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figbash's avatar

How do I handle this bad event with my employees?

Asked by figbash (7441 points ) May 5th, 2010

I had a poor-performing employee who I put a lot of time, generosity and effort into. When I finally needed to be firm about a major tardiness issue on her part, she flipped out and began to trash me in the work place with all of my other employees. She victimized herself, quit and said a lot of things that were untrue, and a large group believed her.

Now the staff are insubordinate, rude, angry, morale is low and it’s miserable. I’m pissed that the employee portrayed that she was mistreated, and I feel like it destroys my reputation and credibility with them. How would you get around this and to try to repair the work environment?

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29 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

I suggest you call a meeting to go over the rules, and your expectations, and emphasize the rules she broke. Tell them you don’t want to have to let anyone else go for not following the rules.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I agree with @YARNLADY, call a meeting and discuss your expectations. Give your employees to discuss their feelings so that you have a chance to reassure them of how things are going to be from that point on. If you feel a meeting with everyone would be to much, try smaller meetings with only a few people at a time. Ask them what they think happened and go from there.

augustlan's avatar

It sounds like a meeting is in order. Lay out the facts about what happened with the previous employee (obviously, don’t slander her), and your expectations of your current employees going forward. Stress that your goal is a happy, professional and productive work environment. Provide a way for them to report legitimate grievances in an appropriate manner, without being disruptive to the workplace.

FishGutsDale's avatar

The fact is insubordination won’t be tolerated. YOu need to reestablish your chain of command and let them know their actions are forcing your hand should it continue. Then work on regaining what you had with them over time.

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

Definately go with the meeting idea, review the rules, expectations, etc. Maybe have an open forum where people can air out their grievences. One on one meetings with the door closed makes me feel, as an employee, very nervous that I’ve done something wrong. I’d avoid that. Let them know, maybe, that this is a new day and that it’s time to carry on forward. Open communication is the key.

Jeruba's avatar

I think it is odd that they were so ready to believe this. Presumably none of them has been mistreated or has any legitimate complaint similar to her accusations. Weren’t they surprised at what she said? When someone is a slacker, usually everybody knows it, and people who do what’s expected of them resent it if someone seems to be getting away with things. Surely you have some leverage there.

cazzie's avatar

I’ve seen this happen. Holding a meeting is good, but you can diffuse some of the problems first by talking one on one with certain members of your employees. Chose to speak to the ones that the other’s listen to, regardless of their take on what happened with the girl that quit. Try to find out what’s been said first so you know what to expect and how to diffuse the situation when you do have the meeting, or the meeting is just going to end up being a ‘she said’—- ‘she said’ argument, and that’s not going to go far. When you talk one on one, don’t try to explain your side too much, but listen to what they say and ask as direct questions as you can. If they ask you direct questions, all you simply have to say is, ‘No, I never said that.’ or ‘No, that never happened.’ Refrain from using the words ‘lie’ or ‘liar’ or any name calling (of course). And I’ve always found the phrase, ‘Come on, you know me (you’ve known me for X years).. does that sound like something I’d do (or say)?’

Of course, don’t go into details of what was said between just you and the girl that quit. Your employees don’t want to think that you’d do that if they ever left, and there are confidential arguments to be had.

Try to get back to the emphasis that you’re all a team and you all want to work in a pleasant environment. It’s better for everyone to air their problems out, rather than stew. If they have a problem with you or another staff member, they need to deal with it rather than make things difficult for everyone. They may think they’re mad at one person, but everyone ends up suffering because of the atmosphere it creates.

Good luck. Keep Calm and Carry On.

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

@Jeruba I can explain how that happens. In the jobs I’ve worked, management were mostly seen as high and mighty loafers who, sometimes, abuse the power they’ve been given. This is just the perspective I’ve had of some, I know it isn’t everyone in management. Even though there are some people who’ve never really had a problem with management, I’ve found they’ll probably side with the person that is under management. This is just the experience I’ve had. I might not give management a hard time if the person let go had been making work harder for me.

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Jeruba's avatar

In 40+ years of working life I had some bad managers, all right, @py_sue, but I saw many more cases where employees seemed to be getting away with murder. If I had seen @figbash‘s employee coming in late all the time and otherwise not pulling her weight, I would have said “About time!” when she finally got called on it. That’s why I think @figbash may have some leverage there if other employees have observed the same thing.

I think I would hold the meeting and would begin by speaking about performance issues in general and talking about how they are handled when they occur: by working with the person, giving warnings, coaching, etc. Examples could address some of the very behaviors that this person was exhibiting, People will get it. @figbash could then say that you reach a point when you’ve made all the allowances you can and given all the extra chances you can, and then it’s just not fair to the other employees, who are pulling their weight, to continue to carry someone who is letting the team down.

I think this would put the manager and the team on the same side of the issue instead of on opposite sides.

The departed employee might never have to be mentioned by name at all unless someone asks a question. Answers should be circumspect but clear and perhaps expressed in general terms, as matters of principle: Anyone who can’t bring up his or her level of performance after repeated warnings and remedial efforts cannot be retained.

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

@Jeruba You make a good point.

Also that if it’s not a rule already (probably is), to let people know that if there’s a problem, take it aside in private to deal with it.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Simply continue applying the personnel policies fairly and consistently. Eventually those who are upset over this will either get over it or find some other place to work.

The lesson here is that you have a uniform, consistent attendance ( and other work-related behavior policies ) policy, which you apply across the board without exception. Making exceptions only creates the illusion that there are no consequences for unacceptable behavor.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

As long as you are applying your policies consistently, the other properly performing employees have nothing to worry about. It’s your job to make sure they understand this. If they don’t understand, you’ve got mutiny on your hands; looks like it’s started already. You have to call a meeting and let them know the serious circumstances that caused you to fire that employee and that as long as they follow the rules and work as a team the same will not happen to them. That grumbling and back-biting are unacceptable and will lead to adverse consquences for the team and the responsible individual.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

You might just want to take the tact that “I would be happy to discuss any concerns you have about Mary’s dramatic departure with you. Please come see me.”

It sounds like perhaps what you thought you were saying to Mary, and what Mary was actually hearing, may have been two different things. Likewise, if you are running a relaxed environment, your staff may not realize that Mary’s excessive tardiness was a business problem. I am prone to tardiness myself, but I am salaried, and put in a 50–60 hour week. The fact that I come it at 9 is offset by the fact that I stay until 9 to get things done, and routinely work through lunch.

Cruiser's avatar

I agree with all the above suggestions but would also present the human side of this event. I would review with your employees all of her “opportunities” she was allowed in terms of her indiscretions and how you gave her the benefit of the doubt over and over as you would with each and every employee there. Stress your fairness and equitable application of your rules and expectations and how you would give each and every employee there the same considerations you gave her. Then illustrate very clearly how she crossed the line despite her many “allowances” for her errant efforts and you had to do what was best for the company which in turn is the best for everyone there who is employed at your place of business. Stress the “family” atmosphere you desire and foster there and give high fives as they leave the meeting.

Supacase's avatar

@Jeruba I think people are believing her because she probably told them all about her life and problems, especially if she made such a show of being let go. The type of people who take advantage of leniency and rule-bending are usually smart talkers who can make just about anyone feel for them.

She talked @figbash into helping her out by giving her additional chances. My bet is she has convinced the other employees that she is the victim in life as well as the office and management should give her a break. The kind of person who makes you think that, yes, you are covering her work, but she is having such a difficult time right now…

She most likely has not told them any of the times @figbash helped her out, but made sure they knew when he let her go.

filmfann's avatar

You cannot discuss the circumstances of the employee quitting. You could be sued.
Instead, review the rules in a general way , not mentioning names.
If you are as fair and cool as you describe, you won’t have to suffer with this for long.
I had a boss who had good advice for managing:
“There are three kinds of employees. Those that like you, those that don’t, and those that don’t have an opinion. Keep the ones that have no opinion away from the ones who don’t like you.”

john65pennington's avatar

It does not matter who they are or the problems they may have away from work, their job is their livelihood and it should be respected, by following the rules. it appears you gave this employee ample leverage in arriving late for work. i assume you have given her warnings and thats all that is required. when you terminated her and she created a scene, you should have called the police to remove her from the business. by doing this, it would have sent a message to the other employees that this type of attitude will not be tolerated. this is where you lost control as thier supervisor.

Having an open meeting with the other employees is not a good idea, at least right now. i would type a letter stating the rules and regulations of the business. they know the rules, they just need a refresher course. state your position with the termination and whats expected. make a copy for each employee and distribute to each. you will regain respect, once you show the remaning employees that you are in charge and this is whats expected of them. if you are their supervisor, then act like a supervisor. they may dislike you now but everything will soon settle down and back to normal. leadership is needed now.

BoBo1946's avatar

What kind of business is this…would have a bearing on my answer! Some jobs require different approaches! From reading your profile, are these healthcare workers in a nursing home, assisted care facility, etc.?

Also, did you approach this employee about her tardiness in front of the other employees?

wundayatta's avatar

I hate to say it, but once morale has gone bad, I don’t know if there’s anything you can do to recover. It’s an issue of trust-building. If your employees are so quick to believe the things this other person said, that probably means that the communication and trust have not been very good for a while now.

What the employees probably should know is that they are doing a good job. A lot of people here have suggested that you go over policies with them. I think that’s just going to make it worse. You need to rebuild your relationship, and that is not done by making things more antagonistic. If you go over the policies, the employees are going to feel like you think they are children. They know this stuff.

When was the last time they got merit raises? When was the last time you praised them for their work? When was the last time you celebrated their work? I don’t mean those fake celebrations—I mean real appreciation. Of course, the best appreciation is a raise. When you go too long without receiving a raise, you begin to feel you aren’t appreciated.

There was an atmosphere of mistrust there already or one little outburst wouldn’t have had this effect. The other employees were quick to believe everything she said. There must have been resentments that were not apparent to you.

What do you do? Like I said, raises help. But more communication—from your end. Tell them more about what kind of work you do, and what is happening. Give them information about income and expenses. Show them how their work matters. Show them where they have done well, and also where they haven’t, but without blaming them. If there have been tough times, you want to work with them to improve. It’s not that they better improve or they’re out the door. Acknowledge your own mistakes, and be as tough on yourself as you are on anyone else.

If you want a team, you have to be a team. You are probably too isolated from them. I don’t know what you do, but you may want to consider walking around to see everyone where they work every day. Take an interest in how they are doing, and ask if there is anything you can do to make their jobs easier. This is about attitudes and trust. You would have to be honestly interested and caring. They will feel this, and attitudes will improve, I think. Your bottom line should improve as well—even if some of it is spent on higher wages. But you have to look at this as a long term effort—it could take years. The improvements may be slow, but once they are there, they will last a long time!

JeffVader's avatar

Pretty simple really. Id call her into a meeting & give her a formal disciplinary, basically a final written warning. Then Id call a meeting explaining that there are minimum standards of behavior, list all of the things she’s done as part of the unacceptable behaviors. & explain to everyone that continued employment is dependant on everyone pulling together & being mature.

Bagardbilla's avatar

Post this at the front entry:

“The beatings Will Continue till Morale Improves !!!!”

:)

thriftymaid's avatar

People need jobs rights now. If your employees are insubordinate, let them go and hire someone else. You have a business to run, not children to babysit.

figbash's avatar

This is all such excellent advice. Thank you everyone, for taking the time to write such thoughtful responses.

Part of the problem is that I inherited some employees with long-standing performance issues. There were no rules or policies in place and no annual review proces. I’ve been slowly unrolling policies, and initiated an annual review process with merit raises- but after two years of having absolutely no feedback and being able to do whatever they wanted to do, they didn’t respond so well to any of the constructive criticism. After the first batch of reviews, morale tanked. Employees weren’t supposed to be discussing them and they were anyway. They started riling each other up and made me the enemy. Then, when this employee called in sick 45 minutes after she was supposed to be there, she got a firm reprimand. Since then, hysteria has ensued. Employees kept remarking that they ‘couldn’t work under these conditions’ and the more I tried to hold them accountable, they more they fought back. At least some of them.

As for the other questions – this is healthcare, I absolutely did not approach this worker in front of her colleagues. I also do rounds, check in frequently and have advocated for them heavily. They don’t see any of it, despite it being communicated to them. Even though I have been open, honest and approachable, the environment of mistrust has been there since before I even took the position.

Ugh.

BoBo1946's avatar

When you speak to people in a respectful manner to improve their performance and they take it in a negative way, that is their problem, not your’s!

In this economy today, they are lucky to have a job. There are plenty of people out there that would be thankful to take their job…

If they are doing the work, would not worry too much about morale…never had a good boss yet that was popular with everyone!

YARNLADY's avatar

@Bagardbilla clear proof the ‘old’ fluther is alive and well. Thanks for the laugh

mattbrowne's avatar

Did you confront her in private about the major tardiness issue? If yes, why did she flip out later with all of my other employees present?

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