Q: Since becoming the office manager for a large medical practice, I have received numerous complaints about one member of my staff. Several people have told me that "Tricia," our front desk supervisor, frequently makes harsh and demeaning comments to employees and even speaks sharply to patients.
Tricia has worked in the office longer than anyone else, so she is extremely knowledgeable about policies and procedures. Nevertheless, I'm beginning to think she's a liability, because everyone seems to walk on eggshells around her. How can I tactfully suggest to Tricia that she needs to improve her working relationships?
A: Telling a friend that her outfit is unflattering requires tact, but telling a rogue supervisor that she is out of line requires candor and conviction. As Tricia's boss, you have both the right and the obligation to ensure that she exhibits appropriate professional behavior at work.
Based on the recent deluge of complaints, your predecessor apparently abdicated all managerial responsibility and allowed Tricia to do whatever she pleased. Now that this wimpy manager has departed, Tricia's colleagues are obviously hoping you will be the one who finally holds her accountable.
To make an impact, new managers must initiate change fairly soon after they arrive, so you need to address this performance issue quickly. If you continue to tolerate Tricia's abominable conduct, she will reasonably conclude that you approve.
As soon as possible, therefore, you must firmly advise Tricia that rude and insulting remarks are simply not acceptable. From now on, she is expected to be courteous and respectful during all workplace interactions. If you find that she is unable to make this shift, then there is no place for her in a medical practice.
Q: I am tired of covering for a colleague who misses work because he fails to follow doctor's orders. Despite being a diabetic with serious medical problems, "Rodney" eats junk food, drinks sugary beverages and never exercises. He regularly calls in sick, saying that he is supposed to be on bed rest.
Because Rodney is a salaried employee with unlimited sick leave, he is sometimes gone for weeks at a time. The rest of us are expected to take up the slack and complete his work. Shouldn't our employer do something about this?
A: Unless this is a very small business, your employer's options are probably limited by the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Family & Medical Leave Act. If management believes Rodney is taking advantage of his circumstances, it should consult an attorney specializing in employment law about the best way to proceed.
But if Rodney's absences are legitimate and expected to continue, then management needs a better plan for handling his work. You and your colleagues should not be expected to shoulder this extra burden indefinitely.
From an administrative standpoint, the company should also consider revising the current absence policy. Giving salaried employees unlimited sick leave is not a wise business practice. This overly generous benefit not only invites abuse, but also creates resentment when hourly employees are more tightly controlled.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics." Send in questions and get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter @officecoach