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A drama queen at work. (Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail)
A drama queen at work. (Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail)

Nine to Five

Our boss is a drama queen and we’re fed up Add to ...

THE QUESTION

Our supervisor creates crises within our workplace, sometimes on an hourly basis. If she can’t find a crisis within work she brings it into the workplace from home. To make matters worse she gossips about everyone behind their back.

The dramas she creates are exhausting and it is almost as if she thrives on it just to exhibit extreme control on all of us, and make us jump through hoops to appease her. As soon as we think we know her rules she changes them.

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All of us are so stressed out and anxious about coming to work; many fear working alone with her. It seems as if her supervisors fear her as well, because when we’ve complained they ignore us and do nothing.

What can we do – short of leaving – which many have done already? If it weren’t for her, we know we would have a great place to work.

THE FIRST ANSWER

Greg Conner

Vice-president, human resources, League Financial Partners, Victoria

How unfortunate it is that your team is being subjected to this type of unacceptable behaviour. The reality is that we spend more time at work interacting with each other than we do with our families at home, which makes it even more imperative that we have a harassment-free, and dare I say, even an enjoyable place to work.

First thing is to start documenting everything your supervisor does to create havoc and turmoil within your group. Think of it as the same process a supervisor would take with an employee who is not performing to expectations. Once you have documented dates, times and issues, formally present that to her manager and human resources jointly.

You and your colleagues have a right to a harassment-free workplace (in some province, such as Ontario, it is covered by workplace safety regulations; in others, such as British Columbia, it falls under human rights) and your employer has an obligation to provide that.

Quiet and polite did not work; now you and your colleagues have to stand up and be heard and demand the changes you know are needed. Your supervisor’s manager does know what havoc she wreaks, but given that it is human nature to avoid workplace conflict, you really need a united front to force the manager and HR to take action, set expectations and consequences. Trust me when I say your employer does not want the issue escalating outside its control.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Bill Howatt

Howatt HR Consulting, Kentville, N.S.

I understand the negative impact an ineffective supervisor can have on employee productivity, morale and retention. Most senior managers or company owners have no tolerance for the behaviour you describe. Some of it appears to be on the verge of bullying; if not bullying, certainly unnecessary. It is prudent to be aware of your occupational health and safety legislation, because in some provinces it defines the employer’s responsibility with respect to creating a psychologically safe workplace.

This behaviour often does not stop unless confronted. So you and your peers must be prepared to confront this supervisor’s behaviour or nothing may change.

There are different ways how to confront a supervisor. Larger organizations have support options such as human resources, unions and employee assistance programs. HR staff often have the skills and experience to separate facts and emotions and are helpful in making a plan. They will get the facts. If the plan fails, it is not uncommon in these kinds of cases for HR to facilitate a workplace assessment to determine the root cause, risk and solution.

Many smaller businesses do not have the same support systems. But regardless of the size of your company, you and your peers must muster the courage to confront the behaviour. A logical step would be to call a meeting meeting with your supervisor to express concerns and desire for change. Before doing so, ensure everyone has the same concern, that you and your peers have done your research and developed a clear path as to your rights and your escalation plan, and that you will present as a united group. Rosa Parks taught us all a great lesson: Change will not happen until you are prepared to say, “No more.”

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that minefield? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com. Confidentiality ensured. Weigh in with your view at tgam.ca/careers. Check out past columns here.

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