The "H" Word - Addressing FALSE Harassment Claims

More frequently than ever before in history are younger professionals passing their more "mature" counterparts as they climb the corporate ladder.

This is not without its propensity for workplace conflict. 

One problem that we have dealt with for our business clients on a regular basis occurs when the younger professional becomes the boss of the mature veteran.  

With insufficient leadership training, the young manager is easily intimidated, maybe even bullied, by the older, experienced worker. What is worse is when the older worker has already been in management.

Former managers can be extremely difficult to manage because they often feel they already "know it all."

In one such case, the older worker would come and go to and from work when she wanted and only picked the things she liked to work on.  When she did work, the quality was fantastic, but she would not stick to the work plan that was previously approved. 

When she was approached, she would accuse her young manager of harassing her and micro managing her. Her manager became afraid to even speak to her because he didn't want to get charged with harassment.

Believe it or not this problem is very simple to solve.

Regardless of age or experience, the manager is the manager and his or her job is to give direction to anyone who works for him or her. 

Under most employment laws, an employee must carry out any lawful instruction that they are given. In other words, in the case outlined above, the older worker had an obligation to do as her manager said - as long as it is lawful.

Dealing with harassment accusations are fairly straight forward. In most jurisdictions, workplace harassment laws permit employers to direct, discipline, and correct workers in the course of their duties. 

For example, a supervisor who raises his or her voice to a worker to say, “I need this done and I need this done before you leave work today” is not harassment. If a supervisor publicly berates the worker by using foul language or degrading talk, that could be harassment, but not necessarily.

There is another simple course of action which can be taken that people overlook when it comes to someone ‘pulling the "H" card’ and accusing a coworker or manager of harassment. 

All you have to do is apologize by saying something like this: “I am truly sorry that you believe I harassed you because that was never my intent, I simply need this task done and I need it done by the end of the day.”  If the worker said it was the tone used, then again, tone by itself will not necessarily constitute harassment.

A simple definition of harassment is: any behaviour that is REPEATED, VEXATIOUS and UNWANTED.  

Frankly telling someone that they need to do their job, or disciplining them for not doing their job, may be unwanted but it is not vexatious. It is simply part of the job

Many older, experienced workers in situations similar to these are probably over-qualified for their job and may even think they can do a better job than their young manager. However, the simple fact is that workers work for their managers and managers have the right to direct their subordinates.

If any worker doesn’t agree with what they are being asked to do, simply complete the task and then challenge it for the next time. If this is done properly, the worker's concerns will be heard.

Workers should also keep in mind that if they pull the harassment card and threaten or back-talk their manager to try to intimidate him or her, the worker could in fact be facing harassment charges.

No one should take using the "h" word lightly.  It is a very serious accusation and the lawmakers would frown on those who would simply use it for their own personal gains.

Workers and managers must both are where you are and it is what it is.  Workers, do your job the way your manager wants it done and then suggest alternatives after the work has been completed (if appropriate). If the manager doesn't accept your proposed changes, maybe it’s time to consider a career adjustment.

Handling harassment claims properly requires NOT over-reacting. Learn to be in control of your actions and behaviour at all times in a way that others will learn to both trust and respect you.