#3: MY COMPANY DOESN’T PROTECT ME
Cindy has been working for the same software company for over 15 years. She has felt very much a part of the team, and had the same boss for 15 years. However, after 30 years with the company, her boss Barbara just retired, and her new boss David has taken over the department. Cindy has tried to show David the same respect she showed to Barbara. However, Cindy has quickly noticed that David has a different management style, and Cindy is not quite sure if life working for David is going to be as good as it was working for Barbara. She has decided to give it some time.
Today, however, around 5pm, when everyone else in the department was clocking out for the day, David asked Cindy to stay for a meeting with him. Quite honestly, Cindy was a bit apprehensive, but agreed to stay. Once everyone had left the office, David invited Cindy into his office, and closed the door behind him. Cindy felt uncomfortable.
David began the meeting by telling Cindy how valuable he feels she will be to him as a manager. She thanked him, and waited for his next point. Instead, David got up from his desk, and came around to where Cindy was sitting, and put his hands on her shoulders and began stroking her hair. Startled, Cindy jumped up, turned around, and ran out of the room, grabbed her coat and briefcase, and ran out of the office to the elevator. She felt a panic as the elevator descended, but was relieved when it reached the ground floor, and she found one of her colleagues Beth in the lobby. She grabbed Beth and asked her to stay with her as they left the building.
Outside, Cindy asked Beth to walk with her to the Starbucks two blocks away, so Cindy could relate to Beth what just happened. Without questioning, seeing how shaken Cindy was, Beth held on to her and they walked together to the coffee shop.
In the coffee shop, Cindy related the incident. Beth suggested that she call Alison, the Director of Human Resources for the company, on her cell immediately, and Cindy did just that. Much to Cindy’s amazement, however, Alison asked if there were any witnesses to what Cindy said happened. Cindy shouted into the phone, “There were no witnesses, and I expect you to hear what I am telling you, and do something to protect me. This guy is weird, and I don’t feel safe.”
Alison then told Cindy that in the morning, she would need to bring David and her into the HR office so that Alison and a colleague could hear accounts from both Cindy and David, and make a decision about the incident. Cindy got off the phone, turned to Beth, and said, “I can’t believe this, but I don’t think Alison believes me. I can’t believe that after 15 years with the company, I may be doubted, and that the company is not protecting me. I never thought this would happen to me or any of us. I know Barbara assured us that she would come to our side immediately if it ever happened.”
Beth called Cindy’s husband to pick her up from the coffee shop. Once he had Cindy in the car, her husband could easily see that Cindy was very shaken by what happened. Because it was obvious that she was experiencing so much emotional trauma, he took her to the hospital, where she was evaluated that night. From the hospital, her husband called their attorney. He could see that damage was done to his wife’s emotional stability. Cindy was released from the crisis unit after several hours, and her husband took her home. Cindy decided not to go to work in the morning, and to let the attorney deal with the HR department. Cindy felt betrayed by her company. She decided by the end of the week she could not return to work, and resigned after 15 years of loyal service and excellent work.
Among the complaints that employees have with their companies, this is a major one. Employees complain that they do not feel protected from sexual harassment, from safety issues, and from violence in the workplace. This is a great challenge to the management of any size company or organization. Management with the guidance of their HR professionals needs to put effective policies and procedures in place, watchdog protocols for reporting unusual situations, and educational programs to teach employees how to deal with any incidents that could compromise their safety and security in the workplace. These policies and programs must be designed to allow all employees to feel confident that management will listen and that each person is fully protected. Sadly, in the world in which we live today, employees are more fearful of getting through the day than ever before, and companies and organizations need to be especially proactive in finding ways to lessen the fear.
The team at The Pennington HR Group has over a decade of proven experience in facilitating dialogues between managers and their employees. We work with managers to help them better understand how their employees are feeling, and how the manager can be more effective in showing appreciation to all of the employees and giving them the validation that is so important to each of them.