Difficult Co-Worker

Nobody Understands Me

Another update from the Jungle…..

Susie returns from her holiday break feeling wonderful. Her sister hosted Christmas dinner so Susie avoided days of frantic cleaning at home. Then she got extra sleep because last week her kids were staying with her ex and wrecking his new girlfriend’s place. Life is good.

She pulls into the parking lot at work mentally reviewing all she has to accomplish today. She parks in her usual slot and reaches for her bag on the rider’s seat. As she grabs the door handle, she freezes. She spots danger ahead!

It’s Miranda, a morose co-worker whose life resembles the most depressing country music song ever. Miranda rehashed her D-I-V-O-R-C-E so many times unkind co-workers suggested that her husband bailed in self-defense.  Another time, Miranda’s dog ate some chocolate and made an emergency visit to the vet’s office. Miranda wandered around the office hysterically predicting that her dog would die and then complained about the vet bills.

Susie works in a different section of the company and made the mistake of being polite to Miranda several months ago when they met in the break room. Susie is an optimist who is friendly to everyone, at least the first time she meets them.

Unfortunately, Miranda was starved for an audience and latched on to Susie. Before Susie had poured a cup of coffee, Miranda had launched into a dramatic account of the elder abuse inflicted on her mother at the nursing home. Susie’s suggestion that speaking politely to the nursing home staff might be better than screaming was summarily rejected by Miranda.

That’s how it’s gone ever since. Miranda’s sister is a self-centered person who refuses to help with their mother. Miranda’s daughter has a nose ring, orange hair, and a worthless boyfriend. Miranda tragically soldiers on, despite the world being against her.

What options does Susie have to avoid talking to Miranda this morning?

  1. She can stay in her car and leave a voicemail message for her boss saying she is too sick to come to work.
  2. She can sneak into the office and hide from Miranda like all the other employees.
  3. She can boldly but politely excuse herself if Miranda tries to talk to her.

Some employees are morose because they are temporarily overwhelmed by the problems in their lives.  These employees may be directed to the company’s employee assistance program (EAP) by their manager or HR. However, some employees appear to enjoy chaotic lives and don’t want to change. In these cases, damage control is necessary to avoid tanking the morale of their co-workers.

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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Don’t Anyone Touch Anyone!

Another update from the Jungle…..

ABC Corp always seems to catch the latest trends late, thinks Karen. She’s the HR manager for her company and she’s watched for years as the news headlines play out at the office. Now she’s seeing an uptick in sexual harassment claims.

This morning before Karen could finish her first Diet Coke, Vanessa stopped by to complain that Hank had touched her inappropriately. Inappropriately how, asks Karen. Vanessa says that last week Hank patted her on the butt and since then he’s been looking at her in a suggestive way.

Karen sighs inwardly. Before the company switched to electronic records, Karen devoted a large, four-drawer file cabinet to Vanessa and Hank. Vanessa is always complaining about something. Hank has a reputation for saying things that others would leave unsaid often being a little too “friendly” with his hands.

Karen fortifies herself with a second Diet Coke and begins calling in Vanessa’s co-workers to find witnesses. Dorothy says she didn’t see any inappropriate touching but admits that she dislikes Vanessa and Hank and avoids them as if they have the plague. Amanda says that she dances a highland jig to stay out of range of Hank but generally considers him harmless.

Sue shrugs and says that Hank has patted her on the rear many times. When a project is successful, Hank often pats people on the back or the butt. She dismisses it because she thinks he’s just acting like the jock he was. When Sue tires of it, she kicks Hank in the shins, as she did with her older brothers when they were obnoxious. Dan and Joanne confirm Sue’s interpretation of Hank’s hands-on approach to thanking co-workers for a job well done.

Karen sighs deeply and reaches for another Diet Coke before she calls in Vanessa. She tells Vanessa that she believes Hank used poor judgment but it is unlikely that a claim of sexual harassment can be proved. She encourages Vanessa to tell Hank immediately to not touch her if he again pats her on the rear.

What other options does Karen have?

  1. She can institute a new HR policy that says no employee may touch another employee during business hours.
  2. She can encourage Vanessa to join a nudist colony to overcome her sensitivity about the human body.
  3. She can advise Hank to be less “friendly” since not everyone finds his behavior innocuous.

Context is so important. What one person may find offensive another may not. It’s important to take sexual harassment complaints seriously but to not over-react.

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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Stop Him Before He Talks!

Another update from the Jungle….

Jack was an honors student in graduate school and he’s possibly the smartest person ever hired by his company. On paper he looks fantastic. That’s why his boss, Mitch, was so anxious to hire him. Acting in haste means that Mitch is now regretting at his leisure.

Jack is actually a pretty decent person, but he is a socially inept basket case. He misses every nuance of human behavior. By the time he understands a joke, everyone else has stopped laughing.

At his first staff meeting, Jack sits staring at his co-workers. At the second staff meeting, when Mitch calls on him, Jack describes a magazine article he is reading about a new management theory. Mitch’s jaw drops. His question was about the draft budget for the following year. Worse is to come.

Mitch’s staff is invited to join the semi-annual client appreciation event. Jack shows up early before the caterer has finished setting out the food and drinks. He explains that he wanted to be on time. He gobbles up food as if it’s his last meal for a week.

After banishing his hunger, Jack stands in a corner near the refreshments table and stares at everyone as they arrive, much as a zoo keeper might study an exotic animal. Anne, senior vice president of procurement for a key client, smiles at Jack while waiting for her drink and makes the mistake of engaging him in conversation.

Fifteen minutes later, Mitch spots Anne sidling away from Jack, her face frozen in a smile. He gallops across the room. Jack is describing the mating habits of sperm whales, based on a National Geographic show he’d watched last night on TV. Mitch is aghast. He kicks Jack in the shin and shoulders him aside, preparatory to ushering Anne away from the scene of the crime.

The next morning, Mitch invites Jack in for a quiet conversation on appropriate small talk during a client shindig.  Jack is hurt; he thought he was being friendly.  Mitch stares at him, helplessly.

What are Mitch’s options?

  1. He can join Jack’s co-workers in teasing Jack for his social awkwardness.
  2. He can build a reality show around Jack and sell the concept to a cable TV channel.
  3. He can try to teach basic social skills to Jack while limiting his contact with real people, like clients.

In the actual situation, the inept employee was a good employee in all other respects, so co-workers took turns looking after him at client events. Clients eventually grew used to the employee.

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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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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Gung Ho Grace

Another update from the Jungle….

Grace joined the company a couple of months ago. She’s young, ambitious, and ready to prove she’s capable of fulfilling her new job description.  She’s also afraid to ask too many questions for fear that co-workers will think she’s not able to do her job. She’s heard that you should fake it until you make it, and she’s faking as hard as she can.

That makes her impatient with Jane, a co-worker who is supposed to be training her. Jane started working at the company around the time Grace entered middle school. Over time her job duties have evolved and she can’t keep up. So her boss, Aggie, decides to redo her job description and hire a younger person who can be trained by Jane to do some of the overflow work.

At the very first training session, Grace repeatedly interrupts as Jane tries to explain how the work flows and how the database evolved to its current form.  After ten minutes, Grace is tired of listening and decides she knows enough to jump into the job. She brusquely thanks Jane and logs in to the database.

As Grace dabbles in the database, she becomes increasingly frustrated because she can’t find the information she’s looking for. Finally she breaks down and asks Jane for help. Jane explains a quirk of the database that would have been revealed in the eleventh minute of their first training session.

Grace assumes that Jane deliberately set her up for failure. Jane thinks Grace is a gung ho twerp. The fight is on. Grace copies Aggie on every email to Jane and often words the email in a way that implies Jane has either withheld information or is incompetent. Jane fights back with all the skills learned in years of climbing the greased pole of a corporate career.

Eventually, Aggie realizes that she needs to do something because Grace and Jane are ready to tear each other’s hair out by the roots. She calls them into her office.

What should Aggie do next?

  1. She can tell Grace and Jane to grow up.
  2. She can fire them both and start over with new hires hoping they will get along.
  3. She can explain that they are both valuable to the team and they are both needed due to the expanded workload.

In the actual situation, the supervisor tried individual counseling after the group session failed horribly.  However, personalities don’t change and first impressions are difficult to overcome. So the situation wasn’t resolved until one of the warring workers quit.

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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See, What Happened Was…

Another update from the Jungle….

Lexington & Concord is a professional firm that hires summer interns every year. El Cee, as it’s fondly known, has a reputation for training summer interns by making them work long hours with minimal feedback on their performance. Interns are happy to suffer knowing that if they survive, they will increase their chances of receiving a good job offer.

Kate, the HR manager, thinks the summer interns should be rewarded for their hard work. She convinces Charles, the senior partner, to have an end of summer party for the interns. Charles reluctantly agrees.

The party is held at the home of Rob, a senior partner in the firm who likes to brag about his possessions.  Unfortunately, Rob and his wife, Sally, choose this day to enact their version of the War of the Roses.

The guests arrive in time to watch Sally yanking off her wedding ring and hurling it into the shrubbery. The members of the firm are used to the Rob and Sally soap opera and swerve around the fight with the ease of practice, headed for the drinks by the pool.

Kate quickly steers the interns to the outdoor kitchen and pool area. After asking several partners to chaperon the interns, she dashes away to break up the hosts’ fight before the neighbors call the cops.  She finds Sally sobbing hysterically, but Rob has vanished.

When Kate returns to the pool, she spies Rob propped against the shoulder of a young intern. As she approaches, Kate hears him making suggestions to the young lady that freeze the marrow in her HR bones.  Before the intern can respond, Kate grabs Rob’s elbow to drag him away. Unfortunately, he staggers against Kate. They both topple into the pool.

Several people dive in to rescue them.  Kate clambers out of the pool and looks around in horror. Her summer party is turning into a Roman orgy with half-naked people frolicking at poolside.

Now it’s Monday morning and Kate is in Charles’ office trying to explain what happened at the party. What should she say?

  1. She can say she’s resigning to start a new career as an event planner.
  2. She can imply that it’s Charles’ fault for not attending and using the force of his disapproval to keep everyone in line.
  3. She can promise to never again share her ideas for boosting morale.

In the actual situation, the firm banned parties for summer interns. HR professionals can help their companies by setting clear guidelines on behavior at company sponsored events.

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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Wanna Know A Secret?

Another update from the Jungle….

Josh started his company with the help of several friends who are now enemies for life after a couple of business disagreements. After these mistakes, Josh intelligently concluded that his skill set didn’t include managing employees. So he hired Adele to handle employee problems.

Adele was wonderful. She created processes for hiring which allowed the company to hire better qualified people. She created work flows for tracking employee performance which improved the bottom line. Even her nifty termination process came in handy when employees began whizzing in, then back out, the door.

Josh noticed the company’s bottom line was sagging due to the high cost of employee turnover. When he asked Adele, she replied that employees were dissatisfied but couldn’t explain why. So he did what any concerned business owner does in such a situation. He hired a consultant to tell him what he already knew but didn’t want to believe.

Josh’s problem is Adele. She loves gossiping. Any confidential information she hears is liable to be repeated to other employees. She’s been feeding the feud between Chloe and Tammy by sympathetically listening to their grievances and then repeating their nastier comments.

She tells Chloe that Steve hates working with her after he complains that Chloe is always late to meetings. She tells Steve that Josh is planning to promote Sue to the job Steve wants because the company’s demographics will look better with a woman in management.

Josh is aware of Adele’s inability to keep secrets. After all, she’s repeated some of the juicier bits to him, like the rumor that Rob and Pam are having an affair. Actually, they both leave work at the same time because their daughters play on the same soccer team.

All the gossiping is causing widespread paranoia as everyone wonders what unfortunate “truth” will leak out on the office grapevine next. Josh is so shocked he accidentally dumps a cup of coffee in his lap. He feels betrayed by Adele because he was relying on her to take care of the people problems; not make them worse.

What are Josh’s options?

  1. He can give Adele a free trip into orbit without a rocket booster or parachute.
  2. He can accept the status quo because Adele updates him on what employees are saying about him and the company.
  3. He can reprimand Adele for gossiping but give her a second chance.

In the actual situation, the dysfunctional company simply muddled along from one crisis to the next until it was bought out by a competitor.

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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