Q: One of my coworkers feels like she was mistreated by a manager and has been talking to the rest of us about it for more than a week. I kept telling her to go to the manager and talk to him about it, but it seems like she’d rather keep complaining to us. How should we handle this?”
A: Generally speaking, any time a person feels that she’s been mistreated by a manager or coworker she should start by talking to that individual. This may be uncomfortable, but in many cases the other person doesn’t even realize what he/she said was hurtful or discriminatory.
The goal in taking this initiative is to deter- mine whether the comment was meant to be hurtful or simply a misunderstanding. Some people need to be told that what they said was inappropriate and to think through better ways to express themselves.
If a person feels insulted by a comment, it’s ineffective to avoid the other person — and then go around to coworkers to get them worked up about it as well. By the time the issue gets back to the original offender, most of the facts related to what really happened have been lost, sides are often drawn and the entire event gets blown out of proportion. At this point it is difficult to reach a conclusion and the harm done could be nearly impossible to repair.
Many companies now have a process for filing a grievance that includes a procedure for all employees and managers to follow so that the situation can be resolved fairly and in a timely manner. If your company has such a protocol, encourage your coworker to follow those steps. If not, encourage her to talk to the manager, quit stirring up other employees, and try to resolve the issue face-to-face.
Editor’s note: For a sample grievance policy and procedure, e-mail email@example.com.
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