Problem Supervisor


I am a manager of a department. I have a supervisor who reports directly to me and she supervises 20 employees. One employee who is a foreign born national, came to me today to tell me that the supervisor treats him differently than other employees when it comes to discipline. When I asked for examples of such treatment, he as able to provide me with documentation of dates and time where he was counseled and threatened with write ups by the supervisor and others were not for the same issues.

He also said that she yells at him in front of other employees and customers and he feels embarrassed and that she sometimes makes fun of his accent.

All of the above is a recipe for an EEOC complaint and I intend to meet with the supervisor ASAP. However, I would like advice on how best to handle this meeting with her – Your suggestions would be appreciated.

Thank you, KD




Dear Frsutrated:

Hello! The goal of this first interview with the person who allegedly acted wrongly is to find out all of the situation, rather than to find out a few basics, but intend from the beginning to counsel the supervisor. There will be time for that after you do some fact finding.

One approach that helps is to interview both people and have them demonstrate what was said and done, including tone of voice, gestures, etc. It’s very difficult for most people to act it out completely differently than it happened.

Ask open questions that don’t require a yes or no. In this case I would read a portion of the complain and simply say, “What can you tell me about that?”

Often managers feel pressured to interrogate or to be clever in their questions. Your best approach is to ensure that when the interview is over, you can clearly visualize what happened.

Best wishes to you as you deal with this challenging situation.

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.