If there’s ever a time when managers need to be on their toes, it’s when an employee complains to them about something a co-worker did.
To be sure, there are degrees of seriousness. If the complaint is along the lines of “He gets ketchup on the break room table,” you probably don’t have to take emergency action. But when you’re dealing with complaints about discrimination, harassment, serious misbehavior or recurrent interpersonal issues, it’s a whole ’nuther ball game.
Once a manager hears about a problem like this, he or she must take action. Otherwise, if the situation degenerates into a lawsuit, the organization may well be liable for the manager’s failure to act.
Always do this
Before deciding what course to take, though, there’s something the manager should always do: REALLY listen to the complaining employee.
It’s startling how often managers hear only the first few words or sentences, then begin offering advice about what the employee should do. Instead of pontificating, managers should hear the employee out, then ask clarifying questions until they have enough specifics to fully grasp what the person is saying.
Only then is the manager in a position to take the correct next step, whether that be opening an investigation, calling in HR, or — depending on the situation — taking the matter up the organizational ladder.
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