Q: Our company's human resources manager is an autocratic bully. She gives people verbal warnings for being one minute late and has been known to subject employees to searches. Even though everyone regards her as cruel and obnoxious, she seems to have a disproportionate amount of influence with our CEO.
Recently, someone showed the CEO several highly offensive emails in which the HR manager used profanity and referred to certain employees as "slimy and useless." Shortly thereafter, the person who made this complaint was fired. Now there is a climate of fear, and no one will speak up. What can we do about this abusive woman?
A: The real problem here is not with your dreadful HR manager, but with the CEO. In any company, HR people have only as much power as the top executive allows. Your CEO could easily halt the intimidation if he wished, so apparently he either endorses her harsh approach or is a complete wimp.
The culture of an organization is largely determined by the values and traits of the person at the top. By allowing this HR tyrant to terrorize employees, your CEO has made it clear that he has no interest in creating a healthy, supportive workplace. Therefore, you may want to carefully consider whether this is where you want to spend your future.
A helpful nudge for sleepy co-worker
Q: One of my colleagues, "Dan," sometimes falls asleep during management team meetings. This happens frequently enough that other managers have begun to make jokes about it. I hate to hear people laughing at Dan because I have greatly admired him ever since he hired me 20 years ago.
Since we are about to get a new boss, I feel that I should speak to Dan about this problem before she arrives. I would hate for her to get the wrong impression of him just because he occasionally drifts off. The thought of having this conversation makes me uncomfortable, however, because I know Dan will be very embarrassed. Do you have any suggestions?
A: Your concern for your long-time colleague is certainly commendable. Although Dan may be self-conscious about discussing his drowsiness, he is probably aware of these lapses, so your feedback should not come as a surprise. Given your shared history, Dan will undoubtedly realize that your intentions are positive, so the best approach is to simply share your observations and offer assistance.
For example: "Dan, there's something I wanted to discuss with you before the new manager arrives. I know staff meetings can be deadly dull, but I've noticed that sometimes you actually doze off. Since our new boss might get the wrong impression, would you like me to give you a gentle nudge if you seem to be getting sleepy?"
If Dan seems receptive, sit next to him in the meetings and provide a subtle prod at appropriate times. But if he brushes you off or becomes defensive, just drop the subject. By offering to help, you will have done all you can do.