If something inappropriate is said directly to an employee, it’s usually straight forward. When two employees are saying something inappropriate (they may consent to it) but another person overhears it and doesn’t like the comment, that too is quite straight forward. You simply address the inappropriate comments or behaviours.
However, when an employee hears about inappropriate comments from another employee – hence has no direct knowledge at all – then that usually involves a bit more work. There may be truth to the comments, there may not, or there may be something in-between. Your job will be to find out if there is anything to this and if there is, follow up.
Let the employee know that any inappropriate behaviours are taken seriously, however, due process and fairness must be respected. Since this employee doesn’t have direct knowledge of it, this person is only getting one possible side to the story. That being said, it’s much better to find out what’s really going on than just sitting back, waiting for something to explode at work. Ask for details of what this employee knows and find out who else you need to talk to.
“While you’re hearing this 2nd hand, it doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it, or try to find out more about it. I’d like you to give me more details about what you heard and who you heard it from. If the other employee is reluctant to speak up, I can still talk to this person and find out what happened. But we must be fair to everyone involved to ensure we’re getting accurate information…not just rumours. So…let me ask you a few more questions…”
Stephen Hammond, B.A., LL.B., CSP
If you have any questions, please contact Stephen.
Here's a FREE selection of articles that address many different problems and situations in your workplace.
WHEN A PERSON IS CALLED ON THEIR COMMENTS OR JOKES,
THEIR RESPONSE IS "IT'S ONLY A JOKE" OR “CAN'T YOU TAKE A JOKE?”
A WOMAN IN A MALE DOMINATED WORKPLACE GETS LESS THAN KIND
COMMENTS FROM THE GUYS AND WHEN ASKED ABOUT IT QUIETLY,
SHE SAYS IT DOESN'T BOTHER HER, OR SHE CAN TAKE IT
ASKING A PERSON WHO IS CONSIDERED A "MINORITY"
TO DO TASKS OTHERS ARE REQUIRED TO DO, YET THEY CRY FOUL
EMPLOYEES WHO MAKE DISPARAGING COMMENTS ABOUT MANAGEMENT AND MANAGERS WHO MAKE DISPARAGING COMMENTS ABOUT UNIONS, GENERALLY
WHEN SEVERAL EMPLOYEES MAKE DEROGATORY COMMENTS ABOUT
ANOTHER EMPLOYEE, WHO IS NOT PRESENT, AND OUTSIDE OF WORK
WHEN SOMEONE TELLS A JOKE, MOST PEOPLE LAUGH, BUT IT'S INAPPROPRIATE, ESPECIALLY FOR ONE PARTICULAR EMPLOYEE, BUT NO ONE SAYS ANYTHING
WHEN EMPLOYEES DON'T WANT TO PICK UP THE SLACK BECAUSE A CHRISTIAN EMPLOYEE NEEDS TIME OFF FOR MASS AND WON'T WORK ON SUNDAYS
WHEN AN EMPLOYEE TAKES PART IN REPUGNANT, BUT NOT ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES, SUCH AS A WHITE SUPREMACIST GROUP, OUTSIDE OF WORK
YET NEVER SAYS OR DOES ANYTHING AT WORK
WHEN TWO EMPLOYEES WERE VERY GOOD FRIENDS, BUT HAD A PHYSICAL FIGHT OUTSIDE WORK AND NOW ONE OF THEM WON'T WORK WITH THE OTHER
OVER SOME OPEN FORM OF COMMUNICATION (RADIO OR GROUP EMAIL) AN EMPLOYEE STATES ABOUT ONE OF THE GUYS, "IT MUST BE THAT TIME OF THE MONTH" BECAUSE THIS FELLOW WAS BEING TOO EMOTIONAL
WHEN A WOMAN CAN’T DO THE SAME PHYSICAL WORK
A MALE CO-WORKER CAN DO, BUT IT’S ONLY A SMALL PART OF THE JOB
WHEN A PERSON APPEARS ALMOST RUDE IN EMAILS, BUT IN PERSON THEY COME ACROSS DIFFERENTLY – CONSIDERATE
WHEN SOMEONE WON’T TAKE “NO” FOR AN ANSWER – THEY HAVE EXHAUSTED ALL APPEALS AND PEOPLE DON’T SEE IT HIS WAY
WHEN SOMEONE IS AFRAID TO SAY ANYTHING TO SOMEONE WHO IS “DIFFERENT” FOR FEAR OF A COMPLAINT OR INSULTING THESE PEOPLE
PERSONS LOWER THEIR VOICES WHEN TALKING ABOUT SOMEONE WHO IS (WHISPER) “BLACK”
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