We Work With A Rat!

Question:

I work at a nursing home in Recreational Therapy. I am considered an aid, and the department head is my supervisor. Above her is the Administrator. In our department there are several aids including one who is very manipulative and underhanded. She from the very beginning decided that she liked to do things independently from the group. Unfortunately, in our field teamwork is required. Over the past year or so this particular co-worker has cozied up to the administrator to the point of dating his brother at one time. When this co-worker doesn’t get her way from our supervisor she immediately that day goes to the administrator to plead her case. She gets her way, and in the process, undermines our department head, whom the rest of us greatly respect. She has so skillfully manipulated her way into the administrator’s good graces that she has made the entire department nervous to the point that we consider her the office rat.

We all feel very uncomfortable around her and feel she is a compulsive liar as she has obviously fabricated many stories including an injury which put much stress on our department while she was out on workers comp. This co-worker was witnessed in a mall pushing a baby stroller a Sunday afternoon prior to the Monday she filed a work related injury that occurred the previous week. This was mentioned to the administrator, but he brushed it off. He could not believe this person would lie. It is so complicated and stressful. I hope that you can give some sort of advice on how to manage this. Also, just a FYI, the head of HR is the administrator’s mother. Thank you.

Signed,

Recreation Therapy Aide


Answer:

Dear Recreation Therapy Aide:

Unfortunately there is no easy answer to your problem. I can suggest, however, some solutions/procedures that you might pursue.

You need to first make sure that the problem is as serious as you now think it is. This proof should take the form of documentation. Do other peers feel as you do? If so, design a documentation form and summarize observed behaviors on it by date, time, and incident. Include witnesses who also observe the behavior. Collaborate with your peers in keeping this document. Do not go it alone. After a period of about 14 days, compile this data with them. Is it extensive enough to build a case against this employee? If so, present it to your immediate supervisor, and determine with this individual who else should review it. Do not go over your supervisor’s head without his/her knowledge/approval.

In addition, it is possible that the employee in question and the administrator in charge are creating a hostile work environment. Study your employee policy manual carefully to determine your company’s definition of this entity, the procedure for resolving it, and associated policies. If you can establish that policy is being violated, then you can invoke the resolution procedure. (This procedure might be detailed under the heading Grievances). I do not advise you to go it alone with this procedure either. Collaborate with your co-workers and possibly your supervisor.

One resource that is often overlooked is your local Labor Department funded in part by the Federal Government. Set up an appointment with a counselor there and seek their advice. This individual might intercede on your behalf, especially if fraud has been committed in the dispensing of workman comp funds.

Your workman’s comp insurer is another resource that might be considered. Contact them and relay the incident you describe at the shopping center. This action might trigger an investigation that will get the attention of the administrator if all else fails. A responsible and professionally astute administrator would have invoked this tactic from the beginning. This action would have sent a definite message to all parties concerned and taken the decision out of his/her hands.

The responsibility for the resolution of the problem rests with your supervisor. It is this person’s responsibility to assess, confirm, and formulate action relative to the problem. If their hands are tied due the family situation in the workplace, they will probably appreciate your collaboration in dealing with the administrator’s lack of response.

Of course, a simple chat over coffee with the problem worker and your collaborators might convince the worker that she is a problem. If you choose to do so, share your documentation with her and in direct terms indicate to her that unless she joins the team and pulls her weight professionally, you are taking your case to a higher level. Strength in numbers might serve you well here.

Good luck and let us know how things go. You have little choice other than direct confrontation. Decide whom to confront and proceed with confidence. You might share this advice along the way if you experience resistance from supervision, administration, or your human resources department. Indicate to any of these individuals that you are merely following professional advice in hopes of improving the work place environment.

Barry Hester, Guest Respondent with administrator experience The Workplace Doctors Working together cooperatively is earned by courage–WEGO is earned.

William Gorden