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Dear Workforce How Should A Supe Handle The Perception She’s Unfair

The meeting with employees should be postponed until the origin of the problem is traced. Then she could either change the behavior or explain the reasons for any differential treatment.
October 24, 2001
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Dear Workforce:

We have a supervisor who is perceived as treating a majority of those underher in an unfair manner. What's the best way to address this: Should she seeeach employee separately to discuss the problem, or have a meeting with allemployees to address any misunderstandings/issues?

-- Quelling controversy, HR assistant, manufacturing, Newnan, Georgia.

A Dear Quelling:

Assuming that this perception has been communicated through 360-degreefeedback or some method in which the supervisor does not know whose perceptionthis is, she should not talk to employees either individually or together atfirst. Most likely, the question would sound more defensive than intended.

Instead, the supervisor first should think about what may be causing thisperception. In our coaching experience, we find that many times the supervisorhas some ideas about what the cause of the perception might be. In addition, bytrying to figure out what it may be, the supervisor becomes owner of theproblem. This is important, even when the problem is the perception of others.

If the supervisor knows what might be causing the perception, she has anumber of options. She can change the behavior, confirm it is the source of theperception, or explain the reasons for the differential treatment. If thesupervisor wants to confirm the source of the perception, she could ask forfeedback. For instance:

"I received feedback that some people believe that I treat othersunfairly. I do not know whether this is your perception, but I would like yourhelping in understanding this perception. When I give out assignments, does itseem certain people get assignments that have more exposure to higher managementthan others?"

The supervisor should wait for the response, which likely will either agreeor disagree.

If the person disagrees, the supervisor then should ask:

"If it is not that, could you give me some ideas about what might becreating this perception?"

It is critical that, when seeking clarification, the supervisor does notargue or defend herself. You are just searching for information. Decide whethera change in behavior is needed is a later decision.

SOURCE: Susan Gebelein,Executive Vice President for Personnel DecisionsInternational Corp. (PDI), May 29, 2001.

LEARN MORE: See "Managers MatterMost," tolearn how managers should take the lead in helping retain key employees.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide usefulinformation on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice ora legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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Dear Workforce Newsletter

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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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