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My new Manager has mentioned that she hates the city, and can't see a way out of debt, so she may as well go home and kill herself...
Work is driving me crazy at the minute! We have a new manager, who after 3 months in the job seems to be still very much at the start of the learning curve. She hasn't got to grips with any of our existing policy and procedures - which would be fine if she wanted to introduce her own, but she doesn't seem to have any ideas on that front either. She has moved from another city and has taken a pay cut to come her and I think she is very worried about her debt. She has mentioned to a colleague that she hates the city we live in, and she cannot see a way out of her debt, so she may as well go home and kill herself. Because she is so emotionally fragile, I really do not know how to broach the subject of her taking on her managerial responsibilities. I am her deputy, and acted as manager during the interim period before she arrived, and basically I am still covering for her.
Another problem though is her inability to make 'executive' decisions. She just authorizes everything that gets put on her desk with no regard for the fall-out. Extra holidays have been authorized (and then of course, need to be withdrawn or paid back which is causing headaches), every request to swap a shift is granted but not accounted for, which make us short-staffed one day and over-staffed the next, and worst of all, an ex-employee whom she did not even work with is tapping her for free stuff from the company. We are a box office, and are entitled to complimentary tickets for any show that is on whilst we are employed by the company. The woman who left has been keeping in touch with a few 'key' people whom she thinks will be able to wangle her free tickets for a season of shows that had not even been programmed when she left the company. It clearly states in our handbook that complimentary tickets are always ultimately at the box office manager's discretion, but unfortunately, my new manager just seems completely incapable of exercising her rights in this manner. What can I do without undermining her?
The manager you describe is apparently grieving her decision to come to a city she doesn't like and leave behind a preferred city. The lack of attention to what is going on at the office suggests that she is indeed depressed, as she has also stated.
Action needs to be taken immediately. If your company has an Human Resources department or staff person, talk to them. Tell them that your manager is making suicidal comments. Tell them that she appears to be in the midst of a personal crisis. This is not betrayal of secrets, but an intervention to save a life.
If there is no Human Resources Officer to turn to, speak with the woman's supervisor, or with another senior manager whom you trust will take this matter seriously.
You might also contact a suicide prevention hotline for information about how to intervene helpfully in such a situation. It does not hurt to know more about this issue. Years ago I had a client approach me for legal advice about an auto accident and if I had been more aware then of the signs of suicidal behaviour I might have picked up the signals and acted. As it was, to my regret, I gave him a strictly legal analysis, which was that he was in serious trouble. Shortly after meeting with me he committed suicide. I don't feel responsible for his death, but I regret not having the knowledge and the gumption to do something which could have helped.
This does not address your concerns about how the office is being run directly, but those issues are minor next to this one.
Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.
Dr. John Burton
Burton LL.B. M.B.A. M.Div. Ph.D. is an ethicist, mediator, lawyer
and theologian whose passion is helping people and organizations create
better relationships and stronger communities by being clear, committed
and collaborative in their approach to ethics and conflict. John is
currently located in Prince Rupert, B.C., Canada, working with Canada's
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