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Step in when employees start targeting a co-worker

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Q: "One of my employees, 'Katrina,' has some performance issues which I am trying to resolve. However, some of her co-workers have apparently decided to collect their own 'evidence' against her. They record Katrina’s arrival and departure times, track how often she leaves her desk, and scrutinize her emails for grammatical errors.

“My boss and I want to stop this harassment, but our human resources manager supports the perpetrators and says they are being helpful. Even though this woman has absolutely no HR experience, we can’t challenge her because her brother is the president of our small company. What should we do?” Powerless Supervisor

A: Under normal circumstances, I would suggest that you simply direct these overzealous watchdogs to focus on their own jobs and leave the supervision to you. However, that might alienate your untrained but well-connected colleague, so try using a more procedural approach.

Work with your boss to create a detailed performance improvement plan for Katrina, including specific goals and timelines. Review this document with the HR manager and explain your monitoring strategy.

For example: “I plan to closely track Katrina’s progress and meet with her weekly to provide feedback. Since I will be evaluating her myself, I’m asking her co-workers to stop scrutinizing her activities. In addition to duplicating my efforts, this has begun to distract them from their jobs.”

Unfortunately, many small-company executives fail to comprehend that human resources work should be performed by a qualified professional. Although they would never delegate accounting or legal tasks to a complete neophyte, they happily hand over HR responsibilities to any warm body who happens to be available. When that person is a relative, the results are frequently disastrous.

Political intelligence is one of the keys to career success. Here are some helpful tips: Six Secrets of Politically Savvy People.

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