office morale

Did You Hear What They Said?

Another update from the Jungle…..

Peter and Paula have worked together for years and are best friends at work. Their friendship grew during the tough years, like taking pay cuts during the recession and working past midnight on New Year’s Eve to salvage the contract with a major client.

They’ve got each other’s backs. Paula covered for Peter when his drinking temporarily got the better of him. Peter lied to their boss about Paula’s frequent absences when she was devastated by the death of her cat. Co-workers rely on them for everything from problem solving to boosting morale. But there is a downside to Peter and Paula’s morale-boosting.

They boost morale by joking and clowning around which makes everyone laugh until it all slides over the invisible line into bad taste. The jokes are sometimes risqué and occasionally sleazy. The raunchier comments are aimed at each other, which is why co-workers haven’t complained. If Peter and Paula aren’t offended by their trash talking, why should others take offense?

The truth is that some of the other women make off color comments too. A few enjoy mild flirtations with Peter without any intention of going beyond words. It’s all a way to relieve the tedium of the daily routine.

But workplaces are constantly evolving as new workers are hired. The new employees don’t understand what Peter and Paula have done for the company which allows them to be occasionally sleazy and off color. Diane and Jane agree that Paula is a cheap tramp who sets back women’s equality every time she speaks. They also agree that Peter is a jerk.

Inevitably, a complaint about sexual harassment slides onto the desk of Sue, the HR manager. She’s heard a spate of these complaints lately and is feeling a bit burned out on the topic. But she’s also been warning Peter and Paula for years that they are skating on thin ice as far as the company’s HR policies are concerned. Now that an official complaint has been filed, Sue calls Peter and Paula to her office.

What options does Sue have?

  1. She can slap the taste out the mouths of Peter and Paula for ignoring her previous verbal warnings.
  2. She can recommend that one of them be transferred to a different department even though that will reduce efficiency in their current department.
  3. She can tell Peter and Paula to save their trash talking for after hours.

Workplace expectations are evolving rapidly regarding sexual harassment and what will be tolerated. Employers should take sexual harassment complaints seriously but 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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Sharing Sharon

Another update from the Jungle….

Difficult co-workers and employee relations

Do you have employees “holding court”?

Sharon is a middling performer, not great but not so bad that her job’s on the chopping block. She’s willing to work with any team to which she is assigned and she can be depended on to slog through some of the more tedious work.

Unfortunately for her co-workers, Sharon believes in sharing the details of her life. Her co-workers call her “Sharing Sharon”, as well as a few other names not fit for print here. Sharon’s co-workers know all about her marital problems, her son’s attention deficit disorder, and her teenaged daughter’s complicated love life. They also know about her cat’s litterbox problems and suffered for a week while Sharon agonized over her decision to put down her aging, sick dog.

Sharon cares about more than just her family, of course. One week she insists people should do more to save furry baby animals before all non-human species become extinct. Another week she explains that she’s reducing her carbon imprint by avoiding plastic water bottles.

Sharing Sharon’s oversharing is beginning to affect operations. One worker twisted her ankle when several employees imitated the running of the bulls to clear the break room to avoid Sharon. Several co-workers told the HR manager, Pam that they would rather quit the company, losing their 401(k) match than be stuck on another team with Sharon.

Pam has tried several times to give Sharon a hint that her personal life is better shared on Facebook with personal friends than with co-workers.  Sharon just doesn’t get it. The breaking point feared by Pam has now happened. Sharon was busy oversharing in a team meeting and the team leader was finally goaded beyond endurance. He yelled at Sharon to “shut up, already!”

Now Sharon is sitting in Pam’s office, sobbing and begging for Pam’s help.

How should Pam handle this situation?

  1. She can privately thank the team leader with a bottle of Gentleman Jack for saying what all of Sharon’s co-workers wanted to say but were afraid to.
  2. She can sympathize with Sharon’s distress but remind her (again) that personal lives shouldn’t be brought into the workplace.
  3. She can counsel the team leader regarding the company’s anti-bullying policy which prohibits derogatory comments to co-workers, sympathize with his exhausted patience, and encourage him to find less brutal ways to make his point in future.

In the actual situation, the co-workers continued to cringe and hide until their “Sharing Sharon” accepted a job at 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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