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Can you teach professionalism?

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In my temp days, I was told up front what my behavior was expected to be and that not abiding that would result in my dismissal as a temp, at the least, or loss of the opportunity to become a full-time employee. Also, any dissatisfactory comments were cc'd to my temp agency by my immediate supervisor. She NEVER had to go through HR because they did not pay my wages directly, they paid the agency! The agency handled any concerns, their contract specifically stated that they were to provide a suitable person to fulfill these job requirements and to fill the position. If they could not then their contract would be eliminated.

First, step back and make sure your personal feelings & opinions are not getting involved. If she's getting her job done, and she's not hindering others from getting their job done - there might not be much for you to do. That being said - maybe some feedback to the person she reports to would be good, especially if you have specific examples to back it up. He/She may be unaware of the negative effects her behavior is causing. What isn't known, can't be solved.

I would tell this person that it is important how someone is going to remember their encounter with you - it is nice to be important, but it is important to be nice so you are not remembered for what you did to them, it should be for them. Folks have extended memories when they are mistreated and you do meet them again somewhere in the business world - even if it is just through a casual reference by someone else. You can accomplish more by treating folks with respect when you deal with them. Whatever the outcome of your situation ends up being, it will not be negatively associated with you.

Unless this individual reported to me, I would do nothing. As someone mentioned in a previous post, temporary employees' behavior problems are generally addressed by the agency. Let her supervisor or HR handle it through the agency. If her behavior is interferring with your job performance, you should definitely bring this up with her supervisor or HR.

As someone with a personality that can be abrasive at times, I think you should just sit down and have a talk with her. I too have unknowingly offended co-workers from time to time with off-color remarks and speaking without thinking. Someone once mentioned that something I did wasn't really professional and I realized that she was right. I took the initiative to take my work persona down a few notches and try to think about what I was going to say before I just blurted it out. It has been a lifestyle change but overall, it has been a positive change for all aspects of my life including outside work. Please just give her the benefit of the doubt. People like us tend not to realize what we are doing and never intend to make others uncomfortable or angry. She may just need to hear it once from someone who is considered an ally and unbiased.

I work for an organization that is very political and many people hired here are either family or friends of the higher up. We had an employee here for about 3 years that was exactly like the one you describe. She was nice, but very loud and was always calling everyone sweetie or darling, etc., things like that. Administration could hear all that because she worked right in that area, but she was never told to change her ways. She was very protected by politics. We put up with all this until she decided to move elsewhere on her own. So, if your organization plays politics, good luck, it won't get anywhere.

Unless this person's behavior directly affects your job, stay out of it. If your job is directly affected by her behavior, document everything and then have a meeting with your boss to discuss the situation. That's about all you can or should do. If it turns out that she is favored because of "politics" suck it up or get another job. And above all, don't let this person affect your job negatively.

To Kristin: I'm assuming you are this person's supervisor because if you weren't, I don't think it would be up to you to speak to her about her behavior. Have specifics when you talk to her. It is a lot more effective than addressing general rudeness. What is the "collateral damage?" She has a right to know exactly what problems she is causing if you are going to address something like personality as a work issue. Just because people don't like you, it doesn't necessarily cause a perfomance issue. But if you are driving away customers because they don't like you, then it is.

Kristin, are you her supervisor? If not then I don't feel there is a lot you can do. However, if you are, you can speak to her about the issues you have problems with. I know the employees I supervise I do a yearly evaluation and bring up such issues and also ways to make the improvements.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Stacy October 13, 2010 at 12:22 pm

As a former manager, now a worker-bee I have been exposed to the best of the best and the most obscene and shameless worst of the worst! I regret that it has made me somewhat “sensitive” to rude behavior and overall unproffessionalism. However, that being said, it by no means should negate my awareness and/or boundaries. Ignorance pertaining to rude behavior should NEVER be tolerated. Think about it everyone, if it were you acting out as this gal (and there is one blazing in my office right this second – and I work for a school district for God’s sake) is you would be hauled in to discuss your behavior/attitude before you could finish the temper tantrum you might be having. Why should anyone else get a pass? Because they have “issues”? Maybe recovering from addiction? (read between the lines regarding the blazing idiot I am referring to). How do they know whether or not YOU have issues? Meaning – why should you and/or I be penalized for displaying ethical behavior and proffessionalism?


edmonton-goddess September 12, 2009 at 11:10 am

i have this EXACT same issue with a co-worker. She creates toxic space around her and becuase of it, staff tippy-toe around trying to not upset her BUT she LOVES loves the drama. i went to the boss and said i cant do this any longer as i am the junior staff but equivilant on the org chart – i put my concerns in writing, told her we needed to talk and that i had requested a meeting with our boss to help us better work together – otherwise i was going to quit – its energy draining to listen to the **** every day – we had our meeting – she blew a gasket as expected – we semi resolved the issue by me explining i asked for mediation so there was no yelling when we talked – and agreed on some ‘ground rules’ for time outs when attitudes got in the way of work.

promptly after the meeting things continued as before and the day i went into quit – reasons in hand and in writing – i got promoted for my handling of the situation and now will have to train our whole service admin and tech workplace respect and prper work etiquette.

so sometimes its worth the risk of asking for help to better communicate.


Jocelyn October 14, 2008 at 10:33 am

Our temps still meet with HR and the employee handbook and conduct is gone over with them and they still sign agreement forms. Behavior is addressed by HR and if not improved, there are always more temps out there


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