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Q-and-A on Employee Anger

September 1, 1998
Related Topics: Workplace Violence, Behavioral Training, Safety and Workplace Violence, Featured Article
Pamela L. Pommerenke is a professor of Human Resource Management at Michigan State University's Eli Broad Graduate School of Business. Professor Pommerenke received her Ph.D. in Organizational Theory from Stanford University's Graduate School of Business and holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Economics and Sociology. She teaches in the areas of strategic human resource management, organizational behavior, and entrepreneurship, and regularly consults with local large and small organizations. Most recently Pommerenke has been working to set up alternative work option programs within the automobile manufacturing industry. Pommerenke's current research focuses on the practical and productive use of contingent employment, virtual officing, and other alternative employment arrangements as a strategic response to internal and environmental challenges.

Conflict and resolution between the employee and supervisors... When an employee comes to HR for advice or just to vent what is the responsibility of the HR manager to communicate the problem to the supervisor, especially if the employee really just want to vent?
Human resource personnel now more than ever answer to many masters. However it is clear that above all else, the integrity of confidentiality must be maintained, in all areas of the workplace, not just within HR. If an employee conveys information to a human resource professional and has made clear they simply want to talk or receive some guidance, it is not up to the HR representative to make the call to decide to pass on the information to someone else or to intervene. Clearly an exception is if laws are being violated. But short of this, the employee needs to feel their privacy will be respected in order to facility and maintain the trust relationship which I’m sure your organization attempts to cultivate and develop.

I have a client company for which I regularly facilitate Sensitivity Training. A common concern expressed by employees is the harsh and profane language routinely used by senior management. Middle managers hesitate to speak up.
This sounds like an organizational culture issue. As we all know, it is one thing to identify an organizational culture, it’s values, norms, and assumptions. Yet it’s quite another to manage, manipulate, or attempt to change these cultures in a directive manner. And typically any attempt to change cultural norms takes a huge amount of time and effort. Short of an attempted major overhaul, you might tackle the profane language problem from the perspective of sexual harassment. Clearly certain kinds of profane language can potentially be viewed by some as a form of harassment and thus should be addressed accordingly. I would suggest trying to either integrate this specific issue into existing sexual harassment training courses or creating a targeted segment specific for senior management, or management in general.

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