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Dec16

Manager Asking Employee About Another Employee

I work in HR for a prominent company that is involved in wind energy. Today a technician recieved a safety violation for not performing LOTO. Later that day the manager brought the other technicians into the office that were not involved, asking them, “do you feel safe working with Joe?” Is it legal for a manager to present that question in an open discussion?

This conduct is legal, but you are right to be concerned about it.

There is nothing unlawful or unethical in asking employees for specific or general information about a coworker. In the schoolyard, tattletales are discouraged. In the workplace, they are encouraged, expected and often rewarded. In fact, many employers consider it part of a workers duties to inform the employer if something unethical is going on — and rightfully so.

Every employee has the responsibility to ensure a safe working environment, particularly when working under hazardous conditions with electricity and wind turbines. This includes providing information on any employee with unsafe work practices. Many employers would terminate an employee who had one major safety violation under these circumstances.

So if the manager merely called employees into his office individually and asked an open-ended question like, “How do you feel about your coworkers? Do you have any concerns?” that would be acceptable.

However, the way this manager is going about gathering information is unfair and ineffective. While such conduct is not illegal, it is poor business management. This type of inquiry is often referred to in the HR world as a “witch hunt.”

The manager has it in for Joe but does not have sufficient evidence to terminate him. In an attempt to gather more evidence, the manager is asking coworkers leading questions to uncover negative information about Joe. The coworkers realize that if they want to stay in the managers good graces, they should say something negative about Joe. The manager will then egg them on until he has sufficient reason to terminate Joe.

This is very poor management, but it is lawful. While we commend this managers focus on safety, we are less than impressed with his supervisory skills.

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This entry was posted on Friday, December 16th, 2011 at 6:44 am and is filed under
Human Resources Management, Management / Leadership Development.
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