Mom and Sis Management of Problem Employees

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about how should managers manage unacceptable behavior:

I don’t have a job but my mother is a supervisor at her job and my sister is the manager at her job. Mom always complains about their workers slacking off, being unprofessional, or being rude to them. They’ve been having the problems for months/ years. I wonder how someone in her position would deal with those problems in a professional way. Mom is a supervisor at the Department of Children and Family Services(DCFS). She has a worker who stays up all night watching movies and who frequently calls off for work or calling in because she will arrive late.

This also results in her not getting her work done at all or done on time. Mom says she’s tried to work with this lady. However, not only did this lady continue to do this, she complains to my mother’s supervisor that mom was just too hard to work for. Yet all my mother did was ask her to do her job how she’s supposed to. 

My sister is a manager at Great Clips. Most of her workers are professional and she says they engage customers in appropriate conversations. However, she has one worker that tells customers private things she does with her boyfriend in their bedroom. How would a manager/supervisor deal with workers like these in a professional manner?  Signed–Learning From Mom and Sis

Dear Learning From Mom and Sis:

Mom and Sis are fortunate to have you care about them. And you are fortunate to have them to talk with you about their world of work. Learning about their experience management informs you about what to expect when you get a job, and I assume that a part time job will be soon. Many students work part time now and getting one will be easier once Covid-19 comes under control in your area. 

Mom told you of problems with those she manages. Sis has told you about a coworker’s sexual disclosure with customers. In both cases, you wonder what should a manager/supervisor deal with employees with such problems. It’s good that you are concerned about such questions and, I suggest, you will learn more from them if you persuade them you genuinely want to learn. How? By asking them to describe what they each have done in their particular situations. Talk with them about how you want to learn as you are preparing for a career. Talk to them. Tell them they are as important, even as or more important than your university instructors. They are close to you and will appreciate your interest in their lives. Share with them what you are learning in your business, psychology and communication courses. Study what advice you can obtain from sites such as Ask the Workplace Doctors and introduce them to answers to questions about questions like their.

That advice is first to carefully describe their situations, not just in general terms but as specific instances. It’s when accurate information is made explicit that problems are understood from the employee and manager’s perspectives. It is then that what doesn’t work–what fails, is better understood. Also it is then that mom and sis think of how they might reduce uncertainty about what is acceptable. In short were the rules made clear. Just as it takes time for subordinates to learn the ropes of how to perform a job, it takes time for them to understand the rules.                                     

The second kind of advice you will see is to picture their situations as they would if they would if life were fair and if the workplace had reasonable rules for managing employees who don’t attend and are late to work and workplaces that have rules about conversations with employees whose talk might reflect badly on their work organizations. The purpose of that advice is to urge them to focus on policies their and other workplaces have evolved for managers’ communication with employees and for customers in situations as those occurring with situations like those you describe for your mom and sis.

The third kind of advice provided by Ask the Workplace Doctors is to see options possible to resolve and prevent problems managers and employees encounter. Ask the Workplace Doctors does not prescribe. Rather it guides those who submit questions to see themselves as investigators of situations and as inventors who pose possible solutions. Some of that advice entails how managers and employees might cope one-to-one. Other options are to frame situations as group problems, and yet other options are to refer matters to appropriate such sources as Human Resources.

Finally, you will see among the many Q&As, specific feel good instances that employees have submitted. The purpose of these is to encourage managers and non-managers to see the positive ways they and make the workplace function smoothly. If individuals and especially work groups focus on what creates feel good moments, what I call WEGO results. 

My answer to you about learning from and for your mom and sis is not simple. Rather it is a lesson in how to approach communication in the workplace matters. I hope you find these thoughts as lessons you will make good sense for mom and sis now and for you as you train for and get a job. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. –William Gorden