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Dear Workforce How Do We Deal With A Director Creating Stress

Hold individual and joint meetings to determine the issue. If necessary, offer to pay for any recommended stress-related or behavioral counseling.
November 28, 2001
Related Topics: Stress Management, Dear Workforce

Dear Workforce:

A director in our organization is under scrutiny and is aware his positionmay be terminated soon. He now is creating a stressful environment for anemployee under his supervision, saying the employee will inherit his job. Howshould this be handled?

- Beleaguered HR Manager, Health care, Altoona, Pennsylvania.

A Dear Beleaguered:

Here are three critical steps HR needs to quickly address:

  1. Meet with employee. Get the employee's permission to confront the directorwith his alleged statements to the employee. Assure the employee that HR willnot tolerate any further threats or reprisals -- subtle or otherwise. Alsomention an employee assistance program (EAP) or counseling option for theemployee. (If your company doesn't have an EAP, offer to pick up short-termstress counseling costs for the employee.)

  2. Meet with director. Have a one-on-one with the director who is becoming a"stress carrier" (I'll bet he's carrying stress for more than oneemployee, probably by he trying to enlist allies to his cause). Assess how thedirector handles the employee's claims of verbal harassment. Does he deny makingthe alleged statements, or does he get defensive? Does he acknowledge anydisruptive behavior? Ask the director if he is under any stress at work or athome that might be affecting his work/managerial performance. (Obviously, if heis under scrutiny, that is a stress factor. Can the director understand that theissue is not whether this or any other employee might get his job; the issue iswhether the director is performing in a professional and productive manner.) Askif he considered speaking with an EAP counselor or outside therapist. I wouldgive him a firm recommendation (and again cover the cost).

    Firmly remind him that this kind of behavior, whether he acknowledges theproblem or not, is unprofessional and unacceptable and will lead to disciplinaryaction.

  3. Hold joint meeting. Set up a meeting with HR and the conflicted parties.If needed, bring in a mediation expert to facilitate the exchange. Let bothparties present their stories. If a negotiated understanding can be reached,allow the parties to continue. Build in a follow-up in a week to 10 days to sehow each side is doing. Also, let both parties know that either one can call onHR or schedule an individual appointment with HR or the mediator, if needed.

If an agreement cannot be reached or if conflict flares, I would transfer theemployee until a final dispensation of the director's status. If you believe thedirector is still engaging in problematic behavior, quickly remove him from hismanagerial position. Tolerating such dysfunctional behavior serves only toundermine the credibility of both HR and upper management in the eyes of allemployees. TLC -- tender loving criticism and tough loving care -- helps all.Remember to "practice safe stress."

SOURCE: Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" and America Online's"Online Psychohumorist," Washington, D.C., July 13, 2001.

LEARN MORE: See "A Stress Survival Guide for HR Professionals"

The information contained in thisarticle is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, butshould not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember thatstate laws may differ from the federal law.

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Dear Workforce Newsletter


 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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