Dear J.T. & Dale: I work for a property management company, and we have a maintenance supervisor who is verbally abusive to residents as well as to fellow employees. I have brought it to the attention of the manager several times. Nothing changes. This is a hostile work environment, and the company has no handbook and offers no training. How should I pursue this? — Caitlin
J.T.: Because the company has no policy, coupled with the fact that you have reported it and nothing has happened, it’s safe to assume that nothing will happen. I’d strongly suggest that you look for a new job. I know it doesn’t seem fair, but so often the circumstances around work environments aren’t fair.
Dale: Wait! Back up. First, I’m going to take a guess as to why management has failed to respond: This grouch is actually quite effective at his job. After all, no one wants to spend time chatting with a grump, and residents are unlikely to ask special favors of one, so he probably can move through his daily assignments with great efficiency. I am also going to assume that this employee is pleasant to the boss.
Indeed, if you complain about the grouch, it will seem to the boss as though YOU are the whiner, right? So, what can you do? You need to recruit other employees to file complaints and, even better, get residents to sound off. Eventually, you can reverse the scales of management effort, making it more trouble to keep him than to let him go.
J.T.: But even if that should work, she still has second-rate management that’s been willing to look the other way as long as possible. So, Caitlin, I say you should find a job with a company that has policies and procedures to deal with this sort of thing — doing so speaks volumes about the company and the level of professionalism it requires of its staff.
Dale: I want everyone to have a great boss, but meanwhile, one of my favorite Zen sayings is, “Your enemy is your Buddha.” The idea is to learn from the people you find most troublesome. You may well look for a new job, but it probably will take a while, and if it does, look for ways to improve the current situation, either by influencing management or by befriending the grouch and helping him to understand his effect on the residents. You have an opportunity to make a difference, not just a change.
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