Breech of Protocol

The reader questions are rolling in lately.  Check it:

An employee not scheduled to work at the time visits the workplace. He thinks he smells a gas leak and reports it to his manager. She does nothing.  He calls the gas company himself and asks them to come and check it out. The manager gets mad and him and calls him a jackass.  The employee calls her a few names in return and then leaves.

The employee calls me (HR representative) and leaves a message stating his manager threatened him and cussed him out.  The manager visits the me the next day and documents two pages worth of events (the paragraph above is my summary).  She writes he didn't follow "protocol" as far as the suspected leak (it turned out not to be a gas leak). 

On her paperwork the manager also says he is "discharged" but doesn't say for what, exactly.  The manager then tells the me she is taking the employee off of her schedule and he will not work in her department anymore.

From the message the employee left on the my phone, it is clear he was not under the assumption that he was fired but, perhaps that he wouldn't work in her department anymore.

What do I do?

What you do kind of depends upon what your role is at the company, company policy and the precedents that have been set in the past.

Let's assume that your role as an HR rep is as a consultative "business partner".  Let's also assume that this employee works for this manager and this manager only (it sounds like he may be reporting to different business units depending upon the work that needs to be done?).  Let's also assume that your company likes to keep the risk of lawsuits low by terminating employees generally as a last resort.

The first thing I would do is call the employee back and ask him what happened.  The reason I say this is because he alluded to a "threat".  I want to know what that threat was.  Then I would tell him I would get back to him after I spoke with his manager.  

If the threat was nothing big (i.e. "I swear, I'll fire you!"), don't worry about it.  If it was something (i.e. "I'll kill you if I ever see your face again") then email me again.

Let's assume (and hope) the threat was nothing.

Call up the manager and ask her directly, "Do you want to fire this employee?"  If she says yes, ask her for a specific reason.  If her reason makes sense (i.e. this is the third time he's broken protocol in a month and he has received both verbal and written warnings) give her information on termination procedures (i.e. you need to call the employee and tell him he's fired, yo).  Then, put your feet up and call it a day.

If her reason doesn't make sense (i.e. I hate that guy!  He's such an ass!  Have you seen his new haircut?!) tell her that it sounds like she could use some assistance in communicating expectations with this employee, which you are happy to provide.  

Make it clear that while you sympathize with her over this disruptive incident, the company doesn't make rash decisions when it comes to termination.  You'll want to say it nicer, of course.  Like, "That sounds like it was a pretty crazy day for you.  Now that you've both slept on it, let's work together to make sure we're making the best business decision possible."

From there I would work with her to arrange a short meeting between her, me and the employee (if I think she needs major hand holding that is - which it sounds like she might).  Prior to meeting with the employee, the manager would need to decide if the employee's actions warrant disciplinary action.  If he did indeed break protocol, and it was a big enough deal for her to flip out the way she did, I'm guessing it's warranted.  I would counsel her on how to present the facts of the event, including her own admission of inappropriate behavior (and apology), and then the disciplinary action.

Then I would tell her to go get the employee so we could get this crap over with so I could go to lunch.

Best of luck and let us know how it turns out!

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