bullying

Credit Hog

Another update from the Jungle….

Erin is a manager for her company and she’s got a problem employee named Rose.  Rose is a mediocre worker who is only good at self-promotion. She takes credit for other workers’ hard work.

There was the time that Rose did nothing on a department project. But in the meeting with Walter, the company president, Rose talked like she had run the whole show and kept everyone on task. The real project leader, Tim, had to be dragged from the room before he could strangle her.

This year Walter decides to buy a booth at a local business fair and asks for volunteers. Rose naturally volunteers. Walter publicly thanks her while her co-workers privately bet on when she’ll actually show up.

The day of the business fair arrives and Rose is nowhere. Erin and the other volunteers begin setting up their booth by spreading a special tablecloth with the company logo over the booth’s table. The tablecloth is heavy and it takes three people to wrestle it into place.

Sweating profusely, Erin and the other volunteers return to the parking lot to begin carting boxes of brochures and promotional items from Erin’s SUV. By the time the last box is lugged to their booth (far end of the hall from the entrance), everyone’s soggy with sweat.

That’s when Rose shows up. She grabs a bottle of water and announces she’s here to help. She begins helping by criticizing the table display. Tim, who did the heavy lifting and is soaked in sweat, reaches for Rose’s throat. Quickly Erin jabs him in the stomach, pushes him back and tells Rose that she can rearrange the table as she likes since she’ll be taking first shift.

Rose doesn’t hear because she’s smiling and waving. Walter appears through the crowd. Rose immediately steps forward to give him a quick summary of how the booth is set up. Her sweating co-workers glare at her as she again steals all the credit for their hard work.

What can Erin do next with Rose?

  1. She can nominate Rose to lead the first team of humans to colonize Mars.
  2. She can assign Rose to low prestige and low priority projects where she will fade into oblivion.
  3. She can explain to Rose that stealing credit for the work of others is unethical and will have dire consequences for her career.

In the actual situation, co-workers eventually refused to work on teams that included the credit hog. Coping with credit hogs may require HR and the manager to create an individualized career plan that nudges the employee toward better work habits.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Back Off!

Another update from the Jungle….

Don is taller than most of his co-workers so that he often seems to loom over them during conversations. He also has a habit of standing really close to people when he talks to them, particularly much shorter women. Aline is one of the shortest employees in the office.

Aline claims he often stands toe to toe with her. She can’t prove that he’s attempting to intimidate her, but she has her suspicions. She’s only five feet tall, and she’s used to men, and some women, using their superior height to try to intimidate her. It’s been happening since grade school.

She doesn’t like it, but she refuses to back away.  She throws back her head and looks a long way up to meet them eye-to-eye. She told Michelle, the HR manager, that she’d rather have a permanent crick in her neck than get pushed around just because she’s shorter than most people. But she admits that it bothers her when her personal space is invaded.

Aline’s office is small, not much bigger than a converted closet. Once she’s seated behind her desk, she can only get out on one side.   Don has a bad habit of coming into her office and standing at the corner of the desk so that he blocks her into her seat.

Today when he strolls in and stands at the corner of her desk, Aline’s not in the mood to be polite. She points to the chair across the desk from her and orders him to sit down. Don grins and sits down. They begin discussing the project they are working on.  Aline periodically looks at some charts.

Don wants to look at the charts, too. He stands up and says he’ll come around the desk to read over her shoulder. Aline’s had enough. She picks up the stack of charts and tosses them across the desk to Don. “You can read them from there,” she replies as she orders him back to his seat.

How should Aline handle Don in the future?

  1. She can kick him in the shins when he stands too close.
  2. She can refuse to work with him and probably get stuck with an even more annoying co-worker.
  3. She can accept that every job has its petty annoyances and drink more wine each evening.

Looming over shorter co-workers could be considered bullying depending on the circumstances. There are no easy answers to resolving these types subtly aggressive behavior but HR can use training in micro-aggression to set workplace expectations of what is acceptable.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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I Thought We Were Friends

Another update from the Jungle….

Rebecca is a real pain. She seems nice when people first meet her. But her former boss once compared her to a cancerous cell or a virus, spreading evil in the company. Abby agrees.

Rebecca was the first person to befriend her when Abby began working for the company. Abby was so grateful that it was several months before she realized that every encounter with Rebecca left her deeply depressed, often on the verge of tears. Abby is self-conscious about her weight and a speech impediment that causes her to slur words like Sylvester the cat. Rebecca has a way of drawing attention to Abby’s most sensitive characteristics.

Rebecca once begged Abby to walk with her to the coffee shop because Rebecca said she didn’t want to go alone. While waiting on her latte, Rebecca picked up a muffin for her breakfast. Suddenly, she turned to Abby and said “Here, this is too fattening. You eat it. I’ll get myself a banana.” Abby was so shocked she couldn’t explain that she had already eaten breakfast at home. She felt humiliated because the barista overheard Rebecca’s comment.

Rebecca often imitates Abby’s speech impediment, especially if there’s an audience. Abby’s told Rebecca to stop it because it is not nice to mock people. Rebecca says she’s just “picking at” Abby and doesn’t mean any harm. Rebecca also accuses Abby of being too sensitive. It all leaves Abby feeling like every misunderstanding is her fault.

After one humiliating episode, Abby is discovered crying in the bathroom by Michelle, the HR rep. Michelle is exasperated with Abby’s lachrymose acceptance of Rebecca’s special brand of “friendship.” But now that she’s seen Abby crying, Michelle knows she needs to take action. She meets with Rebecca to remind her of the company’s anti-bullying policy. Now Rebecca runs around telling everyone that Abby can’t take a joke.

What should Michelle do next?

  1. She could tell Abby to stand up for herself and stop being a victim.
  2. She could ignore the situation and hope it fixes itself, probably when Abby quits.
  3. She could confer with Rebecca’s supervisor about the next step in progressive discipline.

Bullying is becoming more subtle in the form of micro-aggressions.  Deciding when behavior crosses the invisible line between teasing and aggression is difficult because it all depends on reasonableness. What would a reasonable person think or feel in a similar situation? There are no easy answers but HR can help set workplace expectations of what is acceptable.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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I’m In Charge!

Another update from the Jungle….

Mary likes the arts and has volunteered for years with several non-profits. Recently, she was offered a paid part-time position. The pay is barely above minimum wage but includes a parking pass and it fits with her full-time job’s schedule. Mary enjoys being paid to see the shows.

Mary’s enthusiasm for her part-time arts job soon wears thin. Suzy is another part-timer who was recently promoted to manager to help supervise the part-time staff during peak attendance hours.  Mary thinks the part-time managers are selected for their willingness to work longer hours for a small pay increase and not for their actual abilities.

Suzy is a perfect example. She bustles about acting important but has never been a manager. Under pressure, she becomes brusque to the point of rudeness. Since her main role is to resolve problems with unruly or disgruntled patrons, this creates interesting situations.

On a recent weekend, several patrons are shocked when their high-priced tickets to a special event are rejected.  Suzy arrives as Mary is explaining that the ticket office can help sort out their ticketing problem.  Mary explains to Suzy that the tickets are not scanning properly.

Suzy examines the tickets and tells the patrons that buying from scalpers is never a good idea. One patron turns red with fury as he says the third party ticketing company he used is a recognized distributor for the non-profit. Mary offers to show the patrons to the ticketing office but Suzy orders her to stay at her post. Suzy stalks off.

Twenty minutes later, Suzy is back.  In front of other workers, she tells Mary to never leave her post again. Mary points out that she didn’t. Then Suzy accuses Mary of “throwing gasoline on a fire” by telling the angry patrons that the ticket office could fix the ticketing problems. Suzy claims that the patrons will think this guarantees them admittance to the sold-out show. Mary’s temper rises.

What are Mary’s options?

  1. She can complain to Suzy’s boss but he is unlikely to take action unless other employees have also complained about Suzy.
  2. She can suggest that Suzy take Prozac or learn yoga to deal with the stress of being in charge.
  3. She can accept that Suzy’s accusations arise from feeling insecure and brush it off unless Suzy continues to criticize her.

Non-profits face the same employee issues as for-profit companies but often mistakenly believe they are exempt from employment laws. As a general rule, they are not and should consider how best to minimize their risks of violating employment laws.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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I’ve Had It with You!

Another update from the Jungle….

Once there was an executive assistant (what we used to call a secretary) who worked for a toxic boss. Rachel was good at her job, but you’d never know it working for David.  Rachel and David joined the company a few months apart more than ten years ago. They only began working together about two years ago.

Before that, Rachel worked for several managers who gave her neutral or mildly positive marks on her annual performance review.  The unexciting performance reviews kept Rachel on the move, transferring to new managers in hopes of finding a better work relationship.  Now Rachel is desperate to move again because she’s had with David.

David is mean and nasty. He criticizes her work product mercilessly, often when other people are present. He makes snarky comments about her constant noshing, even though Rachel’s explained that she has a medical condition requiring her to eat healthy snacks frequently throughout the day.

David’s nastiness stems, at least in part, from Rachel’s mediocre performance. He’s had it with her, too.  He’ll never admit that his constant disapproval has affected her performance.  After all, he also answers to a difficult boss and doesn’t want to hear any whining from others. He’d love to offload Rachel on another manager but there haven’t been any openings.

Last week, David’s and Rachel’s luck changed. An internal job posting announced an opening for an executive assistant in another department. Rachel immediately submits her resume. The HR manager tells Rachel that she’s not eligible for consideration because David still needs to submit her performance review.

Rachel dashes out of the HR manager’s office and makes it to David’s office in Olympic Gold medal time. She glares at David and demands that he turn in her performance review immediately. David scowls at her. Then he says that he will give her the best damned review she’s ever had if it means he can get rid of her.

What can Rachel do next?

  1. She can complain to HR about David’s abusive attitude but that could make her sound whiny and hurt her chances of a transfer away from him.
  2. She can dump her trash of rotting apple cores on his desk when he’s in a meeting.
  3. She can say nothing and use his “great” review to get away from him.

In the actual situation, the executive assistant moved from one toxic manager to an even more toxic manager. Toxicity should be addressed with HR assistance rather than festering to the detriment of the entire organization.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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The Knife in the Back

Another update from the Jungle…

pic-5Bryan is a serial entrepreneur. Every time he gets a new idea, he starts a new company to exploit the idea. He’s successful at starting businesses, but he’s lousy at running them.

Bryan doesn’t like getting bogged down in the details. So he relies on lieutenants to keep him informed of how things are going at each company. Unfortunately, Bryan doesn’t seem to have noticed that one of his trusted lieutenants is deadlier than a rattlesnake.

pic-1Susan learns this the hard way when she begins working at one of his companies. Her first day on the job, she’s introduced to Elaine who is so friendly and helpful that Susan is duped into thinking she’s nice. But Elaine is a snake in the grass.

pic-2Elaine is an intolerable busybody. She stands near the elevator to track the time each employee shows up for work. She wanders the hallways, keeping tabs on what others are doing and saying. Then she passes every tidbit of information along to Bryan with a special Elaine twist.

Susan learns the truth when Bryan stops by for a quarterly meeting with the company’s management team, of which Susan is a junior member. Bryan marches into the conference room and sits opposite Elaine who is taking notes on pic-4the decisions he makes.

Bryan begins the meeting by chewing out Laura for falling sales in the past quarter. Laura replies that it is impossible to boost sales when her team is starved for resources. She produces a stack of receipts showing that her team has to pic-3buy their own office supplies since Elaine locked up the supply closet and hid the key.

Bryan impatiently tells Laura to stop blaming others for her own failings as a manager. Then he turns on Bob, the CFO, who didn’t have the financial reports ready for Bryan. Bob scowls but says nothing.

pic-6Susan knows that Bob was late with the financial reports because Elaine delayed helping him while she worked on other lower priority assignments. Susan looks at Elaine expecting her to defend Bob. Elaine smirks and remains silent.

What are Susan’s options?

  1. She can point out that Elaine sabotaged Bob but doubts that Bryan will believe her.
  2. She can thank her lucky stars that Elaine isn’t gunning for her.
  3. She can use her accrued vacation to begin hunting for a new job, preferably one without another Elaine.

pic-7In the actual situation, the junior manager soon found herself on the backstabber’s hit list and left the company as soon as possible.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Make Her Go Away!

Another update from the Jungle….

unnamed-9Jane drags herself into work the first day after the holidays, not sure whether she wants to be here. She’s the HR manager for her company and she knows that her co-workers will return with a host of problems. She has a few of her own.

Her house is still trashed from hosting her family’s holiday dinner. Her widowed mom chose the holiday dinner to unnamed-21announce that she planned to take an around the world trip with Frederik, a gigolo she met on her most recent Caribbean cruise. Jane’s daughter wants to ditch her senior year in high school to join a religious commune. On Christmas Day, the Christmas lights shorted out causing a fire that scorched half the front porch.

Upon reflection, Jane decides she is happy to be at work as she pours her first cup of coffee.  She slides into her ergonomically designed chair and sighs as she begins reviewing her email inbox which filled up while she was on vacation. Sure enough, there’s an email from Doris.

unnamed-24Doris is complaining that another manager interfered with Doris’ subordinates. The other manager, Lara, is a relatively new hire and Doris is “concerned” that Lara doesn’t understand that Doris makes all the decisions in her department. Doris demands that Jane tell Lara to stay away from Doris’ department or face immediate dismissal.

unnamed-25Jane sighs heavily. People who don’t know Doris well think she’s charming. She has perfect clothes, hair, makeup and a smile. But Jane knows that image is no more than Hollywood special effects. Underneath, Doris is as vicious as a junk yard dog when it comes to defending her turf.  She bullies anyone she sees as a threat to her career.

Jane knows that Doris’ bullying arises from insecurity, which seems nonsensical with her talent and ability. Jane stares at Doris’ email and wonders how to respond.

What are Jane’s options?

  1. She can file Doris’ email with all the previous complaints in a cyberspace trash bin.
  2. She can relieve her frustrations at Doris’ bullying by implying that senior management believes Doris is the past and Lara is the future.
  3. She can have a quiet word with Doris, stressing that the company recognizes her value but that constant complaints won’t help her career aspirations.

In the actual situation, the insecure employee continued to bully her co-workers whenever she felt threatened. But she became increasingly isolated and even senior management began to notice that no one wanted to work with her as her bullying reputation spread through the workforce.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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