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Dealing with Employees/employee with complaints

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I supervise a staff of 18, with 4 different grade levels.  An employee who is the lowest grade level emailed me stating that she felt there may be some office bullying, workplace harassment issues going on with a co-worker and requested a meeting.  Working for a huge organization of thousands, I immediately emailed HR to notify, who counseled me to conduct the meeting with her and her  immediate supervisors to get the story.  It appears another worker on her level and she do not get along - there were some comments, according to the complaining worker, that were downright rude, (Calling her poor) and other comments that she felt were offensive to others in the room, however, all hearsay.    She talked about her feelings of exclusion with the other team members for social situations, lunches, etc.   This worker is not the most inviting of people, she is a little different, and can be what I would call a "princess" (pouts if an answer is not what she wanted, huffs about when others received promotions)  she is not a kind, friendly, warm fuzzy sort, but that is fine - I understand that all types of personalities exists.  AS long as work is not affected, I believe people need to get along with all different types, and as long as there are no comments made of racial, gender, religion, etc nature.  I was also informed, third hand, that this complaining employee made discriminatory comments thinking she was funny ("I worked with a bunch of J***s and they were all assholes.  HOwever, I have no proof of that.

I always insist that my staff treat each other respectfully and have called people in on issues before - i have no problem with that.   Both individuals in this situation are on probation; they can both be fired without union issues.    I want them both to hear my expectations again, however, before I would go to that extreme.   The quality of both of their work is very good.

So, I told her she had every right to file a complaint if she felt the person was bullying, harassing, or if comments were made that made her feel uncomfortable.   I did not tell her I would talk to the employee (I think she wanted me to say that).  I ended the meeting asking her to think about her next action, think about ways she could confront and let the co worker know if she were uncomfortable if a comment is made (In a mature, professional way -) to stand up for herself, and I would think about next steps also.  I also talked about the fact that no workplace is without cliques, and your job does not guarantee you friends, you just have to be able to get along with all kinds-- sounds harsh, but the truth.

Should I confront the other worker?   Should I ask another staff of their opinion, did they witness anything?   Should I hold an intervention / mediation with the two of them?  

sigh. Meetings on this took 3 hours our of a day.   Thanks for any advice.

Answer
Hi Natalie,

I would suggest you have another quick meeting with the complaining employee and ask her if she has come to any decision about how to handle the situation with the co-worker.  If she has filed a complaint or plans to do so, you should talk to HR before talking with the co-worker and follow HR instructions.

If she has not filed a complaint and hasn't a plan of what to do, you could role play with her how the dialogue with the other worker would go, make suggestions and help her come up with a reasonable way of communicating to resolve the situation.  As another option, you could sit in on a meeting between the two to assist them in talking this through and coming to an understanding of what each of them needs from the other to be able to peacefully work together.

If the choice is the latter, have a brief meeting with the other employee to let her know what you've been told by her co-worker and that you will be setting up a meeting for the two of them with you so that they can each share their side of the story, decide how they are going to handle future dealings with each other and peacefully co-exist. Remind each of the women in your private talk with each of them, that they are on probation, you value the work they do and are hoping the situation can be resolved without any negative consequences.

Take care; I wish you well.

Alice J. Bogert  

Dealing with Employees

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Alice Bogert

Expertise

Today's workplace is filled with many issues that impact employee performance and add to workplace stress. I have many years experience supervising employees and can field questions for both management staff and non-management staff related to employee conflicts, employee-boss issues, time management, negotiation skills, preparing employee performance evaluations, developing resources, generation X and Y issues, and cultural diversity.

Experience

I am a retired law enforcement officer, and I teach training classes around the country for law enforcement. I am also a consultant/trainer to private industry teaching numerous management development and supervisory courses. I teach report writing at a local junior college where I am an adjunct faculty member. I've also worked as a substitute teacher for grades K-12 and private tutor. I've been a facilitator for Volunteers in Victim Assistance, helping citizens/employees deal with community or work related traumas, and I've worked with abused and neglected children.

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