Thursday, August 22, 2013

She's wearing a see through blouse - Are you kidding me?

Playing the role of a manager in any industry requires quick reflexes, change on the fly decision making, and having "wherewithall" to quickly assess a situation and intervene appropriately.  Reacting to a bad situation unprofessionally can set up a bad series of events leading to staff disciplinary action, your own disciplinary action, or decreased morale amongst general staff members.  Being able to assess quickly and react soundly is a chief attribute of a good manager.  Dealing with sensitive water cooler topics such as sexuality can be hazardous in the workplace.  Reacting poorly to such occurrences can land a manager into hot water fast.

One such issue came about which I will describe below and what is the proper way to handle such a situation.  Managing a huge staff of professionals is a daunting task.  Most of the time my major issues involved scientific questions and situations that effected the scientific work going on in a clinical laboratory.  When situations involve extreme emotion, despair, or horrific distress of an employee care must be taken to handle the employee with dignity, care, and respect.  Sometimes just sending an employee home is not appropriate.  In extreme situations of stress or distress it is wise to send an employee home with someone of the same sex to make sure the staff member is ok and makes it home safely.  Then there is verification from the accompanying employee that safety is insured.  That last thing you want as a manger is to send someone home only to make it half way  and die in a traffic accident or kill someone else in a horrific auto accident.  So be it, some situations are not as serious but still must be handled with dignity and smarts.  I give you the story of the "Lady with the see through blouse".

On a busy weekday in the ole lab, the hustle and bustle of specimen receipt and accessioning, all staff were on deck wearing gloves, lab coat, and face shields.  That PPE was hiding one little aspect of one particular employees appearance that day.  After, the specimen receipt process was over, staff routinely took breaks for the morning.  Well that is when the raucous started.  I was sitting in my office reviewing documentation, answering emails, and what ever, when a female staff member came startling in and said; "You have to do something about "Hortense -I'll call her".  I asked what was wrong?  The staff member blurted "she is wearing a see through nude blouse with a see through bra - Nothing is hidden"....  "Everyone is gawking at her".  I just said, "You have to be kidding me? Hortense"? The reporting staff member walked away satisfied she had done what she thought needed to be done.  And she did.  What's a manager to do?...Now I could have confronted the staff member out in the lab and assessed the blouse myself in front of other staff members.  That would not be good.  That could turn out to be very embarrassing for me and the employee if it really was an issue of virtual nudity.   I could request the employee to come to my office but that would also be risky if there really was virtual nudity and the employee intended to walk around in a provoking manner.  That one on one situation could quickly escalate to a sexual harassment claim.  Don't want to go there either!  What is the proper way to handle it?
Gather up another management level same sex (as the troubled employee) co-worker and carefully interview the staff member.  This would also be valid for addressing a complaint of workplace vulgar language complaints, inappropriate website surfing, etc.  The key is you don't want to address an issue such as this alone and certainly not two same sex managers interviewing an opposite sex offender if you can avoid it.  Well with that startling claim of virtual nudity, I indeed gathered up another female manager to assess the employee. Right!
Upon, requesting "Hortense" to come to my office I did not immediately notice "anything" with a half opened lab coat she was wearing.  However, when she arrived at my office without the lab coat that was a different view.  If anything can be said about the outcome of this issue it is that the employee apologized and fixed the problem immediately.  Weeks later she was able to again say she was sorry and laughed about how she did not realize what she looked like.  With the 2nd female manager in my office with the employee I was able to safely assess the situation, point out to the staff member that the clothing of the day was inappropriate, and that some options were available to remedy the situation.  First, Hortense was displaying virtual nudity.  Graphic display of chest anatomy is an understatement of the actual situation.  A sheer nude colored blouse with a sheer nude colored bra is not proper attire for any workplace.  Hortense was somewhat surprised about that when I told her that her appearance was inappropriate with see through clothing.  As she looked down at herself, her face turned white as a ghost, she looked at the female manager who then affirmed that "Yes honey - Your clothing is see through leaving nothing to the imagination".  With that; profuse apology followed from the employee.  The discussion about what needs to be done followed.  Options included going home on vacation time; going home-coming back appropriately dressed on vacation time; and lastly - put on a sweater or a change of clothing and don't take it off the rest of the workday!  Hortense picked wore a sweater all day buttoned up to her chin.  That was the best option under the best conditions.  No need to get HR involved.  No lost time for productivity.  We were all adults and that was an adult fix for the situation.  Incident over with minimal stress on the employee, I won points for handling the situation adeptly, and no one got hurt.  Yes- there were some rumblings around the workplace during the day followed by chuckles but that was to be expected.  "Nudal frontity" unintended in the workplace is funny and as in this case was innocently perpetrated.  However, what if "Hortense" had a fight with husband that morning at the house.  Wore barley nothing to work to make him mad and intended on poking someones eye out with genitalia? What would you do to address that situation?  Luckily this was an innocent mishap with an employee that was extremely embarrassed and willing to cooperate fully.
Workplace behavior is extremely important to productivity, morale, and emotional stability of individuals on the workforce who can easily succumb to workplace stresses.  Letting bad behavior go in one instance can perpetuate more bad behavior and easily become a mitigating issue for a trouble causing employee when approached with disciplinary action.  Unfair treatment to one is showing favoritism to another.  Ignoring bad behavior from one staff member unfairly affects the rest of the staff who do their job, cause no problems, and work productively.  Real serious issues can escalate from favoritism and there is nothing more destructive and pervasive to workplace cohesiveness than illicit sexual behavior and or sexual affairs between employees in the workplace.  I have seen this happen from the top down from management.  When top leaders are engaging openly in this behavior the resulting degrade in morale is so pervasive that many staff members think they can get away with anything.  When this happens, the workplace is totally out of control, rules are not followed, and staff start leaving in rapid succession leaving behind sour exit interviews.  Not good.  Yours Truly.

So I have a saying, a Mayorgism if you will...
The talent that is mistreated and forced out will haunt the establishment for years to come; treat staff fairly, keep the loyal~Scott Mayorga

With that I say Good day to you - be smart - assess the situation - may you always make the right choice of action.

Scott R. Mayorga A.A.S. BS MT(ASCP)H CLS

The talent that is mistreated and forced out will haunt the establishment for years to come; treat staff fairly, keep the loyal~Scott Mayorga - See more at:

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