Ask Athena: Just the Facts

Objectivity is a great people skill.
Super-wiser

Dear Athena,

I have been working for the same company for about 4 years, the last nine months in the first managerial position of my life. So here’s my rookie question: what do I do when a new hire regularly ignores my perfectly appropriate requests for work/research/follow-up/etc until somebody else asks her? She does a great job, but only after another manager or a director gets involved.

She’s otherwise very pleasant to me – even when I show my frustration, she never seems to get flustered. And although she agrees to follow my directions, she never seems to change her behavior. It’s like everything I say goes right through her.

When I asked another manager for advice, she suggested I was just imagining things and warned me not to make it “personal.” My husband, however, says this woman is trying to sabotage me. What do you think? What should I do? – The Invisible Woman

Dear Invisible,

You need to get control of this situation. You were right to seek out advice, but your colleague’s opinion is not the only one. Neither is your husband’s. Maybe your employee is a flake or maybe she is hostile. But consider this. There may be other reasons she is not listening. Maybe you are not being clear even if you think you are. Maybe she doesn’t trust your judgment or maybe she does not value your position of authority. But don’t assume she is actively undermining you.

Keep your eye on the big picture. By her not listening and only changing her behavior when others intercede, this dynamic could undermine your career. You don’t just have an employee who doesn’t listen, it may look like you are not doing your job.

Address her behavior with her in every circumstance when she does not follow your request. Repeat the request that was made and ask her why she did not do it. Start making the requests in writing or keeping a journal of what you said and when. You need to keep a paper trail and act like a supervisor. You are responsible for holding her accountable for doing her job.

Try not to get frustrated or attribute motives to her. Stick with the facts and just repeat them to her. “I asked you to do this and you have not done it. I will keep a note of this in my file.’’ Read the personnel manual. If you have an HR department, talk with them. Make sure you know if there are disciplinary steps that you can take, such as a giving her a warning in her file. Let her know that your requests have to be followed. Then, follow through.

You are the supervisor. Act like one.

Cat’s Not Right

Dear Athena,

I just found out a new friend whose company I enjoy very much let their family cat have kittens. In this day and age! They placed all of them in good homes but are remarkably nonchalant about letting her roam the neighborhood, unfixed.

I don’t want to offend my friend, but he needs to spay his momma kitty ASAP! The city is overrun with stray cats already. Even if you love cats (as I do) we cannot have them fighting in the streets and wreaking havoc on our wildlife.

Is there a delicate way to handle this? I don’t think my friend is being deliberately irresponsible, but his old-school attitude about cat owner responsibility is a big problem for me.  – How Can We Be Friends

Dear Cat friend,

I agree with you. There is a potential problem here. Have you talked with your friend about what they are doing? Do they intend to keep on finding homes for these kitties year after year? Or did they have friends who wanted kittens and they are just helping out?

So far, what they are doing has not added to the feral cat population. But, at some point, it might. If they don’t do something, they will have a lot of kittens to raise. And, those kittens will have kittens! That’s a lot of cat food and litter boxes. Talk with them about what they plan to do. Do some research about how easy and inexpensive it is to spay a cat and where they can go.

This shouldn’t be done in an offensive way. Just provide the information and tell your friend that you did the research to keep them from having to care for a lot of kitties in the future. Not all kittens released into the wild will live either. They will get diseased or possibly killed by other animals. Show them the facts. See how they react.

This may be a deal-breaker with your relationship. Especially if they plan to release the kittens into the wild. But don’t go there yet. See what the plan is after you provide your research.

The irresponsibility becomes purposeful when a person knows the consequences and continues anyway. If you can’t abide someone who would be cruel to animals, then you need to tell your friend this.

Agree or Disagree? Please comment below.
Send your questions to AskAthena@nwlocalpaper.com

Read last month’s Ask Athena here.

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