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Dear ReWorker,

I have an employee that monitors everyone else's schedule. We are a retail organization, so schedules change from week to week. If someone is late, or two people swap shifts, I'll hear about it from her. Other than this annoying habit, she's good at her job. She just likes to hover and tattle. Of course, this drives her coworkers crazy. Can I keep the schedule away from her, citing privacy concerns?

Sincerely,

Tired of the Tattling

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Dear Tired,

Of course you can keep the schedule away from her, but that would require you to keep it away from everyone, and just let people know their own schedules. When people want to trade a shift, it will all have to come through you, which will increase your workload. Plus, even if the schedule is kept private, your employee is smart enough to know that no one is scheduled to come in at 2:05, so when someone clocks in at that time, you'll hear about how so-and-so was late.

What you're trying to do is what many managers look to do—solve the problem without having to talk to the problem maker. This approach rarely works and often makes things worse. So, let's solve the problem instead of trying to find work-arounds.

First, let's examine her complaints. People must be coming in late for her to tattle, which is problematic. As for the shift swapping, it generally isn't a problem, but it could indicate that whoever does the scheduling isn't taking all employees' needs into consideration. In other words, your tattle-tale could be warning you of big problems.

Assess Underlying Problems

You need to address lateness with the latecomers, and rethink your scheduling if there is a lot of swapping going on. If either of these things are affecting the tattle-tale's life, that may be why she's whining; if she can't go home because Jane hasn't come in on time, that's an actual problem; if she's stuck working with people who need training all the time because of schedule swaps, that's a problem, too.

If these things are real problems, you can solve your tattle-tale problem by fixing the underlying issue. In a retail environment, people need to come in on time. Full stop.

However, if neither the lateness nor the swapping are real issues, and she's just being nit-picky and annoying, you can address the tattler directly. You don't have to have a big sit down discussion with her—just wait until the next time she comes up to tell you that Jane clocked in late or that Steve and Sarah swapped shifts. Say to her: "This is not something you need to keep track of or tell me. I'm on top of it. Thanks!"

Now, she'll be back again with another report of her coworkers' failings, at which point you say, "I told you this is not your concern. Please don't mention it again."

When she comes back a third time, then you have the sit down. "Helen, I've asked you twice not to talk to me about this. Do not monitor your co-workers. Do not worry about schedules. This is my job. If it happens again, I'll have to put a formal warning in your file. Is that clear?"

After that, you'll have to follow your company's disciplinary procedures. She may be a good employee otherwise, but if she's alienating her co-workers, that's bad for the team.

Fix your tardiness problem, consider changing how you schedule and tell the tattle-tale to zip it. That way you can still post schedules publicly.

Sincerely,

Your ReWorker

Suzanne Lucas, Evil HR Lady