General Question

poofandmook's avatar

What do you do with a potentially deceitful co-worker?

Asked by poofandmook (17272points) July 28th, 2008

Okay, here’s the deal: Person didn’t show up for work on a Saturday, Monday, or Tuesday. Wednesday, the boss went to HR to finalize termination and was told she was on disability. He came back to the office and told us that she was on disability, would be back Monday, and to be nice to her. He then said “read between the lines.”

So a bunch of us figured she was admitted psychiatrically. But I worked in a psychiatric hospital, and the hospital would’ve called our boss. If they called HR, HR would’ve called our boss. Plus, disability is more than 5 days, and requires an employer’s signature. To top it off, she came in today and told another co-worker she was on vacation. What do I do? She played the system and should be fired for not showing up if not even for being deceitful about why. She’s terrible at her job, messes up important accounts left and right, and what’s worse, she’s snooty and acts like she runst he place. She brings the morale in the office down a peg or seven. How should I handle this?

I should note that this is a small office where generally, everybody finds out everyone else’s business somehow.

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37 Answers

drhat77's avatar

It is possible that she went out of town for psychiatric care because SHE KNEW the local hospital would have called the employer (which does not seem in keeping with privacy laws).
Just rememember that if her disability status is finalized, any improper treatment could qualify for violation of ADA, which would bring tremedous heat upon the employer. Tread lightly, give her non-essential tasks, or give her backup that monitors performance and shores her up as necessary. an inelegant solution, to be sure, but it is the lesser of two evils.

scamp's avatar

Plus, there is the fact that she told another co-worker that she was on “vacation”! I plan on just hiding under my desk for the next few days. A couple of us have a feeling she is about to go ‘postal” on us. I think we just have to be patient a little longer, and let her get fired for her screw ups. I hope we stay safe until then. she really is a time bomb!

She used her conditon to manipulate us all. She has been planning this for some time. She started on the same day I did, and even in orentation, she said she was only going to work a little while, then ‘take some time off”. She is using the system to manipulate us all, and I resent it.

jlm11f's avatar

i am confused. does scamp = poofandmook, or do you two just work in the same office?

jballou's avatar

How should you handle it? Unless you’re the boss, you should mind your own business. If you are the boss, you should terminate her based on whatever rule she broke. What kind of contract does she have with your company? Depending on that, you don’t even need a reason to fire her.

poofandmook's avatar

@PnL: We work together.

@jaballou: When I’m working 65–70 hour weeks to cover her not showing up, and then she waltzes in here, laughing and whooping it up and not working (we can tell she’s not working because she’s not taking phone calls) on company time, while I’m still busting my ass to pick up her call slack, WHILE she’s on the clock, it is my business.

augustlan's avatar

Keep in mind that telling people (not the boss) that she was on “vacation” may be just her way of covering up the real reason she was out…would YOU tell your coworkers that you were in a mental hospital?!?

SuperMouse's avatar

I’m with Scamp (no I don’t work in their office), let her take just enough rope to hang herself. These things have a way of biting people in the ass, she’ll get hers, maybe not soon enough, but rest assured if you see this behavior, so does the boss.

As a sidenote, if you are seriously concerned for your safety and the safety of your co-workers, you should go to HR and voice your concerns. If something does happen and you kept your feelings to yourself you might never forgive yourself. You can ask HR to keep these issues confidential and they should.

jballou's avatar

@poofandmook If she’s personally impacting your job, you need to make a formal complaint against her and let the people in charge know that this is the case. A well-written letter goes a lot further then bitching and word of mouth. It will also be on record, not hearsay.

The point of what I was saying before is that it doesn’t matter why she was out or what she was out doing or whether she manipulated the company or any of that. That’s all their problem. The only thing you should be concerned with is your own job performance. And if that has been negatively affected and you can attribute that to her and her alone, then write that letter. Good luck

poofandmook's avatar

@augustlan: My point is, I worked for several years in a psychiatric facility, and am therefore very familiar with the facilities that accept emergency patients and I know their policies/lengths-of-stay like the back of my hand. Any place around here would’ve kept her a week minimum, they would’ve called her out without giving personal information, and it definitely still doesn’t qualify for disability status.

kevbo's avatar

I’d say if she’s legally on disability (or whatever) then that’s a fact you have to deal with regardless of your feelings on the matter. That is, unless you have an outlet by proving fraud. I’m not saying you’re wrong, and she’s right, just that legally that’s what exists, regardless of her level of deception or honesty.

Obviously, this has created a gap between the workload and the available workers. That’s not your problem to solve. That’s your boss’s problem to solve. Right now, it seems like he’s solving it by asking you to take up the slack. Since you’re obliging, you’re solving his problem. If you didn’t oblige, it would still be his problem to solve in another manner, such as bringing in a temp or dealing with her performance more directly.

I also agree with jballou.

marinelife's avatar

I am taking poofandmook and scamp, who are on site, at their word. This person sounds horribly disruptive.

There is not much you can do except not cover for her and, if possible, make sure her errors and omissions come to the boss’ attention.

Does she have vacation photos? Ask to see them. Then as the boss walks by, ask if he/she has seen her vacation photos.

augustlan's avatar

What if it wasn’t a psych problem at all? Maybe your boss meant it was a “female problem” when he told you to read between the lines? Either way, she does sound like a pain in the ass.

poofandmook's avatar

@Kevbo, the unfortunate reality that exists in a huge corporation like the one where I work is that, especially with the current state of unemployment and staffing cuts and all that garbage, if I didn’t say yes to my boss, he could find any number of reasons to fire me legally and find someone who will do what I do for less money in about 3.4 seconds.

poofandmook's avatar

@augustlan: She’s textbook bipolar II. I worked in psych, and so did another co-worker here.

augustlan's avatar

Man, that’s kinda’ scary…you should definitely talk to HR about your concerns.

jballou's avatar

@poofandmonk

“if I didn’t say yes to my boss, he could find any number of reasons to fire me legally and find someone who will do what I do for less money in about 3.4 seconds.”

So you figure they’d be willing to fire you but not her? That’s crazy. Find a new company, homie.

nikipedia's avatar

@poofandmook: So if you know she has a legitimate and often debilitating psychiatric illness, why are you so sure she was on vacation instead of possibly seeking much-needed treatment?

Obviously I don’t know the whole situation, but from what I do know it sounds like this woman could use some patience, understanding, and compassion…

kevbo's avatar

@pook, That’s certainly understandable (about feeling like you’re going to lose your job). If that’s you’re reality, then I guess you need advice more along the lines of what others are saying.

poofandmook's avatar

@jballou: LOL I know it sounds bad. my boss wants to fire her. Problem is, as soon as you throw the word “disability” in there, she’d practically have to go postal in here to get fired. Any other reason and she cries “they fired me because of my disability!” and we get sued. I, however, would be fair game if I left the office hanging and clients got snubbed and work went undone. This is actually a great place to work… but when times get hard and people manipulate the system, it’s practically every man for himself, you know?

poofandmook's avatar

@niki: My experience in psych is how I know. A mental break or a medication correction takes minimum of 7 days.

jballou's avatar

@poofandmook

I admire your ability to navigate that landmine. That type of bureaucracy and red tape and fear of random lawsuits and office politics are the exact reason I don’t do well in corporate atmospheres. Hang in there- people who try to manipulate others always get caught up sooner or later.

I would seriously stop worrying about analyzing your co-worker though, nothing good can come of it. It’s not helping you, and it’s certainly not helping her. Don’t make your work environment any more toxic than it already is.

nikipedia's avatar

@poofandmook: I don’t understand. Do you mean that legally, someone who takes time off work for mental health reasons is not allowed to come back for 7 days? On what are you basing that? Also what do you mean by “mental break”?

poofandmook's avatar

@niki: No. An effective psychiatric inpatient admission is 7 days minimum. Any less, and the medication is not effectively monitored, and the person may not be stable enough to return to work.

poofandmook's avatar

@niki: That’s half-jargon for a nervous breakdown. Mental/psychotic break.

nikipedia's avatar

@poofandmook: I am not familiar with any laws mandating a 7 day minimum stay. My understanding is that the duration of hospitalization is contingent on a number of factors specific to that case—medication compliance, nature of remission, severity of episode, etc. Again, possibly this varies from state to state, but I have never heard of such a rule.

Also just so you know, if she did have a “psychotic break” she would technically meet criteria for BPI rather than BPII.

poofandmook's avatar

@Niki: I never said it was a law. I said it was a pretty widely accepted facility policy.

scamp's avatar

When I’m working 65–70 hour weeks to cover her not showing up, and then she waltzes in here, laughing and whooping it up and not working (we can tell she’s not working because she’s not taking phone calls) on company time, while I’m still busting my ass to pick up her call slack, WHILE she’s on the clock, it is my business

I copied this because I feel the exact same way. This woman was here today for over an hour and a half before she even bothered to log in. She is not taking any calls, and has been wondering all over the place for the past couple of hours. She obvioulsy is not doing any work, and the thing that really creeps me out is I have looked over my shoulder a few times to find her standing behind me staring a hole in my back.

I really don’t like feeling unsafe at my desk. it’s a sticky situation. She wasn’t fired because the company doesn’t want a lawsuit, but no one in the department feels safe with her her. She has been extremely unstable for some time. She gets very angry at the drop of a hat.

kevbo's avatar

Yikes. In that case, maybe the route to go is “hostile work environment.” Talk to HR or maybe the EEOC or someone who understands employment law and see if you have some options.

Also, if she’s not doing any work (and disrupting work), it seems the least the company could do is pay her to stay at home and/or get treatment.

scamp's avatar

At this point, I’d be glad to have them pay me to stay home! I am exausted, and so is poof! I think maybe we should. I had to move my computer to a different spot on my desk because I get the heebies having her stand behind me and staring.

baseballnut's avatar

It’s hard for me to understand where your boss and HR stand in this situation. I’m an HR consultant and there aren’t enough facts here to know whether a “disability” is justified or not but a short or long-term disability doesn’t automatically hold a company hostage forever. Nor does the fear of a lawsuit from an employee relieve a company of their duty to maintain a safe workplace for its employees. I would have a quiet conversation with your boss first of all. If that doesn’t work, the two of you need to put your concerns in writing to your boss and at minimum the head of HR. By both of you participating in the written complaint you may avail yourself of additional protection and force the company to act. I don’t know how to help you “off line” but if you want my assistance and can tell me how to reach you, I’m happy to help.

Good luck to both of you – stay calm and don’t make it worse than it already is!

scamp's avatar

Thank you so much for your answer baseballnut. I really appreciate your offer. I was thinking of going to HR to discuss this with them. We have already talked with our boss, and he seemed like he wanted to fire her before she took that week off. ( she didn’t show up or call for 8 days.) He had a meeting with HR last week, and on Friday he told us she would be returning to work. His words were:“XXXX is coming back on Monday. HR says she was out on disability, read between the lines.”

I think a written complaint is a good idea. I hope this won’t hurt our boss tho. He’s a great guy, and he is doing everything he can, but it seems like his hands are tied in this matter.

This woman does enough on her own to get fired, so disabilty shouldn’t be an issue. As poof said earlier, she has totally screwed up some accounts, takes unwarranted breaks frequently, and walks out whenever she feels like leaving without permission to leave early.

To top it off, she has been telling people that she was on vacation when they ask where she was. It burns me up that she flits in and out of the office on a whim, and I will miss the birth of my first Grandson because my 90 days aren’t up yet, and I can’t take the time off. Also as poof said earlier, we are working 65–70 per week for the past 3 weeks, and this woman barely puts in 30.

I love the job, but something’s gotta give. We can’t keep going like this. The extra hours are one thing, but dealing with this whacko magnifies the stress by making lots of noise while she is loafing so we can’t get our work done. if this keeps up, I will be the one out on disability!!

baseballnut's avatar

You’re very welcome and as an HR person, I’m sorry that you all are going through this mess. Does your supervisor agree with your assessment of the situation? If so and the person is a stand up leader, I suspect he/she is being prevented from taking disciplinary action against The Slacker bcause of an often unfounded fear of legal action. If that’s the case, it might make you feel better to discuss this with someone in HR but it might not result in resolution. Do it anyway – especially if your workplace is one where employees feel comfortable discussing things.

My best advice if all else fails and you want to stay with the company is to do your part, don’t take up the slack for her, make sure your boss knows that you will continue to support the company but that you aren’t going to work yourself to death because they can’t manage Slacker out of the company.

One of the earlier responses talked about hanging in there until Slacker implodes and I think that’s probably inevitable. Best case scenario is that something is already in the works with HR to end the situation but it’s being kept confidential, as it should be. Worst case is they are unskilled at handling this situation and will let it go until she self-destructs – just watch out for collateral damage.

Take care!

poofandmook's avatar

I just want to let everyone know that this person chose not to show up several more times in the following weeks… I finally had it with covering for her absence and set up a meeting with my boss to give him a head’s up that I was looking for another job, because I didn’t want to work for a corporation that would allow someone to do whatever they wanted in regards to attendance, while I was expected to work extra because of it.

She didn’t show up on Monday, and then came in Tuesday… which is when I had the meeting with my boss. Today, she is being fired.

marinelife's avatar

Hooray, P&M. Great way to handle it. You and scamp will be much happier and less stressed now.

poofandmook's avatar

Thanks, Marina. I know that’s sort of an iffy thing to do, but my boss absolutely adores and depends on me, because I’m the only one who can always work whenever he needs me. Scamp too at one point, but because of this twit, she was pushed to the point where she had to put her foot down, basically. So I knew that even though it was risky, he would listen and pressure HR to push their paperwork a little faster!

scamp's avatar

What a day to celebrate!!! She is gone gone gone!!! Break out the champagne!! I feel so much lighter. I’m dancing on a cloud!! I so love my job again. Whooo Hoooo!!

jlm11f's avatar

Congratulations to you two! seems like a strange thing to congratulate someone for haha

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