Friday, July 22, 2011

Mail Bag: Staff spreading rumors

I don't really receive any mail, but I do check the search logs to see how people arrived here.
Here's an interesting question someone recently posed to the great Google.

"i am a manager and my staff are spreading rumors, how should i handle?"

My advice depends greatly upon several factors:

1. Are you SURE?
If you have solid evidence that your staff is talking about you, you may need to take action.  If you aren't absolutely certain, do nothing until you have enough information to know for sure.  And remember, hearsay is inadmissible in a court of law, and should also be inadmissible with us, most of the time so if you only know this because one person told you, hang tight.  Someone repeating things other people say cannot be completely trusted; they may have their own agenda or be misunderstanding the situation.

2. How bad are the rumors?
Are they telling others you did something that you find morally repugnant,  illegal, career jeopardizing?  Like that you're cheating on your spouse, stealing from the company or doing illegal drugs?  If it's one of this things and you have solid evidence, you must absolutely take action.  If not, you can either roll your eyes and make light of it, thereby putting everyone on notice that you know their yaking, or rise above them and ignore it.

3. How much authority do you have?
Can you take effective action, or do you need the help of your Management and HR department?

4. Do you have a management team that trusts and respects you and your work?
You want to make certain that when you take action, you aren't jeopardizing your own position.  If this answer to this is no, set your sights on finding a new workplace.  No paycheck is worth working for people that don't trust and respect you.

5. Are the rumors true?
This is really important.  If they are true, the situation needs to be handled carefully.  With true rumors, I suggest approaching the greatest of the offenders (only if you are certain) and saying something like
"I'm coming to you because I've noticed that people pay attention when you speak and I think you can help with a small problem.  I'm concerned there are some things happening here that are distracting people from their work. The reason we are all here is to get our jobs done so we can feed our families.  Distractions from our work makes problems for us all, and I'm looking to you as a leader here to help us get back on track."

If the rumors are false, you are certain of their source, the rumors are serious enough, you have the authority and the respect of your management team you can take a much stronger stance.  Depending upon your culture I would first speak with HR and your direct manager and let them know you think this needs to be addressed.

There are two ways to approach it, one is directly and alone, the other is directly and with an HR Rep present.  If you have an office, call the person into it.  If not, use the HR office or a conference room.  Tell them calmly and in a professional matter-of-fact tone "I understand you've been telling people that I .  This is unacceptable.  We are paid to work here, not gossip about one another.  Your behavior is undermining and distracting to our business. This is your one warning that if you continue to disrupt our office in this manner, there will be serious repercussion."

I suggest doing this in your own office because it's a reminder that you are in charge. State the rumor out loud because it shows you are not afraid or ashamed, nor should you be.  The rest tells them that you won't tolerate distractions from work.  That takes this out of the realm of a personal issue between you and the offender, and shows that the offense they are committing is really against the company, not you personally.

Do this or some variation for each and every employee involved.  Have the HR person there solely as a witness, you do the talking because it's your job to see that your staff is being productive.  Treat this like any other issue that threatens that productivity.  Focus solely on the effect this has on everyone's work rather than the feelings you may be having. Work isn't about feelings. If you are certain this happened, there is no need to allow this person to speak, other than to say "I am sorry."  If they do that, accept their apology and let everyone move on.

Then if they do it again to you or anyone else, find out from HR what it takes to fire them.  Seriously.
This type of thing can cause great damage to productivity, and cannot be tolerated.

If the rumors are true, personal and not so terrible, a lighter but similar approach can be taken and HR really isn't necessary (unless the person is the untrustworthy powder-keg type, likely to try and retaliate.)  "I understand you've been gossiping about your co-workers. That's unacceptable, very uncool and not good for our workplace.  Let's focus on our work, and make this the last time we need to discuss this issue."

That's my non-expert advice.  If you have this problem, be strong and carry on.  They put you in charge for a reason and this type of thing is something you can handle through "showin' em who's boss."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Chaos and Miracles

My world has been turned inside out again this summer by dealing with a family member and addiction.

Several weeks ago on a Friday I slept in, showered and didn't look at my phone until late morning.  I was surprised and happy to see a text message from my addicted loved one with whom I'd been out of contact.  When I read the content, my heart dropped.  It was a goodbye and instructions which indicated he planned to commit suicide.  I was reading it 3 hours after it was sent.  I'm pretty good in an emergency, my heart slows and I calm myself then take action.  I live 500 miles away, so I called the family member that lives closest. No answer so I called the police.

My loved one survived a very real and determined attempt to take his own life.  After 3 weeks in hospitals dealing first with the medical repercussions, then ensuring he was no longer suicidal, he was released to my care.  Holy Shit.  How do people live like this?  What the hell was I supposed to do?

What I realized is that the hospitals, doctors, care facilities and police are not in charge when we have a family crisis like this one.  We are.  And it's terrifying.  My parents are older and neither is equipped to have a post-suicidal addict in either of their homes.  Who is?  Someone had to do something, and there was really no one else.

I was and am grateful that the universe keeps giving me the strength to manage during this crisis.  And I have to be grateful to the asshole that fired me because if I still worked for him, I wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing now without quitting my job.  I've chosen to stick with my loved one until he's in better hands - likely another rehab facility.

Since that day there have been too many miracles to count.  I call them miracles because there's no way I'm the one  making all this stuff happen.  First, a relative let us come to her house and stay indefinitely.  There's no way I could take him to my home, several states away in a neighborhood where drugs are available by just stepping out the front door.  We've been here 3+ weeks now.  She's helped with a few really difficult situations - like me discovering our loved one wasn't actually staying clean, despite our efforts to keep alcohol and other substances away.  Another relative found a wonderful woman to help guide us all through the process of getting him into treatment.

There's been a fair share of really awful stuff, too.  The day we learned he's got significant legal trouble was pretty bad.  One day filled with absolute fear he might try to hurt himself again is one I now count as the worst day yet of my life.  What got me through that was realizing just what Al-anon tells us.  You can't control this.

I had to cancel the trip of a life-time, pretty minor given the circumstances but still a bummer.  Friends are taking care of my home and pets.  I miss those cats so much, but I know they are in good hands.  I'm not really mentally able to work much with everything that's going on,  but I am getting to know some relatives better and spending time with them that would never have come to pass without this situation.  I am building my uncle a website, which he's wanted for 5 years.

So like so many others, I am on a journey that I've chosen willingly to continue, not knowing what tomorrow will bring.  I'm saying a prayer right now for each and every family that is dealing with the chaos of addiction.  Today I choose to feel hope, and will pray that others feel it, too.