Dear Evil HR Lady,
How should one react when an employee is told by the corporate office over the phone that they may not have any more vacation advanced to them and the employee rants and raves about how unfair it is and finishes with, “I am so frustrated, I could kill myself! And the bank [continues ranting]” Should one document the incident and then:
1. Assume the person is just venting watch the employee closely in the future;
2. Send upper management to her location to take a closer look at the situation and then debate the merits of options 1 and 2 with someone;
3. Take the threat seriously and advise the employee the next day, after her temper cools, that she must get counseling before she returns to work (sadly, we do not have an EAP);
4. Take the threat super seriously and have her escorted off the site where she is working as a subcontractor at a federal facility, which will likely have her clearance revoked and cause her to lose her job and any chance of working in that field in the future;
5. Something else I’ve missed?
Love your blog, by the way!
I really, really hope this is purely a hypothetical question. Although I have a feeling that it’s the same type of hypothetical question that I used when I said to my husband, “would you be upset if I told you I managed to put a six foot scrape along the side of the car?”
I took your question to my evil colleagues and they all said, “Yikes.” That was the only thing they agreed on. One said, ignore it, normal rant, but especially don’t do number 4. A second said:
At minimum, I would say document and three. Even as angry as I’ve been about certain work situations in the past, there’s always a line about how much “venting” is appropriate. For them to even consider uttering that line, let alone saying it out loud, indicates a problem. It’s so interesting that you should have to tackle this one now. I was just this morning relaying to my husband the need for a company to have a dr’s clearance upon an ee’s return from any LOA, to reduce the company’s exposure and potential for liability. I think that’s exactly the thing that this person needs to consider. And especially in today’s environment, people can not be afraid to seriously address these issues. Does this person want to be responsible for the next major news headline? These are the types of scenarios where if you can look back and say with a clear conscience that you did what you were supposed to do in order to address the situation, then you have done the right thing.
Initially, my gut response would be to see what their policy says in this situation, but the lack of one is why I’m assuming this person e-mailed to begin with…another example where lack of policy, procedure and employee assistance programs can open up a business to tons of exposure.
A third said that pychologists have to take all suicidal/homicidal threats seriously (even if they are 100% sure the person is just venting), and so should HR.
My vote most closely goes with your third option. Your company has no EAP (employee assistance program), but I think you should discuss with the ranting employee that what she said was not appropriate and that she needs to be evaluated. Then I would have the company hire someone to evaluate her. Whatever the cost for a psychological evaluation, it would be cheaper in the long run and much safer for your company. Asking an employee to go out and find her own counselor before returning to work is a really high burden. If her temper really is a problem, asking her to pay for one could make things worse.
If there isn’t really a problem, the company will be out $200-$300 for a licensed professional to talk to the woman. If there is a problem, the company will have just saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars dealing with the aftermath of an employee pushed over the edge.
Evil HR Lady