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  (Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail)

 

(Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail)

nine to five

I’ve been promoted, and have to supervise a nightmare worker Add to ...

THE QUESTION

I have been employed by a retailer for the past six months and was hired with one other person. I am now up for a promotion and she isn’t. She is always late, has made homophobic comments toward me, and customers refuse to go to her for service. Co-workers say they’re embarrassed to work with her. Management has told me they are aware of what is happening and supervisors have told me she has been written up many times. It seems as if the more management tries to correct her behaviour, the worse she gets.

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She has become increasingly hostile toward me after learning I am being promoted and she blames me for her not being promoted. Management says the next time a complaint is lodged against her or if she says something inappropriate, she’ll be let go. … I am not out to get her, I just want her to carry her own weight and be respectful. I am increasingly anxious about becoming her supervisor. Where do I go from here?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Heather L. MacKenzie

The Integrity Group, Vancouver

You have two choices: find a new job, or take the supervisory job and be prepared to take on “Troubled.”

If you leave, you will have invested six months in a poorly managed company that can’t take decisive action to deal with a problem employee. Why would you want to be a supervisor in a workplace that tolerates homophobic comments, poor customer relations, and staff conflict? It’s more than a little odd that the company would put up with repeated inappropriate conduct from a relatively new hire. There’s clearly more to this than meets the eye.

Ideally, you would start looking now and land a new job before you tender your resignation. Be sure to tell your current employer why you’re resigning (which may motivate them to deal with Troubled).

If you stay, Troubled has only been there six months, her severance is minimal, and she may still be probationary; it should be straightforward for the company to sever her employment.

The wild card is there may be some compelling reasons why management hasn’t dealt with her, or perhaps they are dealing with her but there are extenuating circumstances that you aren’t privy to, which require them to manage this a certain way. For example, she may be working through personal issues that make her situation more complicated than it appears.

On the flip side, maybe she is the CEO’s niece and is so “golden” she can get away with anything (even if you become her supervisor, you may not have the ability to effectively discipline her).

You’re not out to get her, but have you made the company aware that she has become increasingly hostile and that she’s made homophobic remarks toward you? These are things that employers should be concerned about, and take appropriate action to correct, given that they could be held legally liable for it. How the company responds may help make your decision clearer.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Colleen Clarke

Corporate trainer and career specialist, Toronto

For a tennis game to exist there has to be at least two people who want to hit the ball back and forth within the lines to keep the ball in play. In your scenario, you are the only willing player – the opponent has left the court.

You are to be the supervisor, but you each have a more senior boss from whom you should enlist support. Ask your boss to make the announcement of your new duties and what the expectations are of each of your direct reports. The boss needs to add that if there are any concerns regarding this appointment, people just need to ask.

As soon as you can, try to get this person on your side. Explain your supervisory style to the team, acknowledge that they are all adults and you don’t plan on micro-managing anyone. Make clear that respect for one another, including every one’s time and priorities, is to be adhered to at all times. Say that you trust that everyone knows their job but that if they have questions or concerns, you will always be receptive to helping out.

Get in there and get your hands dirty. Show your staff that you would not ask them to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.

Familiarize yourself with the conditions of harassment and bullying in your province, in case you have to play that card.

Do not lord it over this woman with your title or position. When staff members act up, tell them this that is a team effort, that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link and that everyone is expected to pull their weight and give 100 per cent at all times.

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine to Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com.

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