I am all for policies being in place for handling sensitive workplace situations, but we mustn’t forget sometimes those policies need reviewing.
Recently, I was approached for advice regarding a workplace situation of a departmental employee of a very large organization. This department is comprised of a director, several managers and roughly 130 employees.
When speaking with the employee, capping off a variety of what I actually believed to be sincere leadership concerns, the last straw came when the employee felt they had been verbally disrespected by their director.
The employee, with strong supporting evidence, also alleges that the director through various actions encourages resentment towards employees who may need to take time off due to their disabilities. This is despite the fact that employees have the contractual right to take personal time at their discretion, and that personal time is afforded to all employees, with or without disabilities.
The work ethic of the employee has been consistently noted as stellar in both supervisor and client reviews. Specifically noted were the employees effeciency skills. This employee clearly is not out to waste anyones time, so they opted to take the route the organization offers to handle such circumstances and filed a grievance against the director.
Allow me to give you a quick run-down of how this particular grievance process works:
- Employee files grievance with 1 of the managers.
- The manager then confers with the other managers and director to decide if they find the grievance valid. They have 2 weeks to come to this decision.
- If the grievance is found invalid, the employee can appeal, which precipitates a meeting with the manager, director, a union representative and an HR representative. The director and HR representative will decide if the grievance is still deemed invalid. The director has two weeks to schedule this meeting, and has the opportunity to ask for an extension.
- If found invalid again, the employee can appeal a final time where they must bring the issue before a designated impartial tribunal. It may take over a year for the tribunal to be assembled.
This process, while more than a bit convoluted, very well may have been created with the best of intentions.
Despite the evidence which I found valid, the grievance was dismissed by the managers and director after the first and second stages in the process. Which, considering the director is the superior in question, wasn’t much of a shock. When the accused is making the final call, I can’t say I am confident that decision is made without prejudice. However, the employee can file and has filed an appeal.
Based on the policies in place, the outcome of the first two stages will be determined by the offender.
When this was questioned, the employee was told that the only way to reach the tribunal stage was to go through the first stages of the policy process.
So, just to be clear, because the policy must be followed to the letter and there are no exceptions allowed, the abused must:
- Directly accuse their abuser, twice.
- Attempt to convince the abuser that they are indeed abusive in their leadership tactics, twice.
- All so that they can finally approach the issue with a non-partial panel, which may take up to a year to put in place.
What stands out to me the most is the lack of concern for the employees mental health throughout this entire situation.
We have a sincere, exemplary employee who has to re-live an uncomfortable workplace situation several times, only to be told by the director involved each time that their feelings are unreasonable. And to add insult to injury, the employee must work for another year under a director they feel they can prove is discriminatory.
Let’s even give the director the benefit of the doubt and assume for a second the employee’s feelings, while sincere may be misguided – although, I don’t believe that to be the case:
It’s the fact that there is even the existence of an active policy that would prolong any amount of mental anguish for an employee that truly startles me.
Workplace discrimination claims are on the rise. It’s a pristine indicator that workers are dutifully becoming aware of their right to a mentally and emotionally stable and safe work environment. Hopefully this is leading employers to the understanding that it is their responsibility to establish and ensure that workplace exists for everyone involved, without exception.
Most organizations have conflict/resolution policies in place, but with an increasing awareness of the effects of positive and negative mental health in the workplace, we must question the effectiveness of these policies.
I’ll say it again: I am all for policies being in place for handling sensitive workplace situations, but we mustn’t forget that those policies require review, revision and most importantly, at all times, enforcement.
‘Twice and thrice over, as they say, good is it to repeat and review what is good.”– Plato