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  • employee creates a "hostile environment" for manager in South Carolina


    I have an employee who was given a verbal warning the end of feb, 2015. She continued to make mistakes and most recently was caught trying to cover up charges she made with a department credit card. (These charges were not for personal use, but department use.) However, they were a part of her history of mistakes within the department.

    This week she went to the the HR manager that handles corrective action and filed a formal complaint of "hostile work environment". That was three days ago.

    They have yet to investigate the situation. They have yet to remove her from my area. They have yet to ask me to leave my area. They have asked me to do conflict resolution with her. I am not comfortable doing conflict resolution due to the fact that she might use what is stated in the program against me. My belief is this employee is clever and manipulative.

    As a manager, I am asking for help with options as to how I should handle this situation. My VP is new to HR and doesn't know all the rules and regs. My HR rep has never had a grasp on the corrective action process and heard "hostile work environment" and went ballistic. In essence she didn't take time to inform this employee her claim was unfounded.

    I am a white female manager. This employee is white female, age 37. The following options as to why she would claim Hostile work environment don't exist. If anything, I have a better claim based on her retaliation against me due to the verbal warning I gave her. She continues to make mistakes and knew that the most recent situation could take the verbal warning to the next level, written reminder.
    Age - Disability - Equal Pay/Compensation - Genetic Information - Harassment - National Origin - Pregnancy - Race/Color - Religion - Retaliation - Sex - Sexual Harassment


    I feel like I am having to walk on eggshells around her due to the fact that she might use it against me. The rest of my staff feel similar and this has been disruptive to the entire department.

    Thanks,

    Kiko

  • #2
    Do you have a question for us?

    Comment


    • #3
      A hostile work environment has a specific meaning under law -- that someone is being treated in a disparate manner based on their age, gender, national origin, etc. It does not mean an environment where you have to work with or supervise someone who is unpleasant, incompetent, rude, etc. Nothing in what you've posted indicates that either of you has a viable HWE claim against the other.

      You clearly are very unhappy that she went to HR and that HR has not taken the immediate action that you want it too. It's perfectly reasonable for HR to ask the two of you to participate in conflict resolution, since this seems to be a personality conflict. Part of being an effective manager is working through difficult situations like this one. You need to be this individual's manager here and participate in the conflict resolution process. If this employee is not performing, you also need to be documenting performance issues when they occur so that any disciplinary action taken against here is bulletproof.
      I am not able to respond to private messages. Thanks!

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by HRinMA View Post
        Do you have a question for us?
        The following is from above:

        As a manager, I am asking for help with options as to how I should handle this situation. My VP is new to HR and doesn't know all the rules and regs. My HR rep has never had a grasp on the corrective action process and heard "hostile work environment" and went ballistic. In essence she didn't take time to inform this employee her claim was unfounded.



        I haven't been told specifically what she is accusing me with other than a Hostile work environment. Hostile in what way? relative to sex, race, retaliation??? etc.

        On yesterday she came to me and told me she was going to lunch and did I want her to pick something up. I am thinking are you kidding me. If the environment is so hostile, why would you approach me with this request.

        I feel I have rights as well and am wondering if
        1. I should ignore this,
        2. Demand a response to her claim from HR,
        3. Ask to be removed from the area

        I plan to participate in the conflict resolution and have already scheduled this meeting between myself, the mediator and this employee. However, my belief is that I have been accused of something and no one has taken the time to explain to her what a hostile work environment entails. She feels justified because we have scheduled this meeting, so she believes her accusations are founded and have merit. I just want the situation investigated by an outside source to show her she is not justified. I would still plan to go forward with the meeting... I just want for the record to do this correctly and as it should be.

        Any response would be great.

        KiKo

        Comment


        • #5
          Have you asked your HR department? If this was my company, it seems pretty clear to me that HR's response is to schedule conflict resolution with the two of you. Perhaps that's where it will be explained to her that this is not a legal issue.
          I am not able to respond to private messages. Thanks!

          Comment


          • #6
            It is not for you to decide how the situation should be handled. You don't get to say who does the investigation or even if there is one. You certainly do not get to demand a response or to be moved. It's your job to deal with situations like this, not to request a transfer to avoid it.
            The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Marketeer View Post
              A hostile work environment has a specific meaning under law -- that someone is being treated in a disparate manner based on their age, gender, national origin, etc. It does not mean an environment where you have to work with or supervise someone who is unpleasant, incompetent, rude, etc. Nothing in what you've posted indicates that either of you has a viable HWE claim against the other.

              You clearly are very unhappy that she went to HR and that HR has not taken the immediate action that you want it too. It's perfectly reasonable for HR to ask the two of you to participate in conflict resolution, since this seems to be a personality conflict. Part of being an effective manager is working through difficult situations like this one. You need to be this individual's manager here and participate in the conflict resolution process. If this employee is not performing, you also need to be documenting performance issues when they occur so that any disciplinary action taken against here is bulletproof.
              Thank you for your generous response.

              I am not unhappy about her going to HR, I am very confident that her claims are without merit... Just as you stated in your first paragraph above. However, you are correct that I am unhappy about the lack of action on HR's part. It has cause much stress on my department.

              I agree with you concerning an effective manager. I have always worked through difficult situations such as this in this past. I have been willing to take responsibility for any part I play in a situation. Unfortunately, this person has a reputation within the company that no one is interested in dealing with and I was given her to do just that. Groom her into a better employee. However, now I am dealing with a potential legal issue and am not getting back up from HR. I just want to make sure I am not handling this incorrectly since I don't have a discrimination legal background.

              As far as the performance issues, I have an entire folder full of documentation that would show her mistreatment of outside vendors and inside peers. I have two MD's who have come to me personally and complained of her rudeness. I have bent over backwards to work with her. She brings much baggage from home into the workplace. I have asked that she leave this at the door. But my documentation on the matter and her performance issues are complete and thorough.

              Once again, it is the position that HR has put me in that I am uncertain of and want to make sure I am handling correctly.

              Thanks,
              KiKo

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Marketeer View Post
                Have you asked your HR department? If this was my company, it seems pretty clear to me that HR's response is to schedule conflict resolution with the two of you. Perhaps that's where it will be explained to her that this is not a legal issue.

                Well I hoped that as well. But in speaking with the person who will be involved with this, she stated she was not interested in getting involved with the legal side of it and if there was a legal side, that she was not bonded and didn't want to be a part of this... But I am moving forward with this and have it scheduled.

                Thanks again for your response.

                KiKo

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by cbg View Post
                  It is not for you to decide how the situation should be handled. You don't get to say who does the investigation or even if there is one. You certainly do not get to demand a response or to be moved. It's your job to deal with situations like this, not to request a transfer to avoid it.
                  cbg,

                  Thank you for taking the time to respond to this and I truly appreciate your time in the matter.

                  Please understand, I am not demanding anything, I am only questioning what I should do. If you read my statement above you would see that my VP is new and doesn't have an HR background. In fact her background is in corporate communications. She use to be our public relations VP. The manager who performs this role is not very competent in the area and doesn't represent her position with confidence. So I am uneasy about what I should do under the circumstances.

                  This is the only reason I came to this site to ask for the opinions of experts in this area. I am only interested in protecting myself legally. I have already scheduled the conflict resolution and will participate with this employee on next Tuesday.

                  Once again, I thank you for your insight, remarks and time.

                  KiKo
                  Last edited by kiko; 05-08-2015, 05:35 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    You noted a mediator will also be at the meeting. Many times they are professionally trained to help resolve these types of situations. Good luck.
                    Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

                    Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      All HR knows is they have an employee who has made a complaint. It is not unusual to keep the specifics shared private when an employee makes a complaint. It makes for a more impartial investigation.

                      What you do is make sure all of your documentation is in order. Dates and details of mistakes, Dates you counseled her about this, dates others complained, copies of corrective emails and memos, timeline of infractions, etc. I would also make sure I had the same on others who may have made the same or similar mistakes. In the meantime, treat this employee exactly the same as anyone else. It is difficult, but necessary.

                      Attend the mediation, documentation in hand. This is where HR gets to hear from both of you and determine what action to take. It is wise of them not to act on just side's allegations. Remain as neutral as possible.
                      I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        FYI - this is the definition of what is an actual hostile work environment:

                        http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-ho...nvironment.htm
                        Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

                        Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Betty3 View Post
                          You noted a mediator will also be at the meeting. Many times they are professionally trained to help resolve these types of situations. Good luck.
                          Betty,

                          Thank you for your responses here and below. I saw your link below on another thread. It is a great resource and validates my understanding of the environment that constitutes a "hostile" work environment. As I have indicated above, her claims are not valid and with an investigation this will come out. What is the most frustrating is our department is so busy in meeting the needs of the company and taking 5 hours out of my day this coming week will be a hardship on me... She will not suffer because she is non-exempt and will only work the hours required by her.

                          I would like to think the mediation will help but the person who is meeting with us is not a mediator. Nor is she licensed. She states she will not be addressing the "hostile work environment", her job is to make us better "collaborators". She states she wants nothing to do with the claims by my admin. I personally question the use of company funds in this manner and by this person at this time. I believe conflict resolution is a better choice under these circumstances. But I will go through the process and hopefully learn something new.

                          Thanks, again.

                          KiKo
                          Last edited by kiko; 05-10-2015, 04:02 AM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ElleMD View Post
                            All HR knows is they have an employee who has made a complaint. It is not unusual to keep the specifics shared private when an employee makes a complaint. It makes for a more impartial investigation.

                            What you do is make sure all of your documentation is in order. Dates and details of mistakes, Dates you counseled her about this, dates others complained, copies of corrective emails and memos, timeline of infractions, etc. I would also make sure I had the same on others who may have made the same or similar mistakes. In the meantime, treat this employee exactly the same as anyone else. It is difficult, but necessary.

                            Attend the mediation, documentation in hand. This is where HR gets to hear from both of you and determine what action to take. It is wise of them not to act on just side's allegations. Remain as neutral as possible.

                            Elle,

                            I thank you for taking the time to respond. I appreciate the need to keep the investigation private and I would not expect them to share any of this with me. As someone who works in an environment that is under the standards of HIPAA, confidentiality is an everyday thought every moment of my life at work.

                            With regard to documentation, I have all of these and more. This is why I believe that once the investigation in completed, it will be determined this a person whose skill set is not compatible with the environment she is working in at this time. She was placed in my area by my new VP. She came with poor work ethics and a bad reputation within the company. She worked under the "diversity" manager and had very little to do. She spent most days on the computer surfing the internet or posting on facebook. Unfortunately, this is the reputation she developed for herself.

                            When I approached her former supervisor she admitted she was not willing to give this employee more work because of the errors she was making. Yet, she was not willing to hold her accountable to her position. I, on the other hand, did require her to be accountable to the mistakes and poor customer skills she was exhibiting. My belief is her situation is a performance issue that she has spun into this scenario. And my department has suffered for the past year and will continue to suffer until this is resolved.

                            I would like to thank all for their input in my situation. It has helped me to work through what I perceive to be an impossible situation... an employee who is not capable of doing her job based on her job description. While I believe the meeting on Tuesday has been rushed, I can now go to it and present my best self and hope the goal is to show we have made every effort with this employee prior to moving her into a position that is more compatible with the skills she exhibits.

                            KiKo

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The best of luck to you during the mediation. Just take all documentation with you as you were planning on doing.
                              Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

                              Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

                              Comment

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