Friday, August 21, 2009

Strategies for Working With Problem People at Work

Tips for Dealing With Problem Coworkers and Managers
Following my last few posts on unqualified White workers in the workplace (inspired by the nomination of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for Vice President), here are tips for dealing with problem coworkers or managers of any type:

• DOCUMENT EVERYTHING! There isn’t any incident to small to document, when you know you are dealing with a problem employee and manager. If you have a verbal dispute with someone or if you are subjected to verbal threats, document those events. Documentation could mean anything from (1) writing down everything that was said (with date, time, where it took place, witnesses, etc.); (2) sending an email to the person asking them to confirm or clarify what they said or expressing your rational opposition to what they said to you; (3) reporting the person to a supervisor, manager, executive; or (4) lodging a written complaint with Human Resources. The point is, get every incident in writing;

• Report what’s going on! Don’t suffer in silence. Federal law shows an understanding that employees may be afraid of retaliation, but there is also an expectation that employees complain. If you are afraid of going to your supervisor, you can speak to someone else with authority at your company. That person is legally bound to report what your concerns are, if you feel you are being harassed, etc. Even if you feel you will be ignored or if you are being ignored, don’t stop reporting what is going on because this is the best way to prove what you are being subjected to at work;

• File everything away in chronological order. This will save you a world of trouble, when you need to organize the information and/or present it to an attorney or outside investigator in a way that makes sense and gives the exact manner in which events took place;

• Keep a list of witnesses! Always think about proving your versions of events. Write down the name(s) of anyone who witnessed mistreatment and abuses at work;

• Keep all emails, instructions, memos, etc. from the individual causing you problems at work. This can help show that you followed instructions, that you were being subjected to a hostile environment, and can help you show that someone is lying about their current version of events or suddenly faulty power of recall;

• Read the employee handbook! You can’t fight any workplace battle without knowing your rights. By understanding the policies and procedures, as well as the anti-discrimination, harassment, and retaliation information, you are putting yourself in a position of strength. Use the handbook to expose the coworker or manager as violating company policy and, potentially, Federal statutes. Reading the employee manual could arm you with quotes to use against the coworker, manager or company, as a whole because the manual will dictate how the company has defined they will respond to or address certain issues. If the company isn’t following its own guidelines, you can call them out on it and you can point that out to an attorney or outside investigator;

• Be professional and courteous! Always remember that you are in the workplace and conduct yourself as such. Remember, dirty water seeks its own level, so don’t sink to the level of a racist, an ignoramus or other workplace cretins. You will be much better off if any claims that you are unprofessional, rude, mean, etc. can’t be supported by your own written correspondence or conversations that were overheard by other staff;

• Save offensive voicemail messages! Use a recorder to save the message. Have trusted coworkers listen to the message, so they can confirm what was said. Also, save voicemails containing instructions, so you can prove how you were told to complete an assignment; and

• Always blind copy yourself when you send a sensitive email or memorandum! By doing so, you have a record of the list of recipients, and the date and time the correspondence was disseminated. You will also have proof of the exact content of your email in case someone adds text into your document that you did not include in your original message. I’ve seen this done!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are visible signs than there are those things which are not so easily recognizable: My employer INTENTIONALLY inflicted emotional distress on me:
When an employee reaches their absolute wit's end, they muster up the courage, write out their thoughts on a yellow pad, and sneak off to the H.R. dept. in order to file a formal complaint. In most cases the distressed employee arrives not knowing their legal rights or have a grasp of what actions a supervisor can legally take at work. So the employee sits down in an office directly across from a smiling H.R. Rep on the other side of the desk. It's so nice to have someone to talk to, someone to finally listen, the employee spills out all their throughts and frustrations that have been building up inside. The employee believes in the companies anti-retaliation policy. The H.R. Rep smiles and nods and writes down some notes. The employee is comforted by the smiling and nodding, and so the employee keeps talking, telling the H.R. Rep every unfair or hurtful thing the boss has said or done. The H.R. Rep will smile and nod while you talk about your boss when the meeting with H.R. is over. After meeting with H.R. most employees feel better about their situation. They feel HEARD; they feel like the company is taking their concerns seriously. The employee is confident that it will not be long until their evil boss gets what is coming to them. H.R. typically says: "We will thoroughly look into the important issues you've raised" or "We'll get back to you next week." The week goes by and nothing happens. The employee feels better the entire week. The employee wonders if H.R. already interviewed the boss, who now understands that his or her evil boss better change, or they will get in trouble. The employee believes that H.R. will conduct an investigation, but this is so far from the truth that is lurking behind closed doors. The post-investigation with H.R. the employee who filed a formal complaint with H.R. feels better for the week in between meetings with H.R. The employee then hears from the H.R. Rep, who says that the investigation is complete. The H.R. Rep would like the employee to come meet with me to go over it. The employee imagines reading through the pages of an investigation report that confirms the boss is a serial harasser and employee abuser. The employee imagines the boss being demoted or suspended, and possibly even fired.It's with these thoughts in mind that the employee goes to the H.R. dept. for the follow up meeting. The H.R. Rep greets the employee -- the Rep is still smiling and seems genuinely happy to see the employee. The employee smiles back. The H.R. Rep guides the employee past the office where they talked before, and gestures instead to a conference room or a room with a conference group of other listeners from home office. The employee steps inside, and as the H.R. Rep shuts the door or tells the employee to close the door, the employee receives the shock of her life. On the other end of the conference room is the employees boss. Not only does the HR Rep claim that they were unable to substantiate harassment, retaliation, etc., but now the tables have been turned and the bloodbath begins. The unsuspecting employee is being accused of work performance flaws -- Sound familiar?

This type of psychological warfare against employees who have no idea what's going on. because they are psychologically wounded is INTENTIONAL

5:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can relate to the comment by Anonymous very well. I have experienced similar situation. In the end, my union rep managed to get me a satisfactory amount of financial compensation. I suffered a lot psychologically but I recovered and moved on.

I never believed HR was on my side. Employers pay HR people & they work with the management. One complainant made the mistake that HR would be on her side. Naturally she got a nasty surprise.

2:18 AM  

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