Asked To Witness A Coworker Sleeping

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being ask to witness:

I work third shift. The supervisor came in and saw a co-worker sleeping. The supervisor called me over and pointed to the worker and said she wanted me to be a witness. She then woke the co-worker up. I then left. When the co-worker woke up she said that the supervisor had told her that I witnessed her sleeping. First, was it right for her to call me over to see this and was it right for her to tell the co-worker that I was a witness?

Signed, Stuck In the Middle

Dear Stuck In the Middle:

It sounds as though things aren’t very pleasant in your workplace, even without this situation. However, before you completely blame the supervisor put most of the responsibility for this situation where it belongs, on your coworker. She was sleeping on the job, which means you may have been doing work she could have been doing. Then, after she got in trouble for it she made you feel in the wrong.

On the other hand, you don’t mention that the coworker was angry with you, so maybe she only was telling you that the supervisor said you witnessed the situation, which you did, and she was verifying that fact. She didn’t accuse you of contacting the supervisor and reporting her. Another thing to consider is that if you knew the coworker was asleep, you could have awakened her before the supervisor arrived, thus saving her from being found in that condition. Maybe you didn’t know, but I have found that often employees could help each other appropriately in that way.

Although I can understand the reasoning of the supervisor (having a witness prevents having the employee claim to not have been asleep), I don’t think asking you to witness the situation was good judgment. It ended up adding to the resentment of the employee, probably because she was even more embarrassed, and it has made you feel badly too. It seems that the correct way to handle it would have been to simply wake up the employee and take her into another area to talk to her about what happened. Maybe it would have resulted in some sort of disciplinary action and maybe just a stern reminder, but it would have been between the supervisor and the employee without bringing you into it. I hope this calms down soon. Hopefully it will be a jolt to the employee who was sleeping so she doesn’t do that again. I’m well aware of how difficult it is to stay fully awake on some shifts, but sleeping enough at home then staying busy at work can help a lot. Best wishes to you!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.