Whining is a warning of a more serious problem
Let’s face it. Most change isn’t part of a grand strategic plan.
It occurs every time you make new hire.
Of course, we try to hire folks who’ll fit in and make us better. But sometimes a single person alters the group chemistry in a way that hurts the operation.
And it’s not always the new hire who is the culprit. That’s the situation manager Carol Kane found herself in when members of her staff had trouble accepting the new hire.
She’s different, but talented
“So, how’s Jan, your new employee, doing?” said fellow manager Rick Colton as he plopped down in a side chair.
“Well, she’s a bit of an odd duck,” said Carol, “but her work has been terrific. She’s really hit the ground running.”
“Why do you ask?”
“I overheard Susan and Mel sniping about her at lunch today,” Rick said.
“Guess my two star employees are feeling a little professional jealousy,” Carol said.
“Could be, but their comments weren’t very professional,” Rick said. “And they ran the gamut.”
“Like what?” asked Carol.
“Well, they started out making fun of the clothes she wears. Particularly a fuzzy blue sweater,” Rick said.
Is she a fraud or just good?
“I have to admit, her sense of style is on the eccentric side,” said Carol. “And that sweater does vaguely resemble a dust bunny.”
“They think she’s a fraud because she talks to customers with this sugary, syrupy happy voice,” Rick said.
“Well, I hate to break it to Susan and Mel, but that’s how she really talks,” Carol said.
“And, of course, they said she spends too much time sucking up to you,” Rick said.
The big question
Carol noticed that Susan and Mel had given Jan a chilly reception, but she assumed they would eventually accept Jan – and her eccentricities.
After all, Jan was doing good work and you didn’t have to “like” everyone you worked with, just respect them.
The fact that Susan and Mel were making comments others could hear, however, was a problem.
Carol thought she probably needed to act. She got herself a cup of coffee as she mulled her options.
If you were in Carol’s situation, what would you do? One of the ideas below offered by our readers might provide you with some guidance.
1) Make gossip tantamount to harassment
I’d do some investigating. Chances are, if my fellow manager overheard their remarks, others did, too. So, I’d go find that out. Once I’d gathered all my facts, I’d write up each of them as if I were dealing with a harassment case and meet with them individually. I’d tell them I heard about the remarks they made concerning the new hire and that gossip wouldn’t be tolerated. I’d explain I was writing them up and why. We’d go through the paperwork, and then I’d get them to sign and date it. Gossip creates a hostile work environment, so it must be nipped in the bud.
Liz Henson, VP/Human Resources, CL Boyd Company, Inc., Oklahoma City, OK
2) Address the employees individually to stop the behavior
If I were in Carol’s shoes, I’d meet with my employees individually, I’d tell them I was made aware of their derogatory conversation about the new employee I hired and suggest they keep their personal opinions to themselves. I’d also stress that in a place of business they’re paid to do their jobs, not to stand around and gossip about people. Then I’d bring up the topic of gossiping in my next monthly meeting – without naming names, of course. I’d stress the importance of teamwork, which won’t occur if workers are talking about each other behind their backs.
Chris Jepson, Manager, International Electric Services, Inc., Riverton WY