, when you have the accusation, and later gather the email log/phone records/etc to show you never even met the stakeholder, BOOM – you’ve caught them in their own trap.
BONUS: I’ve even been accused of not being in a building when I should have been. At the time, I obviously didn’t think to take a picture of an empty room first thing on a morning. But now, I do, just to be able to prove it. I learned that the hard way, but now you can see the degree of evidence I gather (and most of it I don’t have to use).
Be armed with this evidence. Prepare it before going into a meeting or appointment. Have it to hand; not that you’ll necessarily need to use it, but just in case. If you’re being set up or falsely accused of something, they normally have zero evidence at all. By being the only one able to prove what they’re saying, you can put the other party to shame.
Through doing this, I was able to call out all the heads of my department for conspiring against me, for screwing me over, and I had loads of proof which went against all their claims. It was the most satisfying moment of my career!
Good luck! Be careful, be tactful, and always be professional and moral. You know what they say – it’s easy to win an argument when you’re right. It’s even easier to win one when you’re right and have proof.