Author Topic: Ethical dilemma has led to etiquette dilemma  (Read 5549 times)

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figleaf

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Ethical dilemma has led to etiquette dilemma
« on: September 05, 2012, 03:06:18 PM »
I have an unusual profession, one which relies very strongly on a chain of command.  I am the "line" professional, who actually does the work of the profession.  My work is then reviewed my my direct supervisor, "Celia".  If Celia decides that she disagrees with an aspect of my work, it directly affects  the person I am working with.  I have face to face contact with the public.  These people are often people in the hiring process for a job.  If I do my work, and deem that the work is satisfactory, but Celia decides that it is not, it can mean the person I am working on is delayed in being hired.  I take this responsibility VERY seriously, always have, but especially in these very hard economic times.

I am very senior in my profession.  Instead of taking a supervisory position, I chose to continue my work as a "line" professional in an off-site location.  I mention the fact that I am very senior partially because my seniority has made it so I have done my job thousands of times, and am pretty good at making the judgments necessary.  It is also important because many of my equals and friends with whom I trained a zillion years ago are now in supervisory positions, and I am more often treated as one of their equals than a subordinate.

About 2.5 years ago, I was transferred from my old supervisor, Celia to another supervisor, Jessica.  My relationship with both was very cordial and professional, and we worked very well together.  Both supervisors treated me with great trust and respect.  During the time I worked with Jessica, Celia continued to work for my organization, just for another part.  Also during this time, Celia experienced a crushing personal tragedy.

About 6 months ago, Jessica transferred out of my organization and, because Celia was used to working with my unusual off-site setup, I went back to working for her.  Almost immediately I noticed that Celia was regularly rejecting my work, at a rate of 8x the rate I had had work rejected by any other supervisor in the past.  At first I was wondering if I had gotten lax while working for Jessica, and took some refresher training.  To my surprise, my refresher training showed me that rather than becoming more lax, I was considerably more rigid than the norm in my profession.  This means that the guidelines Celia was setting were nearly impossible to meet.

This has caused me a great deal of upset, because, since Celia is rejecting my work, the people I work on are getting rejected as a result.  The BEST case scenario is that they will have to wait several extra weeks to begin work.  To me, this is unconscionable, and I have tried to make my concerns known.  The problem I am having is that I really feel like I am having to treat Celia with kid gloves wrapped in cotton wool and bubble wrap.  She has not recovered from her personal tragedy, and she really appears to be struggling personally.  In addition, her health is extremely vulnerable.  In the past 3 months, she has been absent more often than she has been present. 

I have tried dealing with these situations on a case by case basis, but I have found that Celia is not very receptive to my concerns, she has been brushing them off with comments like, "We all know you do a great job and work really hard," or "It is just a phase, we all go through it", basically saying that the problem lies in my work, but that I will essentially "grow out of it."

Here lies my etiquette issue.  Next week, my two organization chiefs are traveling to visit me.  I have already decided that it is past time that I bring my concerns to them, essentially going over Celia's head.  I have a list of things I need to discuss with them, so I won't get flustered and get off track, but I am still struggling, because, darn it all, Celia is a good person underneath it all, and I am afraid that A) Mentioning my concerns will start an investigation against her and cause yet another crisis in her already fragile life, and that B) Since such an investigation would start immediately after a visit with ME, that she will know that I am the cause of her grief.  I also have some other concerns about her I need to speak to them about, she has done a couple of things that are so bizarre and inappropriate that I'm really questioning her judgment, so it is about more than her rejecting my work.  I am trying to figure out how to diplomatically state my concerns without it being a "dumping on Celia" party.  How does one go about making a complaint without it becoming personal? (Note:  I have documentation of all of the times I feel her decisions have been questionable)

Finally, I mentioned before that many of my peers are in Celia's position, just in other departments.  I am close friends with one of them, and very cordial with another.  One of them actually told me some worrisome things about Celia, that her personal issues are bleeding into her work life, and that she has already had some responsibility taken away because of that.  This lady has invited me to talk with her off the record if I ever had issues.  I haven't taken her up on that, but I am tempted, because, since I'm off-site, I really have no idea what is actually going on in the office, and for all I know, Celia is already under investigation, and that is why she is being so rigid.  Would you approach a colleague/friend and test the temperature of the office, or am I putting my colleague/friend in too awkward of a position?

I really feel so conflicted.  No matter what I do/don't do, people are suffering.  I feel as though I am doing a disservice to my profession and organization by continuing to turn a blind eye to the situation.  I have decided I must speak out, but I am lost as to how to do it.  Wording suggestions and tricks to properly prepare for this meeting with my bosses would be much appreciated.

I am physically incapable of being brief.  Sorry. Thanks for your patience.

bah12

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Re: Ethical dilemma has led to etiquette dilemma
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2012, 03:18:31 PM »
Are Celia's comments consistent?  Or are they all over the place?  And when she rejects your work, can you point to specific policy and processes that show you are doing the work correctly?

I think that you should attempt to talk to Celia about your work at least once before you make a compaint up your chain.  Hear what she says and document everything that you disagree with and why.  I wouldn't worry too much about making her fragile life even more miserable.  If she's not doing her job correctly and it's affecting customers/public/clients, then that's all that matters.  Celia either needs to figure out how to work effectively despite what's going on her personal life, or try to take some time off to sort through her personal struggles.  I know you feel bad for her on a personal level, but this is business.

That being said, I'd be careful about talking to your supervisor friends about this.  I know that they are friends and they are trying to give you advice, but it my opinion, people in organizations, especially supervisors should not be passing along off the record information about someone's personal life or work situation.    But, I do think it's totally appropriate to ask someone you trust for advice on how to handle this in regards to your professional experience with Celia.

So, again, whether or not she's already being investigated, etc, doesn't matter.  If she's not effective, if you've talked to her about it and she's not willing or cannot help move things forward in a positive way, then there is nothing wrong with bringing up concerns/solutions to your chain of command.

Calypso

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Re: Ethical dilemma has led to etiquette dilemma
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2012, 03:25:31 PM »
What a horrible situation.

Without knowing where you work, I don't know if this is at all useful, but I know of two people, one in a state government office, one in the private sector, who took what was called "stress disability leave" but were still able to keep their jobs open for when they were ready to come back. Certainly, small businesses such as where I work don't have such a thing, but is there *any* chance Celia could be encouraged to go out on some kind of leave, paid or unpaid, until she's got herself more stable? I would mention this to the organization chiefs, or to your peer, if this is something that is done in your organization.

DaDancingPsych

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Re: Ethical dilemma has led to etiquette dilemma
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2012, 03:35:01 PM »
Rather than seeing this as adding more stress to Celia, see it as beneficial to her. Her current work situation is not working and she needs some changes to make it work. By moving this up the chain, you are opening their eyes that Celia needs some assistance. That may be time off, additional staff, or encouragement to see a therapistÖ but this could be the thing that helps her.

It sounds like management is well aware that there are some issues with Celia, so I donít think that your meeting with hit them blindsided. However, I think most supervisors respond positively to honesty. Stick to the witnessed facts (avoid the hearsay) and paint an accurate picture, including the fact that you have worked under Celia previously and been quite successful. This will allow the management team to understand that it is Celiaís current state and not incompetence.

I am not sure what you would gain by speaking with your supervisor friends. Any inside information that they have on Celia will likely be unhelpful. (You canít present it at your meeting.) And I think that you have been with the company long enough to understand culture. I might not go this direction.

Itís difficult when you feel like you are throwing someone under the bus, but by not speaking up, your clients are being harmed daily.

bopper

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Re: Ethical dilemma has led to etiquette dilemma
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2012, 03:40:55 PM »
The first question I would ask is: "Have you brought up your concerns with Celia?"  Yes, you have. You are going up the chain of command.
Second question: "Have you verified your job responsibilities with a third party?"  Yes, you have. That way you know it isn't you.
Third question: Is your business/clients being affected by her behavior? Yes, it is. This is not trivial behavior.

So if someone's actions in the work place are negatively affecting the customers, you have to go up the chain of command.

Then I would lay out the facts of what is going on.  "The standard for <what I do> is outlined in the training. I actually do more than what is necessary, and have an 8 year track record of good judgment.  However, after working for Celia I am getting 8 x the rejections.  I took refresher training to make sure that things hadn't changed while I worked for Jessica, but I found out that I surpass the requirements.  The result is that the clients who are rejected have to wait up to 8 weeks for employment for what I don't think are valid reasons. I of course have discussed this with Celia first, but have not received specific instructions as to what is really wrong or what I should change.  Of course I am willing to change my procedures but if I only hear "We all know you do a great job and work really hard," or "It is just a phase, we all go through it", basically saying that the problem lies in my work, but that I will essentially "grow out of it." I don't know what to do with that."
If there are more behaviors that are affecting your work, then mention them.

WillyNilly

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Re: Ethical dilemma has led to etiquette dilemma
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2012, 04:22:51 PM »
I don't think you should talk to your colleagues or friends about this.  At least not until after you speak with your & Celia's superiors.  I say this because you don't want all that to cloud your opinion or your reporting.  Just tell them the facts, and show them your documentation.  Let them know the steps you've taken (speaking with Celia, taking refresher training yourself, etc). 

Like an earlier poster said, ultimately this is about helping people.  Helping your clients, but also helping Celia.  It might be early enough where she can go on disability or medical leave and get better - let the problem fester and she might get fired.  Which in the long run is better for her?  Sitting on the problem now is better in the short term but getting her help before she's unemployable is better overall.

Outdoor Girl

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Re: Ethical dilemma has led to etiquette dilemma
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2012, 04:25:46 PM »
I think it would make things worse to talk to your friend on Celia's same level.  It would make it more gossipy, IMO.

Outline your concerns to Celia's supervisors in a calm, non-personal way, being specific about how you and your client base are affected.

I like bopper's wording, for a start.
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Re: Ethical dilemma has led to etiquette dilemma
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2012, 04:30:36 PM »
When you talk with your/Celia's supervisors, you can blunt the impact a bit by being honest about your relationship with her.  "Suchandsuch and suchandsuch have become problems, but it puts me in a difficult situation.  She and I used to be pretty close, when I worked with her previously, and I still do like her a lot as a person.  However, she's changed and now she's keeping me from being able to do X, Y, and Z.  I'm just not comfortable covering for her when her personal life bleeds over into her work, so even though I hate to say anything on a personal level I feel like I have to on a professional level."

figleaf

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Re: Ethical dilemma has led to etiquette dilemma
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2012, 05:27:31 PM »
Thank you, everyone for your great and thoughtful advice! 

As much as I fear going into this meeting "blind", I see what you all are saying about the fact that it might be inadviseable to ask my friends for a lay of the land. I absolutely couldn't use anything I learned in my meeting, and I also hadnt realized that it might actually make it look like I'm gathering information to use against Celia.  I don't want the gravity of what I need to say to be colored by looking like a gossip.

I love bopper's wording, and Slartbartifast's idea of tempering what I have to say with the fact that it is particularly difficult because we have been so close in the past. Also pointing out how well we have worked together in the past is appealing. My organization is really a huge family in a lot of ways, our work is very high stress and we often deal with wrenching situations, so we all see each other at our best and worst a lot.

My mom said something that one of you echoed, (I'm sorry, if I try to go back to see who it is on my phone, I'll lose my post) , that even though this is a painful thing to say, and even though Celia might be upset with what this discussion might set off, I may actually be helping to get her back on the road to stability. It is pretty bad now, but if it keeps getting worse, the consequences to Celia's life might be much harder to deal with. 

Thank you again, I knew you were the people to ask about this!

MamaMootz

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Re: Ethical dilemma has led to etiquette dilemma
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2012, 05:31:29 PM »
I POD the posters who said to discuss with higher-ups only.

Another thing to consider is that it's not just Celia that this stuff is effecting. It's also impacting other people and their abilities to get a job. So look at it from this perspective: you are unemployed and on the verge of losing your home. Because of a person's actions that is totally unrelated to your or your qualifications, you cannot start work for an additional 3 weeks. And now instead of maybe being able to save your home, you lose it.

It's not just Celia. It is unfortunate that she is suffering, but from a business perspective, you have a responsibility to those other people as well.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2012, 06:51:29 PM by MamaMootz »
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lady_disdain

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Re: Ethical dilemma has led to etiquette dilemma
« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2012, 05:42:51 PM »
Also, if you can, bring numbers to the table: show them your rejection rate with Celia the first time around, with Jessica and now with Celia again. Print out some of the rejected work along with her comments, if the supervisors are able to evaluate your work, and offer to send them the rest. Do you have written feedback from her, showing that it is vague and unhelpful? You may not need to show them every thing you print out, but it is good to have backup in case they ask for details.

Also, are you quite sure of the motives of the chief's visit? Since you are such a senior line worker, they maybe after your opinion on this situation.

JenJay

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Re: Ethical dilemma has led to etiquette dilemma
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2012, 06:02:09 PM »
Also, if you can, bring numbers to the table: show them your rejection rate with Celia the first time around, with Jessica and now with Celia again. Print out some of the rejected work along with her comments, if the supervisors are able to evaluate your work, and offer to send them the rest. Do you have written feedback from her, showing that it is vague and unhelpful? You may not need to show them every thing you print out, but it is good to have backup in case they ask for details.

Also, are you quite sure of the motives of the chief's visit? Since you are such a senior line worker, they maybe after your opinion on this situation.

I think that's wise advice! You want to make sure there's no way anyone can think this is a personality conflict (I'm sure the Big Bosses know the score but documentation will still go a long way and I imagine they'll appreciate it). I think having a few examples of accurate work rejected without explanation is a very good idea. This must be incredibly frustrating.

artk2002

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Re: Ethical dilemma has led to etiquette dilemma
« Reply #12 on: September 06, 2012, 10:36:07 AM »
Also, if you can, bring numbers to the table: show them your rejection rate with Celia the first time around, with Jessica and now with Celia again. Print out some of the rejected work along with her comments, if the supervisors are able to evaluate your work, and offer to send them the rest. Do you have written feedback from her, showing that it is vague and unhelpful? You may not need to show them every thing you print out, but it is good to have backup in case they ask for details.

Also, are you quite sure of the motives of the chief's visit? Since you are such a senior line worker, they maybe after your opinion on this situation.

I think that's wise advice! You want to make sure there's no way anyone can think this is a personality conflict (I'm sure the Big Bosses know the score but documentation will still go a long way and I imagine they'll appreciate it). I think having a few examples of accurate work rejected without explanation is a very good idea. This must be incredibly frustrating.

That's extremely good advice. Saying "Celia's rejecting my work a lot and with bogus reasons" won't get OP anywhere. "I'm concerned because my rejection rate under Celia this time has increased by X% over my time with Jessica and even Celia when I worked for her before. Many of her reasons for rejecting my work aren't consistent with professional standards in this area. Here are examples X, Y and Z. Unfortunately, she's been dismissive of my concerns when I've raised them to her. This is affecting my productivity and having a bad effect on our clients. How can we resolve this issue?"
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

cheyne

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Re: Ethical dilemma has led to etiquette dilemma
« Reply #13 on: September 09, 2012, 12:44:53 AM »

That's extremely good advice. Saying "Celia's rejecting my work a lot and with bogus reasons" won't get OP anywhere. "I'm concerned because my rejection rate under Celia this time has increased by X% over my time with Jessica and even Celia when I worked for her before. Many of her reasons for rejecting my work aren't consistent with professional standards in this area. Here are examples X, Y and Z. Unfortunately, she's been dismissive of my concerns when I've raised them to her. This is affecting my productivity and having a bad effect on our clients. How can we resolve this issue?"

dingdangity Art!  You should write a how-to book.  Excellent advice. 

OP any updates?

artk2002

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Re: Ethical dilemma has led to etiquette dilemma
« Reply #14 on: September 09, 2012, 01:17:17 AM »

That's extremely good advice. Saying "Celia's rejecting my work a lot and with bogus reasons" won't get OP anywhere. "I'm concerned because my rejection rate under Celia this time has increased by X% over my time with Jessica and even Celia when I worked for her before. Many of her reasons for rejecting my work aren't consistent with professional standards in this area. Here are examples X, Y and Z. Unfortunately, she's been dismissive of my concerns when I've raised them to her. This is affecting my productivity and having a bad effect on our clients. How can we resolve this issue?"

dingdangity Art!  You should write a how-to book.  Excellent advice. 

Thanks. It actually comes from a fairly simple formula:

1) Make it factual, not emotional
2) Show how this affect the company's bottom line, public image, etc.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain