A hostile workplace…
A harmonious workplace is critical in today’s work place .A First Line Manager must be a keen observer of behavior in their department. The manager must be aware of their and their employee’s conversations and actions. In the work place, an employees perception of others actions and conversations takes president; not your perception. A hostile work place can lead to employee legal actions against you and your company.
My first encounter with workplace violence was in 1973 as the General Manager of The Admiral Bembo Inn in Birmingham, Alabama.
Elizabeth, an employee in the restaurant, was responsible for making all the salads. She was in her fifties, a member of a large Baptist Church, and carried her bible to work everyday in her huge handbag. She had worked for years at the Tutwiler Hotel. When the hotel closed, she came to work for us. Customers came to the restaurant just to have her famous roast beef salad. She was not a team player. This was a problem and I was aware of it. I did not want to deal with this situation. I thought the kitchen manager and employees should work it out.
One morning, Elizabeth came into my office; she informed me that she was going to leave to work at the new Hyatt Hotel in downtown. I said I hated to loose her; but, I wished her the best.
That afternoon, Joann, the breakfast cook asked me to talk to Elizabeth, she would not let them use her pots and pans. I informed her not to worry Elizabeth was leaving in two weeks. A couple hours later Mildred the kitchen manager told me the same thing and I told her the same thing, not to worry. I hated to loose Elizabeth; but, at least the personnel problem would go away.
I usually left my home for work at 6:30 each morning. I was putting on my socks at about 6:00, the phone rang. Emily said it was for me. It was Mildred she said I had better get over there fast. Elizabeth had a gun; she was threatening to shoot her and Joann. I got to the kitchen and there was Elizabeth with her handbag standing in the hallway leading out of the kitchen. I told her to come into the storage room. I ask her what the problem was. She said that they were trying to get my job. I said they were not, they were just asking me to talk to you about letting them use some of your pots and pans. I then said doesn’t the Bible say that we should treat others as we would want to be treated. She agreed. I said what if Joann or Mildred treated you as you treated them this morning how would you feel? She said she would not like it. I then said don’t you think you should tell them you are sorry, she agreed. We stepped out of the storage room, she said she was sorry. I asked if everything was “OK”. They all agreed. I think all of us knew Elizabeth was not going to shoot anyone.
That afternoon, Elizabeth came to my office, told me she had changed her mind; she was not going to leave for the Hyatt. We never had another problem with Elizabeth.
Today, I would have handled this situation differently. I would have intervened as soon as I suspected the problem with Elizabeth in the work group. I would meet with Mildred to determine a how we would address Elizabeth to solve the problem. I would have followed back with Mildred to learn if progress had been made.
Now, a First Line Manager must be thoroughly aware of their corporation’s policy on workplace violence and harassment. The manager must know the corporate process to follow in a violent situation.
In 1973, workplace violence was not the concern that it is today.