It’s Not Always Obvious

-- by Jim Hogan

I was winding my way through the plant to get to the Manager of Employee Relation’s office because I had an employee who was having problems with attendance. I got to the office, stood at the doorway with my hand braced against the far jam, and talked with a different manager who was sitting at the desk writing a note.

All of a sudden, I felt someone grab my rump and give it a hard squeeze. I jumped, turned around, and to my surprise, there stood Pat, the Employee Relations Manager. She stood there half bent over with her head buried in her hands and saying, ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that.’ Her face was crimson red and about to catch fire.

I asked Pat what possessed her to do that in front of a witness to make matters worse.  She said that she grabbed her husband like that at home. She was having a lot of difficulties looking directly at me.

I told Pat I held her career in my hands, and that one word from me, and she would be toast by morning. She knew that I had been the Employee Relations Superintendent several years earlier, and sexual harassment in any form, was a charge that could lead to being fired.

As she stood there, I could see the fear in her eyes, knowing she was subject to termination, and I knew she needed a job. I also knew her husband, a State Detective, and that she had an autistic child who required her to have a good-paying job. I explained it was going to cost her. I could see she was thinking the worst and was unable to speak.

I asked her to promise me that when employees come to her with charges of sexual harassment or other claims, it’s not always obvious what happened or why. I informed her I was not going to say anything about the incident because she had been on my project team, and this incident was the last thing I would have expected from her.

I could see the change in posture to one of relaxed relief, and she thanked me and apologized again. I decided that my employee problem was minimal compared to Pat’s and that tomorrow would be a better day to discuss my employee’s situation.

I left Pat to her thoughts and was pleased that it was a good lesson for her to learn. I knew it would have a lasting effect.

Please send comments on this story to the author; he would appreciate your feedback.