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Dina Beach Lynch, is an Ombudsman, Author and former attorney. An award-winning mediator, Dina served as the Corporate Ombudsman for the 7th largest bank in the US helping over 48,000 employees to resolve workplace issues.
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Dr. Marty Seldman is one of America's most experienced executive coaches. His 35-year career includes expertise in executive coaching, group dynamics, cross-cultural studies, clinical psychology, and training.
Arnie Herz, is a lawyer, mediator, speaker, author and consultant nationally recognized for his practical and inspired approach to conflict resolution and client counseling.
Dr. John Burton LL.B. M.B.A. M.Div. Ph.D. is an ethicist, mediator, lawyer and theologian. John is currently located in Prince Rupert, B.C., Canada, working with Canada's aboriginal communities.
One afternoon, I smelled marijuana on him... Needless to say, after doing most of the work to find out he’s coming in high... I got mad.
I would sincerely appreciate any advice from anyone, on my current situation. I will try to be succinct, but a great deal has happened.
I am a 54-year-old graphic artist employed by a large, long-standing and respectable newspaper group. I work in the advertising department, which consists of teams. We generally have two artists and three sales representatives per team. This system actually works very good, but it has one major flaw. The sales reps hand-in their material and it’s up to the artists to complete the ads in a timely fashion. (As a newspaper we have very tight deadlines.) Management does not assign each task to an artist, so no one is ultimately accountable for completing the work. And there’s a lot of it! Consequently, the system is ripe for deceit.
For two years I have worked with a 31-year-old guy who takes full advantage of this system. He repeatedly arrives late in the mornings, takes long lunches, has numerous long cigarette breaks, spends much of his time away from his desk talking with other employees, uses many excuses (computer problems, printer problems, etc.) for not completing ads, makes lots of mistakes and stays on the phone with personal problems...the list goes on and on.
About every three months or so I complain to management. We have a meeting, the issues are discussed and this guy straightens up for a while. I have tried to explain to management that we wouldn’t have these problems...if tasks were assigned. Then each artist would be responsible for their own workload. Management claims it’s not necessary. I have also asked repeatedly for a different co-worker.
This guy has made lots of friends at work. In fact my two immediate supervisors think he can do no wrong - the “halo effect.” He also loves to gossip - especially about me. He has told my supervisors and many of my co-workers that I’m out to get him fired. Which I’m not! I just want him to do his job.
I might also add that two of the sales reps within our team are close friends. Naturally, we all talk amongst ourselves, sometimes on the phone at night or a lunch. Sometimes due to this artist’s behavior, both of these sales reps have quipped, “is he on drugs, or what?” All of us have long suspected that he comes to work stoned. And one sales rep has even been to his home and watched him get high.
Now comes the real problem. One afternoon three weeks ago, I smelled marijuana on him. Very quietly I told him and he admitted that he had been smoking. Needless to say, after doing the majority of the work for so long and then to find out he’s coming in high...I got mad. In turn because of my frustration and anger, I wrote him a scathing memo. However, I did not go to management about this issue. I did not want to be known as a “rat.” I did discuss the situation with our two sales rep friends. They were not surprised.Here’s the clincher...this artist did go to management! He told management that I was slandering him and telling everyone that he does drugs. Management called me in and I was “written-up.” They said since I had no proof, that it was slander. And they were not going to do a drug test! Even though they claim to be a “drug free work place.” I was told to STOP attacking him and now they don't believe a word I say...about anything.
What should I do? PLEASE respond!
of the Slacker
Dear Sick of the Slacker,
When I read your email I could not help but feel for the difficult situation you are in. It seems you feel you are working for an established employer and at age 54, finding a new job may not be a viable or preferable option. Management is not supportive and this co-worker is forcing you to work doubly hard without the recognition.
For whatever reason, the two of you are locked together for now. So how can you make the best of this situation? How can we lower the conflict/stress level so you both feel valued, appreciated, understood and supported by each other.
I deal a lot with conflict management. It is a vast subject but I will do my best to offer a few tips to get you on the way.
You both need to get clear on what your true needs are. Then, you both need to learn how to effectively communicate those needs (no blaming) to each other. Effective communication requires active listening.
Ideally, the company would bring in a conflict counselor to facilitate a conversation between the two of you. Then, once you both clear the air and set workable expectations, you likely no longer need the conflict counselor.
But if the company is not willing to bring in such a person, or you are not ready to ask, then you can start on your own or with support from a friend or psychologist. Get clear on what you really want, what it is about this person that truly irks you, what this person must be feeling and thinking, what redeeming qualities do his friends see in him, how do you think he wants to be treated by you.
This is a start. For more resources, I highly recommend the work of Marshall Rosenberg and his Center for NonViolent Communication (www.cnvc.org).
Thanks for writing to Office Politics. Let us know how it works out.
Arnie Herz, Esq.
Feedback from Sick of the Slacker
Thank you very much for responding to my email. I didn't think that
you would. So many web sites are all hype and no action. I work at a
regional newspaper and they do have an employee
assistance program. Basically what that consists of is six to seven free
sessions with a local counselor, about any crisis in one's life. I decided
to go and my counselor was aghast that management hasn't set up any kind
of conflict resolution meetings and makes us continue to work together.
The session REALLY helped me. His educated and objective opinion validated
my feelings and I took his advice. He told me that it was imperative
that John (not his real name) and I begin talking. And that the situation
would only get worse, until we could get past the anger and resentment.
Feedback from Office-Politics reader
As an Ombuds who works as a neutral within organizations to resolve disputes and deal with systemic issues, I agree with the excellent suggestions offered by Arnie Herz. I would, however, add a few comments directed towards management regarding ‘dealing with a drug problem’.
True, it can be confusing and daunting for an organization to find the appropriate way to manage an employee who may have a drug problem; however, management must take some basic steps to protect its culture and manage any potential litigation exposure. For example, management could state, or reiterate, its policies on drug use and its stance on using the employee assistance to the entire staff. Doing so, reminds everyone of the expected behaviors and where to turn if issues arise, without targeting any single individual or conveying that they believe the allegations.
Employees do know what’s happening and look to management for accountability and fairness. If management fails to take any action employees may feel resentful about carrying the workload for an abusive colleague and become disengaged with their work and company. Then, management is faced with a different challenge that is largely of its own making.
I hope you find this answer helpful. You can learn more about my work with organizations by visiting my website, http://www.workwelltogether.com .
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The Ethics Letters that appears as a feature of this Website is an educational and discussion oriented column designed to help the reader better understand ethical issues. The matters discussed in the letter are reviewed in a summary/abbreviated way and are only meant to foster thinking on the part of the reader. If a person decides to adopt or implement suggestions, they do so at their own risk. No representation or warranty is provided in relation to suggestions or the contents of the letter. Neither the authors of the letter, Franke James, John W. Burton, Rick Brandon, Marty Seldman, Arnie Herz or the owners of this Website accept any liability whatsoever for any opinions expressed in the letter or for errors and omissions. Submission of letters to the Office-Politics Forum grants the Publisher, Nerdheaven Ltd. the right to reproduce, republish, repurpose and excerpt the submission in any and all other media, without compensation or contacting the author. Copyright Nerdheaven Ltd. 2002-2005