Have you ever had an employee who you helped, extended every accommodation to, only to have him or her undermine you–going so far as to call you racist? I thought I knew this person; we’d worked together before and I admired her tenacity. Boy, was that a perception that bit me in the you-know-what in short order.
I knew that this women needed to work; she’d been faced with an ugly, and ultimately wrongful, termination from her previous job and been unemployed for some time. She had experience in the area that I was hiring, so I thought it could be a good fit. Initially, the work got done. After a few months however, when I asked her to do progressively more complex tasks, like writing reports, it was like pulling teeth.
Her writing skills were not what I’d expected, even after seeing a writing sample as part of the interview process. In a supervision session I suggested she may want to take a business writing class–she flatly refused. First red flag.
In the first performance review we discussed the ratings I’d given, and she, of course, disagreed with a few of them. One in particular had to do with rating her ability to “appreciate diversity”; always a challenging conversation. She believed, in no uncertain terms, that she should receive an above average rating because she took co-workers on field trips to the local ethnic market. Second red flag.
There were probably another dozen or so red flags that popped up over the 3 years. Working the part-time job that she needed to leave early every Friday to get to on time. The constant complaining of no money and nearly losing her home every month. Always a crises in one form or other was given as an explanation of why her work didn’t get done. Maybe I gave too much leeway or was to “understanding”, but it all finally came to a head!
Having received no support from my supervisor or HR to deal with the challenges, I finally blew up; loudly and completely unprofessional–totally not who I know myself to be. The staff nearby to my cubicle of course, heard my meltdown as I lamented to another manager in the organization. I was at my wit’s end and found support and guidance from my co-worker. However, the next day, there I was sitting in the HR office with my supervisor and told I was now on probation for my unprofessional, and now “racist” behavior. I can’t begin to fathom how they came to the conclusion of racist other than to say it was out of fear.
I must admit that this was, by far, the most difficult time in my entire career to date. The manager I mentioned who listened to my concerns, calmed my fears, supported me to HR and our shared supervisor–that’s who gets today’s Thank You!