I have been working at my place of employment for about a year and half. As of 7/06/09 I was moved to a different department and promoted to supervisor. At the time I was supervising 4 employees. I had to lay one of them off around 7/15 due to being overstaffed.
The employee (employee A) was supposed to be let go by my predecessor, but he never carried it out. I laid off the employee and needless to say that employee was shocked. I found out later that the former employee was going around saying that I fired him because I didn’t like him.
He has a couple of friends still employed with the company so hearing this I was alarmed. Both friends (employee B and employee C) are currently under my supervision. I recently had a day off on 8/5 and returned to work on 8/6. I noticed that employee B was acting rather suspiciously. Doing things that he normally wouldn’t do. He was always forgetting to lockout his computer when he would leave his desk. This day he immediately minimized an e-mail when I walked in the room. I looked down and saw that the title was “logging”. I thought nothing of it. The employee then got up from his desk and left the room only to return a few seconds later and locked out his computer.
I became suspicious of this. Later that day the employee left his computer open and his e-mail up. I noticed a folder in his e-mail called “logging”. I opened the folder and found that this employee had been logging incidents against me beginning on 7/16. The day after his friend was let go. He was e-mailing himself notes on interactions with me. Needless to say some of the notes are true but fabricated and some are complete lies. There was one incident that I did read and recall. I had moved the employee outside the office after he had made several costly errors and had told him that he is costing the company money with his mistakes. He logged this in that file. He made another entry how he dreads whenever I come in the room and feels that I shouldn’t be allowed to look over his shoulder as he works. He also made another entry that “I said that he had herpes”. Which is a lie. Employee C (the other friend) was saying that employee B had them because of his chapped lips and they where laughing back and forth amongst themselves. I had no part in this conversation. I am fairly new to supervising people and was completely blind sided by this because I didn’t know that this employee was out for me.
After reading this I have taken a different approach in dealing with this employee and have started employee notes on all my employees in case I need to refer back to them in the future. This employee is consistently late coming in to work and returning from breaks and I am not sure how to deal with this either. Because I really don’t need the extra stress if this employee decides to forward this file.I really am just looking for some advice. I am not sure if I should bring this up to my manager. Also I am not sure if I violated anything by reading this log on his company e-mail. Can you please help me out. I am trying my best to learn from this but its difficult and is causing me to be stressed out about the whole situation.
So, I see we’re learning why managers make more money, are we? Ahh, talk about trial by fire.
To be supremely unhelpful, I’m going to talk about the things that were done incorrectly. Please note, I used passive voice on purpose because I’m not pointing fingers. I just want to give big hugs to everyone! Let’s just all be friends!
Sorry, I don’t know what came over me there. But, you made some mistakes and I want to address them. The bigger mistakes, however, were made by your management and your HR department. You don’t give someone their first job supervising others and immediately have him fire someone without expert coaching. It seems like you didn’t receive that expert coaching.
Employee A should have been terminated by your predecessor. I don’t know the story behind that, but laying someone off should never be a single person’s decision. I’m all in favor of managers managing, but there are legal things to be considered in a layoff and for those reasons someone other than the direct supervisor need to be aware of and involved in the termination process. A date needs to be set and a witness to the actual termination (preferably another manager or HR, and definitely not a peer of the unlucky person.)
This, obviously, was not done, if the previous boss procrastinated the awful task. (And make no mistake, laying someone off is AWFUL. I’ve trained managers who couldn’t even say the words when they were practicing what to say. It’s a terrible task. Terrible. I give you big credit for having the guts to go ahead and do what needed to be done.)
So, you sat down with employee A, told him that due to workload his position was eliminated. Perfect. (I am going to assume you did this part perfectly. Please don’t burst my bubble by telling me you yelled across the office, “Hey Bob, you’re fired as of today. Don’t forget to clock out on the way out. By the way, I hate you.”) The problem is you also need to hold a debriefing with the rest of the staff and say, “Employee A was laid off today because we were overstaffed. As of right now, no new terminations are expected. We are very sad to see Employee A go, but unfortunately it was a business decision that was approved at the highest level of the organization.”
This heads off the rumors about why Employee A was fired. Of course, even if you did do this, there is no guarantee that the employee won’t be angry and bitter and try to gain sympathy with his friends, which is what he is doing.
So, now, where do you go from here?
1. Make a plan. My suggested plan (which may or may not be appropriate for the people involved) is the direct approach. You call employee B into your office, tell him you are aware that he is unhappy with you as a manager. Then you can discuss your expectations, listen to his concerns and schedule a follow up meeting.
2. Before executing this plan, talk to your manager. You’re a new supervisor. His job is to help you learn how to do that job. Explain what is going on, and what you want to do and ask for coaching. Do not ask him to talk to Employee B for you. That’s wimpy, and you wouldn’t do it anyway.
There are several key reasons for doing this. One is that the last thing you want is to handle the situation and have Employee B going to your manager and have him override your decision. If you’re going to be overridden, better to find out before you talk to the employee. Another is that you need to make sure you are doing what is right for the business.
3. Keep communication open with all your employees. Especially in a new manager situation, I like to see 1:1 meetings (you with an individual employee) every week or two. Some people think this is serious overkill and micromanaging, but it all depends on what you are doing in these meetings. They can be excellent ways to develop your employees, follow up on their goals (you may have to set some if their previous manager didn’t–and feel free to modify if he did), and keep track of workload and projects.
4. Realize that if Employee B’s attitude doesn’t change, he may have to go as well. You would, of course, do this after regular coaching and with approval from your manager.
Being a manager is tough. But, that’s why you make the big bucks.