Subordinates Accused Me Of Calling Them Idiots

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about name calling: told the General Manager I called them both idiots.

I am a new supervisor and called a meeting with two female employees for misbehavior…they retaliated and told the General Manager I called them both idiots because I was diabetic…all of this is completely untrue.

Signed, New Super

Dear New Super:

Well, what did you tell them? Yours is an ” I said”–“They said” story. What have you learned from this experience as a new supervisor? You can’t change what happened or prove that they are lying. What you can do is learn. From now on, you will need to be careful what you say to these women and to all whom you supervise. You will need to treat each in your charge respectfully. Avoid swearing. Document mistakes in writing (what, where, when) and follow the policy book and practice protocol for giving verbal and written reprimands.

Since you learned what these two women told your General Manager, you have gotten his advice about how to handle this particular incident. Were you completely honest with him/her?

Follow that advice. Don’t retaliate against these two women. But treat them pleasantly, and other than a pleasant hello, be sure what you say to them is work related. Apparently, you or someone has talked about other matters such as your health. That should be a private matter just as is their health a private matter. See this clash/complaint as an opportunity to clarify who does and does not do what, when and where. By that I mean you need to spell out, in line with your company policy, what are the rules to be followed. Get these clear in your own mind. Put them in writing. But rather than come across as a super-policeman who will post the rules and put anyone who breaks a rule in jail, hold off from making a big issue of those rules at this time.

Rather you might work on communication. Communication is two-way. Not telling and selling what must be done, but engaging your work group in doing what is its assigned purpose. Think of your self as a coach who wants your team to win. To do that, you don’t just drill them. As coach you have skull sessions in which you enlist their ideas about what they have been doing that deserves applause, what is to be done next, what they might do to make each others’ jobs easier and more effective, what they can do to cut wasted supplies, time and effort. And most importantly what ideas they can come up with to deliver the highest quality possible to their internal and external customers.

In short you will be asking them to take time out to talk about what it means to be a winning team and how they need to communicate to do that. I predict that if you can think coach and establish a regular time for skull short sessions that your people will begin to see them selves as a team. If that happens, they will seek your help in clarifying rules that are unclear and they will involve each other in making their team one that is responsible and respected. And you then will be surprised about how enthusiastic your people can be if they truly see you want their help in managing their work. Does this make sense?

As a new supervisor, you might find the site of my associate Workplace Doctor Tina Lewis Rowe of interest (just click her name on our home page) and study some our hundreds of Q&As posted in our Archives about how bad/weak bosses are seen and what makes for good teams. I conclude my advice with a challenge those who send questions to think about what my signature sentence might mean to them and their people: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden