A workplace question: Should I go to HR about my manager,
who treats me in an unfair way and recently asked a contractor
if she wanted to complain about me, in violations of the rules?
I work for a large company and recently we hired a new manager, Ed. Increasingly, I am noticing unfair treatment. Example: For 1-on-1 meetings, Ed asks me to arrive by 6am (none of my colleagues are at work at this hour). He asked me to send him a meeting request for a major project and then he did not reply. The latest example is that he brought to my attention that a person in my work area told him that they noticed a contractor crying and attributed it to me. He asked if I knew anything about it. I replied no. I asked for details but he said he had none.
He then told me that he asked the contractor if she wanted to raise a complaint! First, this never occurred and the person who reported it didn’t witness anything. Secondly, contractors raise any issues to their staffing agency by our company policy and not to our company’s manager. He said that he just wants people to be well treated.
I am now wondering what I should do. Do I discuss with HR? I also think that the contractor is being a bit manipulative as I have observed her chatting people up and jumping in on a colleague’s work without being asked. This is the same manager who said he hasn’t replied to my emails/meeting requests because he is busy, but he has time to meet with a temporary employee. At the same meeting, he told me that I should have no concerns about my job security as he ‘has heard nothing bad’.
Hello and thank you for your question. It sounds as though you and your manager are not getting along at all! It also sounds as though he has used poor judgment about several issues—especially the one-on-one meetings and his lack of responses to your email requesting a meeting about a big project. That does sound unfair. Add to that, this situation where you don’t feel good about the contract employee and a coworker of yours is aware of it and thinks you would—and did—do something to make the contractor cry. The coworker tells the manager, who asks the contract employee about it, then asks you about it. There must be quite a bit of conflict or at least discontent and a lack of harmony in your workplace for all of that to be going on.
Regarding your question of whether or not you should go to HR about the issue of your boss being unfair, you would know your company best, as far as culture and what the reaction would be about going to HR. Weigh that against what you could accomplish. I think you would be better off waiting for a bit to see if something significant happens that has an impact on your ability to do your work.
The only thing HR might be concerned about would be the issue of Ed asking you to have a one-on-one meeting when no other employees are present. I don’t think you should agree to do that again, if that is before your regular work time and there are no others around. That seems like a poor decision on the part of your manager, to even suggest it.
You may be thinking that you could complain that is was unfair for your manager to solicit a complaint from the contractor, but I don’t think HR would find that he did anything wrong, or at least nothing to merit more than a casual warning. You don’t know what your manager actually said or suggested. He might have told the contractor, after asking her if she had a complaint, that if she did, she should go to her staffing agency and he would investigate it in the office. (At least that is what he could say.)
If he had what he considered credible information to make him think you and the contractor had an emotional exchange of words or that you said or did something that was hurtful, he was right to not wait to find out if she went to her staffing agency about it. And, as I pointed out, he apparently didn’t tell her he would take her complaint, he only asked her if she wanted to make one. To whom, isn’t clear. It doesn’t sound as though she made one.
I think HR would tell your manager to be mindful of the contractor situation and that would be the end of it. Worse, they might contact the staffing agency, ask if a complaint had been made, and stir it up there. It just doesn’t seem to me that HR will do much good at this point, and may cause you problems. As I said though, you certainly know your full situation best.
I think you are at a decision point in your work relationships. The manager probably will not be leaving any time soon, unless he does something very wrong. You think he is treating you in an unfair way and he may be. However, if you want to stay there, and I assume you do, you will probably have to find a way to make peace with him and learn to work within his preferences for an employee or make peace with yourself about tolerating him. Those decisions may need to be made about several others you are frustrated about as well.
Your manager said you should have no concerns about your job security because he has heard nothing bad. That isn’t exactly a wildly supportive statement! I’m hoping that as time goes on, he will be able to say, “You certainly should have no concerns about your job security, because I don’t know what we’d do without you! You’re the one person who everyone gets along with and who always has a smile. Don’t even suggest leaving!” (He may never be that effusive, but hopefully he’ll be closer to that than he is now.)
The time may come when something occurs that HR would view as a serious managerial violation. When that happens, if it involves you, you should write up all of the details and let HR know about it. If that doesn’t occur, you will probably find it easiest to put your focus on your work, be courteous and pleasant to everyone and look for things that you can like about your manager—or work to put a Teflon wrap around yourself and let the frustrations of work roll off you, until you can go home and relax.
Best wishes to you as you deal with this. If you find a solution or if something dramatic happens, please let us know. Not only are we interested, we also may benefit from hearing how this was resolved or not resolved, so we can share some insights with others.