Unapproachable, Controlling Subordinate

Question:

Since I became the charge nurse of a nursing unit, I have met nothing but opposition from the secretary. She continually undermines my authority and talks about me, along with other coworkers negatively at the nurse’s station. On top of that, she is very loud. When asked to do a new task to improve the quality of patient care, she was oppositional at first, but began doing the task. Then, when an audience was around she became outright defiant; saying that the boss told her that was not her responsibility. The boss happened to be near so I pulled her in and she agreed that it was the secretary’s responsibility and told her to do it. She objected in every way possible, but finally agreed to do it. However, when asked to do it again, she pretended not to know how, even after being shown multiple times. Then, she began saying she would do it, only to do it wrong, which I believe was intentional. This led to a meeting with the director, the manager, the secretary and me where she again showed opposition, but was told she had to do it.

Recently, when discussing whether or not an employee would be coming to work after bringing in a note for being out sick for three days, the secretary insisted that person would not be there on Friday. I tried to explain to her that she would, and she yelled over me and wouldn’t let me speak. She then called the employee to ask her if she would be in on Friday and the employee said she would, so the employee reported to me that the secretary encouraged her to stay home sick on Friday. Just yesterday, we had a staff meeting with the Manager to discuss issues on the unit. The secretary became very irate and verbally attacked everything I have ever done and how I have done everything wrong. She looked like her head was going to explode. Then, she pointed at another employee and said “And You”… and went off on her.

She would not even let the manager or director speak a work. She kept speaking over them and said that I never listen. I asked if I could speak and she just kept going off. These are just a few of the examples of her behavior. After the meeting, my manager came to me, obviously upset by the whole situation and offered her support. I told the manager that I feel as though I can’t even ask this employee to do anything she is responsible for because everything I do, she misinterprets and accuses me of doing so in a “mean” way.

My boss even stated that she is a bully, which now, I realize she is. As of late, her responsibilities have decreased (because of automated systems), but now she isn’t even doing the things she is responsible for, which she blames on everyone else. It’s the weekend now, but how am I going to work with her again. I really feel she should be fired for her inappropriate behavior, bullying, insubordination, and her attempts to sabotage me (which were the director’s words).

I am not the only one who complains about her. People who come onto our unit are appalled by her tone of voice and complaining about other staff. A director of another department even asked my manager not to have this employee present when surveyors came because she didn’t want to them to see her negative attitude and rude behavior.

What do I do? If they continue to employ her, should I go HR because if they do continue to employ her, then it makes it appear to the rest of the staff that it is okay to treat someone they are subordinate to, like this? Please help.

Signed,

Want Her Fired


Answer:

Dear Want Her Fired:

This secretary should go if even half of the examples you describe have occurred. Because of her poor performance, the director, manager, and you have had to tell her what she had to do it. She responded negatively. She has behaved antagonistically in a staff meeting. And she has bullied others and you. You don’t say how long this has continued, but it seems it is past time for action. Time for tolerance of such behavior signals to your unit that such performance is ok. Those who manage your area and to whom she reports should consult with Human Resources, if advice is needed on the appropriate steps for discipline and discharging this individual. You have reported her ineffective/disruptive performance and apparently you must do so again if she is allowed to continue it. Should you go over her boss, the Director and Manager to HR? No. Your organization has a chain of command. Follow it. I don’t like to recommend from afar that anyone be fired; only those of you who have to work with a poorly performing individual can make a case for that. But that is one of the uncomfortable decisions that sometimes must be made. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS,and it appears that someone must do what it takes to make that happen.

William Gorden