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Employee gossip

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Question: I am the supervisor for our Clerical Department. One of our team members (let's call her Erica) is well-liked and energetic. However, she has become very friendly, personally and professionally, with one of the senior administrative assistants.

I have asked Erica repeatedly to check in with me first thing in the morning so that we can discuss “hot” items. Instead, she reports directly to the senior AA.  I know there is a lot of gossip being exchanged between the two of them.

This situation has divided my department because, quite frankly, no one trusts her. I think Erica does not respect my authority because she knows she is close to the ear of the senior AA and she uses that as a shield. I feel that my position is being undermined by Erica and the senior AA.

Do I have any recourse?  -- Stumped in Seattle


Since you obviously have already spoken with Erica, I would proceed to discuss the issue with the AA. Let her/him know the "relationship" is not only undermining your authority, but also causing discourse within your team. I am sure the AA would not want to be the "cause" of a team "falling apart".

If this did not work, then I would speak with your H.R. Person for direction or the next level up, depending on the "pecking order" at your company.

First, a point of clarification do you also supervise the Senior AA? If not, you may want to enlist the assistance of their supervisor, delicately. As to 'Erica', as much as the work force has become a collaborative - read touchy feely, environment you are the supervisor and as such need to reinforce the systems. Asking her to report to you each morning to discuss 'hot' items is not unreasonable. However I suggest that you in a nice way 'mandate' the meeting by setting a definite time, location and have a prepared agenda or task list ready for the meeting.

Also, you may want to review your companys policy on office relationships and discuss clarifications and ramifications with your HR department.

I would remind you that as a supervisor, you are entitled to conduct performance reviews with any member of your staff at any time, as long as the situation is warranted. If the 'friendly personal' relationship is affected Erica's performance or her actions perceived or otherwise are affected the team then you or you and HR need to make her aware of the concerns and develop a plan to address the situation - don't forget the Senior AA in the equation.

If you provided her with a "handbook" of her job duties and it lists that she is to check in with you everyday, then remind her that it is her job to do so, and that if she continues to go around you, she will be written up.
Set a limit to how many times you will write her up before you will fire her. Make sure she is aware of that.
Now, that is what I would do if this is really a huge deal. If it isn't, I would say, pick your battles, forget about gossip because it is unproductive and move on. She will at some point "hang" herself.
Good luck!

You might be making an issue out of nothing. Maybe you and others on your team need to focus on the job and not on the friendship of two women. Could it be that she is not undermining your authority but more that you are threatened by her and this relationship?
I am a women in a Exec Admin position and I know how other Admins and clerical workers talk if one of them builds a relationship/friendship with someone at a "higher level".
You stated you wanted her to check with you first in the morning to go over "hot" items, do you require this of all the AA's on your team? Maybe you should make it a morning "team" meeting and set a time with an agenda for all to participate.
Don't get yourself too worked up over this relationship because it may end up making you look like a "jealous" supervisor. Instead look for positive ways to deal with it. You said she was "well liked and energetic" focus on that, give her more responsibility. That way if she can not handle the responsibility or if she betrays something that is confidential you can document it and have a legitimate complaint.
Just remember everyone is entitled to have friendships in the work place. Without real evidence of wrong doing because of the relationship you can not discipline her.
Hang in there because if she really is using the relationship to undermine you it will show through to others in time.

Don't act too quickly. I agree with the previous comment, you maybe making more of this than necessary. What's wrong with her developing a relationship with the Senior AA? Ask yourself if your problem with this is personal or professional? How do you know that they are gossiping? Has someone told you this? If so, then you're guilty of participating in gossip too.If they are, is it affecting her work or damaging others, if not what's the problem? You can't dictate who befriends whom in the workplace. Be honest with yourself, is the real problem that she has befriended someone who is a higher rank than you? If so, then that's her right to network with the right people to get where she wants to be. The only issue I see is that she isn't meeting with you. Have you made it clear that this is to happen daily? Be specific tell her that what time she should be in your office to discuss hot issues, I agree having an agenda is a good idea. Also, if you can, add it to her calendar so she'll recognize the importance of being there otherwise unless you have solid proof that she's gossiping and that it shomehow is negatively affecting the team, you just need to leave this alone. She can interrupt this as a personal attack on her and you might find yourself in the hot seat.

I completely understand you, and it is an awefully uncomfortable experience. I believe that extended friendly relationships in a professional enviroment should be kept outside the office. Unfortunately this type of relationships definitely leave room for misinterpretation, and are not very productive for either parties. Unless they work together and need to constantly be in sink with each others work, then I can see them meeting so often or every morning. In my view this admin needs more work. she obviously has plenty of time to socialize during working hours. I believe you should speak to this AA and her report to make them aware of the impact this is causing your team. they may not even be aware that they are making it so obvious! ;) good luck

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