Teresa works at a major corporation, and she’s grown steadily more pessimistic about her job and career. She’s convinced that her boss, Barbara, has discriminated against her, and she complains to HR. Her discrimination complaint is investigated by Audrey, the HR rep.
Audrey invites Teresa to a confidential meeting to get her side of the story. Teresa shows up at the meeting, toting a giant 3-ring binder stuffed full of copies of emails between Teresa and Barbara and copies of performance appraisals. Teresa says the binder contains proof that Barbara is out to get her.
Audrey has an awful sinking feeling, familiar to any experienced HR person, as she stares at the 3-ring binder. She will eventually have to read it as part of her investigation. She sighs heavily and delays the inevitable by continuing her interview of Teresa.
Teresa spins a tale of slights, oversights, and harsh words that she says add up to discrimination. She claims that Barbara cuts her off in mid-sentence every time she tries to talk during staff meetings. Barbara is rude to her and makes negative comments in front of co-workers. Barbara gives pay raises to younger, less experienced co-workers while telling Teresa that she’s not eligible for any pay increases. Barbara ignores her and dislikes her while being nice to everyone else in the department.
The next day, Audrey begins reading the 3-ring binder. After an hour, she has a raging headache but has reached a few conclusions. The emails indicate that Teresa has become increasingly defensive, responding to sometimes non-existent criticism. The performance appraisals completed by Barbara move from neutral (“works well with others”) assessments to mildly negative (“attitude needs improvement”) in the most recent appraisal.
Audrey knows that Barbara has a history of managerial issues. Audrey had opposed Barbara’s promotion to manager because of her lack of “people” skills. Now Audrey’s sitting at her desk trying to decide what to do next.
- She can recommend that nothing be done due to a lack of clear proof of discrimination.
- She can arrange Teresa’s transfer to a different manager and hope for the best.
- She can tell Teresa and Barbara to stop acting like whiny children and then go have a glass (or a bottle) of wine to wash away the effects of their feud.
In the actual situation, a department reorganization lead to the reassignment of the disgruntled employee. That resolved the immediate conflict but not the long term issue of poor training for new managers.
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