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Difficult Person(21 posts)

Difficult Personnetso
May 9, 2002 4:06 AM
I have a very difficult administrative secretary that believes in terrorizing, bullying and even stooping to lying in her efforts to get employees to do their jobs. Most are afraid of her. Most days it is even difficult for me to come to work. Do any of you have or have had this experience? If so, how did you handle it?
Confront reality.Len J
May 9, 2002 4:23 AM
Does she know what behavior is acceptable & what isn't?
Does she know the consequences of continuing to behave this way?
Does she recognize that she does this?

If not, then how do you expect her to change?

time for that talkterry b
May 9, 2002 5:21 AM
You must sit her down and tell her that her behavior is making her ineffective and that ineffective people are of no use to the organization. In my experience it's best not to give lots of specific examples, because people often like to pick away at the examples as a way to divert the conversation. If it was me (and I've done lots of these) I'd say, "I observe you doing these things and they have a bad effect on the people around you. You must change those behaviors if you want to be successful here." Don't quote others, don't tell her someone complained, make it a problem between the two of you and focus on the behaviors.
re: Difficult Personnetso
May 9, 2002 6:19 AM
Your comments are apropo. I have got to admit that even though she works for me, I try to stay away from her. She is the most hateful person I have ever met. I have agonized on how to handle this situation because in the private world I would just fire her, in the government world you have to deal with the situation. I therefore have to bite the bullet and confront the situation.
what about HR?DougSloan
May 9, 2002 6:24 AM
Is there an HR person there? If so, I'd arrange a meeting with the three of you and discuss it. Make it clear that it is unacceptable behavior, that it will be noted in her personnel file (and have her sign off that she acknowledges it), and require her to tell you what she plans to do about it and by when. Then, hold her to it.
what about HR?netso
May 9, 2002 6:29 AM
This is a very good idea!
sometimes yes, sometimes noterry b
May 9, 2002 7:35 AM
I've had it both ways, sometimes HR helps and sometimes HR opens an entirely bigger can of worms by trying to "help." They will often start by trying to determine if it's a problem between the two of you and not a problem with the person you're trying to adjust (as you've described it.)When we get these things in my department (I manage 10 people directly and 200 through them), I generally ask that it be dealt with 1 on 1 before we drag HR into it. Of course, it never hurts to ask an HR opinion - describe the situation and ask how to proceed, before wading in. However, if you worked for me, and she worked for you, I'd be asking you to get after it ASAP and not involve an uninformed 3rd party.
CYA.Sintesi at home
May 9, 2002 8:06 AM
Complain to your boss. Have specific examples and get corraboration from your colleagues. Keep track of the lying and bullying i.e. when, where, what etc...

If you sit down and complain with her in the room without this backup she'll just deny and probably accuse you of some transgression to cover her butt.

Basically, convey to your superiors and HR the situation prior to confrontation so they are prepped on the realities in your office. Actually they might surprise you in how much they acknowledge the problems with this person.

If she is making your life miserable you have to act.
yes, and added to thatlonefrontranger
May 9, 2002 9:24 AM
DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!!! I mean everything, no matter how trite you think it is. If you don't have backup it will sure come back to bite you in the ass if this person winds up fired or "downsized" and sues for discrimination. I've known several horrible workers who kept their jobs from the sheer fact they had the management so buffaloed this way. E-mail yourself documentation if you have to.

netso, I've been an admin for quite a while. This kind of person not only causes problems for the boss and the dept. but also alienates themselves from the "secretarial pool" as it were; this seriously hinders productivity IMO - I guarantee that if she's a bitch, she's been closed out of the loop and won't be able to go anywhere to ask for help or farm stuff out when she's in the weeds.

I agree that I wouldn't necessarily get HR involved on the first confrontation. You need to document the discussion and *copy* everything to HR tho, all the way through the process.

Make sure you've thought everything out beforehand and have a clear "battle plan" going into the initial meeting; heck use crib notes if you have to. Otherwise, IME with this type of operator they will turn everything back on how much everyone ELSE p155es them off, and you never manage to get your point across. Don't let it degenerate into a bitch-fest no matter how mad you get or how defensive she is.

You must, MUST confront this issue. Merely leaving it to fester is causing no end of disconnect within the team, dept, etcetera. And it sounds like you can't use your admin effectively because you hesitate to even deal with her. This is a MAJOR productivity killer, don't have to tell you this, I'm sure you already know.

For myself, I won't even accept a job where I feel like I won't be able to work in a friendly, communicative and open way with my manager. Yes, I can be a "bulldog" when it matters, but a really nice, polite bulldog who smiles and asks please even as my teeth are bared and I'm growling within. Being known as hell on roller skates gets nothing accomplished; just work with shop floor guys in a union environment, you'll know what I mean. As Doug posted below, attitude is the best part of everything.
yes, and added to thatnetso
May 9, 2002 9:43 AM
Sometimes its not what she said, but how she said it. An example she told my Garage Foreman yesterday " What are you stupid, what have you been doing all day?" I have received numerous complaints on this person. Everyone is afraid to ask her a question for fear that they will be chastised. I have to do something about this situation. Unfortunately, she is a 15 year government employee, which requires delicate handling. Documentation is a good idea.
given that added tidbitterry b
May 9, 2002 9:47 AM
If she really said that, then you do need to document and you do need to give examples like that. Around here, we have a set of guidelines called "creating a harassing work environment" and asking someone if they're "stupid or what" clearly falls into that category. If she was in my dept., we'd be looking at a permanent written warning. Don't you have a progressive discipline process?
I just lived through thisjtolleson
May 9, 2002 9:42 AM
A very similar personality type, who I shared with another more senior (corner office type) lawyer. Obviously, I was treated like low person on the totem pole.

Ultimately, I went to the powers that be, who issued her a slight correction. I mean slight. An email. Well, to a woman who had relied on having power and instilling fear, this push back was too much. She was not to be questioned. So imagine my surprise when she just grabbed her purse and WALKED!

And then all the people who had cowered for years and never called her on any of her crap started singing "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead."

So, I don't know how this helps you but if she knows that you may shine a bright light on her BS, then two things can happen 1) other grateful co-workers will rally to the cause; and 2) she may decide her power days are over and to quit.

Good luck.
re: Difficult Personrideslikeagirl
May 9, 2002 10:07 AM
Wow - that's a tough one. Especially if you're the boss and feel like your hands are tied - or at least stuffed into kid gloves.

I would get HR involved, but not with her. It sounds like you need some guidance from them. They may be able to suggest an appropriate approach for you to take.

Good luck - sounds horrible.
re: Difficult Personjrm
May 9, 2002 10:38 AM
Sit her down and say "ive observed your having a hard time at work and its effecting your work and your relations with others. is something wrong? She may not even be aware of her behavior and its affects.

her problem could not even be work related. Also if others are afraid of her they will single her out and lewt her stumble or fall on her own. She may not see this as the final outcome of her behavior.
re: Difficult Personnetso
May 9, 2002 10:45 AM
1. Her title is Assistant to the Director (me), which unfortunately she interprets as Assistant Director.
2. She did not have any authority prior to this position.
3. She is not an attractive lady, she is heavy and facially unattractive. Therefore, its not beauty that has caused this problem. Males definitely are not hiiting on her.
4. She is married, but her husband is gone 90% of the time.
Is this her problem?
She definitely is a problem at work. We do have a progressive discipline, but people are afraid to initiate this process. I may have to do this myself.
Shouldn't you be the one to do it?rideslikeagirl
May 9, 2002 11:50 AM
It sounds like she reports directly to you.

Are other people really afraid to take action, or are they waiting for you because they don't have the authority?

I've worked for people that were unwilling, for whatever reason, to discipline my co workers - and it's frustrating as hell.
Shouldn't you be the one to do it?netso
May 10, 2002 2:49 AM
The employees have been unwilling, even though I found out that she had a previous personnel harassment charge on her file. But, you are right, the ball is in my court!
Tough situation. Best of luck! nmrideslikeagirl
May 10, 2002 7:46 AM
then get on itColnagoFE
May 14, 2002 9:43 AM
Doesn't sound like things are going to get better on their own so get some nerve up and take care of the situation. That's why they made you the director.
re: Difficult Personweiwentg
May 11, 2002 6:58 PM
talk to her ASAP, and start out with a mild punishment (e.g. an informal admonishment). it's important for her to know that you take her actions seriously. it's also important that you don't sanction her too harshly. it's a psych thing.
of course, this goes out the window somewhat if it's a personal problem of hers.
re: Difficult PersonCarbon fiber fanatik
May 10, 2002 7:24 PM
i'm going through that right now with a co-worker. I posted something about it on another forum. Today he made a lot of nasty comments regarding preference due to riding a bike and well as being bi cuz i love road and mountain biking... Today, had its high points.. i got a raise and he is getting canned soon. Best way to handle it? It's a job, you are done at five, then go ride....