Annoyed When I Suggested More Training!

Question:

I work in a high stress environment which involves emergency response

In the last few months, when I have time away from the workplace, I have gotten several calls a day regarding non-emergency matters. A co-worker took extreme offense when I mentioned it in a staff meeting that I would prefer if the matter could wait until I returned to the office, to please not call me unless it was an emergency situation. I phrased it in the terms of “what training would make you more comfortable with dealing with these situations” rather than as a personal attack.

The co-worker explained that she would continue to call for any matter she sees fit, that I was expected to take care of anything within my department, although we are all cross-trained in the basics of each area. The matter was not that I was asking for others to do the work I should do, simply that if it could wait until my return, to please respect the time I had away from the office. Since then I have been the object of her fury, with several snide comments made to me and to others regarding my lack of responsibility towards my job.

My position in one that does require after office hours work, however in a stressful job environment, I do not see the harm in asking others to respect my personal time and to ask to set some parameters. Apparently, this co-worker has taken offense to the situation and now is adding to the stress in the office. Do you have any advice? I work in a very small office of 6 individuals, so avoidance is not an option. I prefer to find an option that will avoid making everyone’s work lives insufferable due to a conflict.

Signed,

Stressed and Out Of Polite Options


Answer:

Dear Stressed and Out Of Polite Options:

Thank you for sharing your concerns with us. My first thought is to wonder if your group has a supervisor–because if you do, he or she should be dealing with this conflict–or helping you deal with it–in order to maintain the effectiveness of the group.

Making suggestions to you after the fact may not be worthwhile–but it seems to me that if you have a supervisor, you could have talked to that person about your concerns before bringing it up in a staff meeting. A supervisor is the one who should be involved in a policy about at home phone calls. It is also the responsibility of a supervisor to ensure that those working have the resources and assistance to do so, so they don’t have to unnecessarily call others at home. In addition, a supervisor should be aware of employees who seem to be unable to do routine work without calling others. And, if you should have been called, a supervisor should be aware of it happening, so that he or she has knowledge of the actions and work of all employees. Use your supervisor or manager as a resource–as well as being mindful of their organizational role of oversight for groups such as yours.

It sounds as though only one of the staff has been involved in the situation that concerned you. So, is there something else going on in addition to this? Could it be that this is just one part of a larger issue that needs to be handled?

It may also be that bringing it up in a public way placed her on the defensive. And, although you were trying not to attack her personally, when you think about it, asking what training someone needs to keep them from calling you might very well be considered somewhat offensive. That’s not to say you did wrong–just to say that it was inevitable it would cause concern if discussed in a public setting.

The deed has been done now, so the issue is what to do about it from this point on. If you want to calm the conflict you have two options: The first is to ignore it and hope that over time things will calm down–because it almost certainly will. The co-worker may take time to get over the anger she apparently feels. However, if you are viewed as a reliable worker who is willing to help others out, your co-workers will likely not be affected by the remarks of one.

Or, you can talk to the co-worker involved about it and explain that you were simply trying to ensure as much relaxing time for your mind and body as possible. Ask her for her empathy and support in that effort and ask her if there is anything you can do to help her in the same situation.

She may be called as much as you are–and thus, she may feel that you are asking for more than others are able to have. If you have any statistics about that–or are aware of it generally, that would be something you would want to use to support your thoughts. If all others get calls at home, perhaps all of you should work with a manager or supervisor to develop guidelines.

Have you considered developing a written policy yourself about call-outs, so that you can forward it to someone with policy approval? You may find it an excellent way to get all employees involved–and to defuse any hostility about your actions in asking for some consideration about the subject.

What is the nature of the phone calls you’ve received? Do they fall into any specific category that you could use to discuss training needs? It may be that by volunteering to train about the problem areas you could help clear up the need for your assistance down the line.

What ARE the thoughts of other employees? They may all like to see standardization of the call-out decision-making process. See if you can involve them, so that the issue isn’t between her and you exclusively.

My last thought mirrors my first one: If you have a manager or supervisor–whether or not they are on-site–you should talk to them about the matter and express your concerns. Ask for input into a formal policy designed to limit the number of times an employee is called at home. Perhaps you can work with others–including the woman involved–to develop something that will assist everyone.

I hope these very basic thoughts trigger your own deeper and more knowledgeable thoughts on the subject. If you have time and wish to do so, please let us know how this develops.

Think WEGO. Think of making both others and your job easier.

Tina Lewis Rowe