“Save me some caffeine, Gina,” HR director Stu Capper joked as he walked into the break room.
“Just started a fresh pot. It’ll be ready in a few,” Gina said. “So let’s talk while we wait on it.”
“OK, what’s up?” Stu asked her.
“I’ve got a big problem with my new assignment.”
Criticism through the rumor mill
“Why don’t you fill me in?” said Stu.
“Sandra and I have been assigned this new project. We’ve made a lot of progress, but we’ve also had a few setbacks.”
“Go on,” Stu prodded.
“Well, several people in the department have told me Sandra’s doing a lot of talking about me,” Gina sighed. “She’s taking all the credit, and none of the blame.”
“Can you give me an example?”
“Here’s a good one: in the last week alone, four of our co-workers have told me Sandra’s telling people I’m the weak link on the project. She’s complaining that she’s carrying me along.”
“Well … ” Stu hesitated. “Is she?”
“No! I’ve worked on this just as much and just as hard as she has. Honestly, maybe even harder,” said Gina. “I’m baffled! I can’t believe she’s telling everyone this stuff.”
“Have you talked to her about it?”
“No, I haven’t brought it up. I’m so angry, I don’t even know what to say to her.”
If you were Stu, what would you do or say next?
Mind Brenner, HR Director, United Construction, Reno, NV
What Mindi would do: I’d get Gina and Sandra together for a chat. We’d get Sandra’s take on what Gina heard – before jumping to conclusions. If Sandra really did make those comments, I’d explain that we’re not going to tolerate gossip.
Reason: Obviously the issue needs to be addressed so both workers can focus on work. I’d deal with it, and then ask both of them to move forward as a team. And that means communicating – with each other, not other co-workers.
Barb Forstrom, HR director, Preferred Podiatry, Northbrook, IL
What Barb would do: First, I’d encourage Gina to go talk to Sandra on her own. I’d suggest Gina ask for her teammate’s opinion on how the project is going as well as how they can make improvements on their assignment. I’d remind Gina to listen without judgement.
Reason: This may be a sticky situation they can work out themselves. They need to communicate better – and I’d want to give Gina a chance to start a positive conversation before I jumped in. And of course, I’d touch base occasionally to make sure the situation was resolved, and the project was running smoothly.
DeAnne Walberg, HR director, First Heritage Credit, LLC Ridgeland, MS
What DeAnne would do: First of all, Gina needs to cool off and collect her thoughts. She also needs to think about the project and her contributions. After she’s calmed down, she needs to talk to Sandra directly.
Reason: At the moment, Gia doesn’t even know if the rumors are true. Sometimes, emotional responses blow things way out of proportion. They need to clear the tension between them, so they can focus on the project, and how they can succeed as a team.