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To report, or not to report: that is the question

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Question: I am the HR Director for a nursing home. I have had several complaints against one of my supervisors from his staff. I have reported a more serious incident to the Administrator and also presented a few other complaints to him. The Administrator confronted the supervisor. The staff has since reported back to me that the supervisor’s attitude has changed toward them, and it makes them uncomfortable and creates an unpleasant working environment.

They do not want me to report him again because of his behavior toward them after the last complaint. And they do not want me to confront their supervisor.

How can I help this department if they do not want me to report him?

I feel that it’s my obligation to these employees to make them feel safe in the workplace and enjoy coming to work each day.  -- Anonymous


Comments

Well, you are right. You do have a responsibility to the employees and they shouldn't feel that there is nothing that can be done about the problem. And the supervisor shouldn't be rewarded for their terroristic behavior. So, my suggestion would be to speak to whomever and let them know that the supervisor's behavior will be monitored and if there is no improvement, necessary action will be taken whether it be firing or demoting or something that will urge the supervisor of the seriousness of the situation and for them to make changes. My other concern is does this person come in contact with your patients? If so, they are the higher priority. If the supervisor treats the patients like they treat their employees, well I think that's a no-brainer.

You did not specify what type of complaints the employees were making. If they are complaints about illegal behavior, such as sexual harassment or racism, you need to report the supervisor and urge management to take immediate, decisive action, regardless of the employees request. Otherwise you run the risk of lawsuits in the future.

Your supervisor is now creating a hostile work environment. At this point, the type of original complaint (sexual harassment or racism), is relatively moot. Apparently, the administrator was not successful in handling the situation. As the HR director, you will now need to be involved *with* the administrator in addressing the problem with the supervisor with clear documentation regarding any meetings, actions, and expectations. If you just "let it go" at this point, you are opening yourself up to potential litigation.

I agree that you must do something about this. At the very least it creates a hostile work environment. Not to deal with it is a legal liability. Courts have sided with employees even when employers didn't know this type of environment existed. It was determined the employer should have known. It is something you cannot ignore.

If the behavior from the supervisor is not of an illegal behavior, then this is what I would suggest. Bring the supervisor and his employee all together in a round table session and you act as a mediator. Allow the employees to voice their concerns, encourage a non accusing tone. After all of the employees have had the opportunity to voice their concerns give the supervisor opportunity to make his comments. You should approach the meeting with the intent that there seem to be problems between the employees and the supervisor and you are bring them together to see is the issues can be resolved. It is important to allow everyone to speak, keep it as professional as possible and the employees to allow the supervisor to respond. If in the beginning the employees will not speak up, it will be your responsibility to get it started by sharing the concerns the employees have voiced. Many times this is what is necessary to get them started. I have had to do this as a last resort when I have had employees problems. It is a challenge, but the employees and supervisor need to know that if these issues are not resolved, it will be necessary to take disciplinary action. Your supervisor has a responsibility to continue to work with the employees, if he is not able to he may need to resign.

Wow, I have to disagree with anonymous' idea of having a round table discussion with the supervisor because 1) the employees will certainly not open up in front of him, and 2) it gives the supervisor the opportunity to single those out that do speak up. However, I do believe you have to step in and if possible, keep people's names out of it. A paper trail does need to be kept and it sounds like this supervisor needs to be put back on probation with consequences clearly presented.

Should the suffering employees decide to file an official complaint with the local Human Rights commission, in addition to the origianl issue (which was not included in your summary), Hostile Work Environment has been created and could also now include retaliation - whether they inform the Administrator or not. Your Administrator needs to place this Supervisor on a performance management program that includes some sort of training. Perhaps your company is a corporation that has it's own Associate Complaint Resolution or a Corporate harassment/discrimination program which would handle this situation on both ends. If not, and a complaint is filed, since the employees already informed management of the harassment, they could claim that nothing was done to correct or modify the behavior of the supervisor. As mentioned by another post, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT every action that you have been involved with during this situation. If for no other reason that to prove that you did what you could to protect these employees. Remember, they complained to you who told the Administrator. YOU could be named in any legal action they may take.

On the flip side, as an assistant supervisor I tried getting my team together with the division head to discuss the difficulties we were having with the supervisor. I was reprimanded by the division head for handling it that way, and that it was inappropriate to have an open forum like that. I thought it was a good idea at the time, as though having everyone speaking up at the same time in person would carry more weight, but apparently the senior management didn't agree. I think it might be better if the supervisor was not in the room when these things are aired. It sounds like he would be the kind of boss to single people out for whatever comments they make. I do agree however, that you need to take action quickly. Good luck.

While this is not an immediate solution to the situation, our company likes to solicit anonymous feedback for Leadership using tools like Survey Monkey. Employees are free to say things that they would be too intimidated to say in person or in a group forum. A copy of that survey becomes part of the Leader's development plan and is then monitored for improvement.

You need to let upper management know that inaction regarding complaints about the supervisor could expose the nursing home to legal action. The fact that the supervisor has changed his behavior to the point that the employees feel uncomfortable could be construed as retaliation, which is illegal. Creating a hostile workplace is also illegal. And if the supervisor was harassing the employees, that's illegal, too. Also, if you knew about this supervisor, and did not make sure that corrective action were taken, you could be sued.

I think you need to not only think about your staff but the residents of the nursing home. They tend to sense when things are not well because of "Vibes" that we (as workers) give off. This supervisor is not a very good supervisor if this is what is going on. He/she should be taken aside by not only you, but the administrator as well. If the workers continue to feel uncomfortable and this is not dealt with they may make a phone call to the State, which will prompt an unexpected visit. I think if that can be avoided it's in everyone's best interst.

Inappropriate conduct should never be tolerated at the workplace. At my company there is a system in place by our HR department for those empolyees that have questionable conduct. We have the 3 strikes you're out policy, an employee will get a written warning explaining why they are getting written up and what action they need to take in order to correct the problem. Depending on the situation the employee may be encouraged to take a specific course or class. If the problem is not corrected they will get written up again, this time with the understanding that the third write up is termination. Most people only need one warning, although I have witnessed the 3rd strike.

This will not specifically assist your current situation, but it is something you might be able to have put in place. We have two things that combat that problem. First, there is an official whistle-blower policy. Anyone who reports something serious about a supervisor is protected if the supervisor does anything to hold it against the person or people who reported them. If the supervisor retaliates, they would be suspended or fired. Second, we have 360-degree reviews. Two or three times a year, the people that the person supervises review them as a supervisor. That information is taken into account when determining compensation. It prevents a supervisor from riding roughshod over employees, since the supervisor knows those employees will be partially determining their compensation.

Speaking from experience in a Nursing Home, I have been in your shoes regarding the many "incidents" that can happen in such an environment. Your staff did the first correct step, i.e., notifying Human Resources of the incidents. Hopefully you have a policy that outlines steps available to employees who have serious complaint to air, if not, I suggest you create one and add it to your Employee Manual.
You said that the Administrator "confronted" the supervisor. Did the Administrator document what he/she said to the supervisor regarding the incidents and what was the supervisor's response? If not, ask for documentation from the Administrator.
Your next step would be inviting the supervisor for an official discussion of the effects of his behavior. It is a formal-written counseling session with you, the Administrator and the supervisor, where you ask the supervisor to give his side of the story for the record.
Whatever the explanations the supervisor gives you and you still feel that the incidents have no place in your Nursing Home, he needs to be formally counseled to immediately stop doing what he was reported doing. Secondly, he must be counseled on the effects of "retaliation" on the overall morale of his team and asked to stop it. The counseling form should state a specific follow up date (30-60 days) during which his behavior will be monitored. You will also need to include a statement that his behavior must improve or management will take more drastic steps including demotion and/or termination.
However, you and the Administrator must follow up on this and if the retaliation and/or incidents do not stop - you will need to demote him or terminate him. Remember to document every encounter, good or bad to present a fair treatment for a possible future need to contest the unemployment claim.

Speaking from experience in a Nursing Home, I have been in your shoes regarding the many "incidents" that can happen in such an environment. Your staff did the first correct step, i.e., notifying Human Resources of the incidents. Hopefully you have a policy that outlines steps available to employees who have serious complaint to air, if not, I suggest you create one and add it to your Employee Manual.
You said that the Administrator "confronted" the supervisor. Did the Administrator document what he/she said to the supervisor regarding the incidents and what was the supervisor's response? If not, ask for documentation from the Administrator.
Your next step would be inviting the supervisor for an official discussion of the effects of his behavior. It is a formal-written counseling session with you, the Administrator and the supervisor, where you ask the supervisor to give his side of the story for the record.
Whatever the explanations the supervisor gives you and you still feel that the incidents have no place in your Nursing Home, he needs to be formally counseled to immediately stop doing what he was reported doing. Secondly, he must be counseled on the effects of "retaliation" on the overall morale of his team and asked to stop it. The counseling form should state a specific follow up date (30-60 days) during which his behavior will be monitored. You will also need to include a statement that his behavior must improve or management will take more drastic steps including demotion and/or termination.

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