Disgruntled new employee, harassment complaint, can’t be ignored

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Dear Joan:

I recently was told by my supervisor that a colleague has been complaining about me, mostly about petty issues. I’m in the security business, where I am one of four supervisor’s working in a residential and construction community, along with twenty other security officers.  

This colleague has come to us about a month ago, with extensive experience and this position is a step down, according to him. When I began training him, he was very clear that working here would be contingent on him getting Friday and Saturday off, due to his other job.  

Originally, I was due to get these days off, only because I’m the next one up with the most seniority. I yielded to him because I wanted to be a team player and he had good experience and would involve working the early morning shift. Soon, I (and others) began to notice that he started enforcing rules strictly and did not follow them himself. Although he has leveled his strict policy, he’s still occasionally tardy. And during this period he has also treated me as an underling and has, on many occasions, questioned my decisions. Mostly, he’s condescending and uses our boss’s name to defend something he wants done his way. I usually don’t question him when he claims he’s talked to our boss. But I’ve been at this site over a year and a half and I have a good insight as to the operational duties.  

He has made a lot of waves, and I don’t know if our boss is aware of all of them. A few days ago, I asked him for a private talk, where I asked him if he was upset with me or any lingering issues he may have. He could not vocalize or give me examples of anything I was doing to cause him to behave in this manner.

He then started with a tirade of how his agreed upon salary, position and hours were not what he was promised by our company, the lack of professionalism of the company and office staff. He also mentioned twice he didn’t what to be here (work site) due to lack of sleep, etc. I then started telling him how I felt he was treating me and gave him examples of how his behavior manifested. He was patient and understanding. I also mentioned that with my experience on the property, I could help him as I did with others and similarly, I could learn from his many years in the business. I felt confident that the past was behind us, and I told him about my future plans in law enforcement. He suggested that any small work-related problem (from what he’s heard) could prevent me from a law enforcement career. He talked about people who mentored him and the importance of equal treatment of all races. This basically wrapped up our conversation.  

This night he arrived twelve minutes late, which I documented on our time sheets. He was not aware I documented this before we talked, but the next day my supervisor informed me he had written a five-page complaint about me and accused me of harassment. I was surprised and confused. I have never harassed him or anyone in my 18-year work history. My supervisor doesn’t believe him and has informed me he has been fired numerous times, but wants nothing to do with this. I have not seen our boss since last week and I have not seen this five-page complaint. I’m contemplating seeing an attorney. 

Answer:

Here’s how it looks like to me. First, it appears your boss didn’t do a very good reference check, and if he did know he was fired numerous times, why on earth did he hire him, without digging further for the reasons? Now that this “harassment” complaint has been made, your boss needs to step in closer, not distance himself further.  

It appears your colleague is retaliating against you because he thinks you reported him behind his back, while you were appearing to make peace to his face. You might argue that you were trying to repair the relationship and that tardiness is a separate issue, altogether. Technically, you are correct but typically, colleagues make a comment to the person directly, or tip off the manager that there is a tardiness problem requiring closer monitoring. A supervisor usually does documentation, not by peers. 

In addition, if your boss did promise things he hasn’t delivered, he has set up a very negative work situation that has spilled over on you. The fact that your colleague has told you that he doesn’t want to be there and that the company cheated him, tells me that this situation will only get more explosive.  

Go to your manager and tell him what you have told me. Give specific examples. Tell him that you are stepping out of the situation and that you want no further interaction with this colleague, other than the professional communication required to get the job done. Ask to see the harassment complaint.  If it has gone into your file, ask that it be removed. If it can’t be removed, ask (in writing) for a formal investigation into the “harassment.” This should uncover the new person’s behavior with colleagues and his employees.  It should be easy to see that he won’t qualify for passing his probationary period, if he can’t even get to work on time. 

Even if the new supervisor’s behavior stems from false promises made when he was hired, he has reacted inappropriately. He should have gone to his manager to straighten it out. Bending the rules for himself, while strictly enforcing them for others, shows a gross lack of judgment. In addition, any brand new employee who announces his new job is a “step down” and cries “harassment” for getting caught breaking work rules, looks like a big problem that will only get worse. 

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Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, customized training (leadership skills, presentation skills, internal consulting skills & facilitation skills), team conflict resolution and retreat facilitation.
Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (800) 348-1944, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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