Author Topic: Delicate situation  (Read 3408 times)

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Lorie_P

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Delicate situation
« on: October 22, 2012, 01:53:24 PM »
I need to ask the advice of the readers on this board.

I work in HR for a community college. It's not a big department but we are kept quite busy. The problem is our receptionist. She is an older woman who is, in a word, "flighty." She came to us through a temp agency 5 years ago and was hired in because we didn't have time to interview anyone else. Because of issues with her, that procedure has changed. She is obviously not qualified to do the job she has. Sadly, her supervisors can't find anything majorly wrong with her performance and we are stuck with her.

Her biggest problem is her lack of short term memory. We have shown her how to do things that are part of her job over and over and she still messes up. If I kept track of her mistakes, I wouldn't get my job done.

Her other is her lack of urgency for time sensitive projects. At the beginning of each semester, we have to clean up her messes so instructors can have computer access and get paid. She just does things as she sees fit. La-de-daing through the day. We can't just let her stuff not get done or our whole department get in trouble.

One of my co-workers and I have dealt with mothers with dementia. We see the signs of the early stages. We just have no idea how to bring it up to her current supervisor. Does anyone have any suggestions? She's 5 years away from retirement minimum, but I don't think I can stand it much longer.

SamiHami

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Re: Delicate situation
« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2012, 02:04:22 PM »
Well, you cannot comment on what you think might be signs of dementia. I'm not saying you are incorrect necessarily, but since you are not her HCP you really cannot say anything without looking unprofessional.

What you can and should do, however, is start keeping a record of the issues as they come up. As long as you and others continue to cover for her nothing will change. The key is that you have to make it your bosses problem. Avoid words like "always" and "never." It's better of you can say, "Boss, on October 10 she did XXX incorrectly causing several of us to stop what we were doing to correct her mistakes. She has been trained on this numerous times and still doesn't seem capable of getting the job done." That is a specific incident that will make it easier fo the boss to address. The more of these that you and your coworkers can bring to your boss, the more s/he will be forced to address the problems.

You should not have to tolerate another 5 years or more of incompetence just because your bosses are apparently unwilling to address the issues. What is boil down to is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease...so start squeaking!

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alkira6

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Re: Delicate situation
« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2012, 02:06:00 PM »
As always, document.  Have to show her something again? Document that she has bee trained/retrained on date x by x person.  Flubbed up by not following procedure? Document what and when. Document the time that you have to take away from your work to fix her messes because she has no sence of urgency.

It is a pain in the butt, however it will (eventually) pay off. Sometimes supervisors just need to see in black and white just how much time/money is being lost due to this person.

Tabby Uprising

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Re: Delicate situation
« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2012, 02:06:12 PM »
When I worked in HR there were times when people would bring up suspected medical issues when they were complaining about a coworker.  I shut it down promptly.  We weren't doctors.  We were not in the business of diagnosing people and it wasn't any of our business anyway.  All you address is the performance issue.  Document the errors.  Document what you have to do to resolve her mistakes and the time it takes.  Document the fallout from her incessant errors and document the times and ways in which you re-train her.

Do not bring up the idea you think she may have dementia at all.  Address the performance only.  If her supervisors don't care enough to manage her performance/counsel her then yes, that's a raw deal for the rest of you!  But, sometimes managers make bad decisions like that and all you can do is manage how you handle it. 

But please, don't go down the possible diagnosis path! 

camlan

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Re: Delicate situation
« Reply #4 on: October 22, 2012, 02:13:35 PM »
I need to ask the advice of the readers on this board.

I work in HR for a community college. It's not a big department but we are kept quite busy. The problem is our receptionist. She is an older woman who is, in a word, "flighty." She came to us through a temp agency 5 years ago and was hired in because we didn't have time to interview anyone else. Because of issues with her, that procedure has changed. She is obviously not qualified to do the job she has. Sadly, her supervisors can't find anything majorly wrong with her performance and we are stuck with her.

Her biggest problem is her lack of short term memory. We have shown her how to do things that are part of her job over and over and she still messes up. If I kept track of her mistakes, I wouldn't get my job done.

Her other is her lack of urgency for time sensitive projects. At the beginning of each semester, we have to clean up her messes so instructors can have computer access and get paid. She just does things as she sees fit. La-de-daing through the day. We can't just let her stuff not get done or our whole department get in trouble.

One of my co-workers and I have dealt with mothers with dementia. We see the signs of the early stages. We just have no idea how to bring it up to her current supervisor. Does anyone have any suggestions? She's 5 years away from retirement minimum, but I don't think I can stand it much longer.

If she isn't qualified to do her job, it's impossible that there's nothing major wrong with her performance. I think what you are dealing with is a supervisor who doesn't want to go to the trouble of dealing with getting her fired.

I agree with PPs. Start keeping track of her mistakes and the aftermath. Include how much time is spent by other people dealing with her mistakes--that's time (and money spent to pay you for your time) that will never be spent on the things you were hired to do. If her supervisors aren't seeing the problem, it is up to the rest of you to bring it to their attention, so they can't continue to ignore it.

Ideally, this woman has a job description that clearly states what her job entails. Ideally, her supervisor is listing what she isn't doing right at each review, and setting clear, well-defined goals to get her to meet the requirements. Ideally, there are procedures in place--verbal warnings, written warnings, probation--to usher her out of your workplace.

Maybe the place to start is with her supervisors. Perhaps they need re-training on job descriptions, annual reviews, goal setting, and monitoring employee performance.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


CaffeineKatie

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Re: Delicate situation
« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2012, 05:00:47 PM »
I absolutely agree with earlier posters.  Years ago I was a middle-level supervisor at a state funded agency, and I had a careless clueless employee with 10 years seniority.  Money got tight, and I was told I would have to fire a more recent hire who was excellent at his job.  When I mentioned Mr. Clueless as a better candidate for the budget axe, I was told "oh we can't fire him--it's too complicated."  I picked 3 specific components of his job (showing up was one of them) and after discussing them with him in detail, I started very carefully recording his failure to meet his job specs and the resulting problems.  It took 3 months, and he was gone.  AND more importantly, unlike some others who were fired in other departments, the documentation meant he couldn't sue the organization for wrongful termination.  Document important failure to perform, stay away from personal/medical/social comments--and good luck!

susantoyota

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Re: Delicate situation
« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2012, 09:06:20 PM »
This is going to sound harsh . . . . but I'd quit fixing her mistakes. If it's her responsibility to do X, Y, & Z in order for the professors to have computer access and get paid AND she's been trained numerous times, don't do the job for her. Refer her back to the training, job manual, whatever. If there are real consequences for other departments--such as not having computer access or getting paid--your bosses' eyes will be opened to the problem when people are knocking down their doors to complain & demand the problem be corrected.

JMO.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2012, 09:30:07 PM by susantoyota »

Ceallach

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Re: Delicate situation
« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2012, 11:13:06 PM »
I do not see it as a kindness to let people muddle through in jobs they are incompetent at - I'm honestly surprised it's been allowed to drag on this long!

I would be documenting every small issue, every need for retraining, setting clear KPIs and performance management plans to help her succeed, basically push her to the level that is expected.    This is what I do with underperforming employees.   There is no downside - they either improve to a level I need, or they leave.   It's a win-win!    (Obviously I have to remain open-minded for either outcome, people have surprised me before and stepped up when least expected!).  It is not appropriate or advisable to address the dementia in any way, after all, it could be any number of things are you are not qualified to make a medical diagnosis.   The most you could do is when performance managing comment that she seems to be struggling to remember instructions and that she should consider looking into ways of fixing that.  Make it clear that the constant retraining is unacceptable.
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thedudeabides

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Re: Delicate situation
« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2012, 11:17:15 PM »
If her supervisor isn't keeping track of her mistakes, he or she is pretty lazy and incompetent, too -- that's the boss's job, to make sure things get done and hold employees accountable for getting them done.

So start documenting and stop covering for her.  But do not try to make this about a possible medical issue.  That's totally inappropriate and a good way to end up an HR nightmare yourself.

mmswm

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Re: Delicate situation
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2012, 12:49:01 AM »
An error that leads to employees not being paid is a pretty substantial error, particularly for an employer that likely gets federal dollars in some fashion or another. 

Many years ago, I picked up a part time job at a private university.  The particular department I was working in was partially grant-funded (federal).  When it came time for my first paycheck, I got a bit of run around regarding "paperwork", and was told I would be paid for that time, plus the next pay period on the next check.  The next payday rolls around, still no paycheck.  This time, when I talked to HR, I cited the laws regarding timely pay.  She said there was nothing she could do about it, and I'd have to wait until the next payday.  I don't think so.  I called the wage and hour division of the DOL and filed a complaint.  Within an hour, I got a call from asking if I could meet in the university's HR office at a specific time later that day.  I could, so off I went.  When we got there, the DOL employee informed the HR woman that she had three choices.  She could cut a check for the actual amount I was owed, or a reasonable estimate, out of university funds; she could write a personal check for the same amount; or she could leave in handcuffs.  The check was cut and I worked for them for another several months before I decided that the job really didn't work with my schedule, and I left.  I found out several months later, that when it came time for that department to renew one of the grants that funded that department, that because of a verified wage and hour issue, that particular grant, and one other would be terminated, and the school would not be eligible to reapply for several years.

Not paying your employees can have serious consequences. This woman's boss needs to realize just how much trouble that you guys can get into for that sort of thing before she declares the issues "not major enough".
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Slartibartfast

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Re: Delicate situation
« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2012, 01:16:16 AM »
I had a part-time job (a few hours a week) during college, for which I was not paid for over a year.  I was naive enough at the time to take the department payroll secretary's word for it each time she brushed me off and said it would be fixed by "next pay period," and since it was more for fun and pocket change than for serious "need this to eat" money I didn't actually *need* my paycheck.  Until eventually it got to be absolutely ridiculous that I hadn't been paid yet, and I confronted her only to be told I was one of those hoity-toity rich students (i.e. white) and I was taking the job away from a work-study student who needed it and she didn't feel a whole lot of sympathy for me.  There was more, but I think I've repressed the memory  :-\  It took a while for the university-wide HR to believe me because by that point I hadn't been paid for most of a semester and they just couldn't fathom that kind of situation going on for that long.  I finally got paid after I graduated - HR wasn't able to retroactively pay me for the hours I actually worked, so they gave me a fake on-paper-only "job" full-time for a few weeks so they could pay me for that instead.

I'd never stand for that now, but at the time I just didn't know what to do or who to go to.

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Re: Delicate situation
« Reply #11 on: October 23, 2012, 10:38:44 AM »
If she isn't qualified to do her job, it's impossible that there's nothing major wrong with her performance. I think what you are dealing with is a supervisor who doesn't want to go to the trouble of dealing with getting her fired.

POD. If she can't do her job, there is something majorly wrong.
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bopper

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Re: Delicate situation
« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2012, 01:41:17 PM »
I am not sure if the supervisor isn't aware of the issues or is ignoring them.   

If they are not aware, then "Supervisor, I wanted to talk to you about Flighty.   I have shown her how to do things that are part of her job over and over and she still isn't able to complete tasks correctly. In addition, she has lack of urgency for time sensitive projects. At the beginning of each semester, we have had to rectify her mistakes so instructors can have computer access and get paid. Up until now, we have been covering for her so our  whole department doesn't get in trouble.  However, things cannot go on like this.  I am sure it is taking me more time to correct her mistakes than it takes for her to do the tasks.  That isn't good for anyone.  if you need examples of the issues she is having I can give you some specifics."

Then after than start making it the Supervisor's problem.  Up until now it has been your problem.  "Sup, the professors still don't have access to the system. Can you ask Flighty to make sure that gets done today?"  "Sup, Flighty isn't entering the pay data in correctly.  I have shown her a number of times in a number of different ways and have also documented the procedures and trained her on it.  Can you go over with her again?"

camlan

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Re: Delicate situation
« Reply #13 on: October 23, 2012, 01:49:08 PM »
While I don't think you should let anything happen that would prevent people from getting paid on time, because people do count on their paychecks, if that happened *once* and her supervisors had to deal with the irate teachers who stormed the office, they might change their minds that the receptionist hasn't done anything major to get fired.

Protect everyone's paycheck at all costs. But I'd stop covering up for the receptionist and fixing her other mistakes. I think her supervisor needs to be the one discovering the mistakes and doing the repair work. Only then will the mistakes have enough impact to really make a change in the way things are happening. The supervisor needs to deal with the upset employees who don't have computer access and everything else that goes wrong.

Why would the whole department get in trouble for one person's mistakes? Does the receptionist get in trouble when the OP makes a mistake?
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Redneck Gravy

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Re: Delicate situation
« Reply #14 on: October 23, 2012, 03:48:07 PM »
This is going to sound harsh . . . . but I'd quit fixing her mistakes. If it's her responsibility to do X, Y, & Z in order for the professors to have computer access and get paid AND she's been trained numerous times, don't do the job for her. Refer her back to the training, job manual, whatever. If there are real consequences for other departments--such as not having computer access or getting paid--your bosses' eyes will be opened to the problem when people are knocking down their doors to complain & demand the problem be corrected.

JMO.

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