Thumper Final Part…. January 2013 ….
While I have thousands and thousands of words stored in my head regarding this series of events, I am going to leave most of them there. This series of events took place over 18 – 20 months, over 25 years ago, and being honest it gives me chills rehashing it to this degree. I have told the verbal condensed version of this story many times, and by the end of the story most folks are howling with tears in their eyes. But I’m not. It was very troubling for me. For those of you that are just joining, you may want to refer to my Post, dated 01/08/13 titled January 2013 …. Thumper.
Throughout my journey with Susan I had kept notes, marked my calendar, and directly reported the outcome of the meetings to management. For the most part I was believed, but I was asked more than once, “are you sure this is what happened”, or statements like “Bill, you need to be more careful in how you deal with Susan.” But my having the shredded letter with her signature, and statement that she had torn it up, coupled with the fact that some of upper management had already interacted with Susan one-on-one, really saved my butt. So when the harassment letter was filed against me while unexpected it didn’t take management totally by surprise. The perquisite meetings were conducted, I met with the union, my boss and I met the union, I met with personnel and legal, and the union advised Susan that I would take sensitivity training to better equip me to dear with her. Everyone seemed to be happy for the moment, except me. The union had demanded that I make a formal apology to Susan in public, where I was to admit I was totally in the wrong and was management sending me to sensitivity training as a result. I completely refused this demand. I even threatened to resign if it came to that. The union withdrew this request. What truly amazed me that everyone blew off that fact that Susan had sat in my office and banged her head on the desk (I had no witnesses besides myself), and the letter incident (I kept the original scotched taped together letter).
The other thing that amazed me is that Susan wasn’t moved from my branch into a more accepting branch. It was clear to me that the other branch chiefs to a one refused to bring her onboard. I knew the other managers had many compelling reasons, to not accept her, so Susan was mine. Clearly the incident with the harassment letter and its’ outcome shook me up. After counsel with personnel and legal, I was to pay closer attention to her “work”. Before you jump me saying that I was harassing her, but only in a different manner, I need to stress that Susan never met the minimum requirements for the job she was hired to do. I had mentioned this in part one, but didn’t go into detail or spend significant time addressing her non-performance issues.
Over the next several months I documented incidents where her work was not at an acceptable level. I created a training plan specific to her needs. I found courses that would aid her in success and locations where she could attend training without travel.
Susan would not travel without a 5 workday advance notice. A concession made by my bosses. But that really didn’t impact me because none of the regions wanted her to travel to their location, and once I realized she couldn’t do the job she was hired to perform I developed other assets to perform this function.
At mid-year review time, I presented my review of her unacceptable work to Susan, and advised her of the training plan to get her on track. She refused to sign the mid-year evaluation form (which I documented) and advised me that she wouldn’t travel for training. I said that’s fine all the training I wanted her to do was available locally. I handed her the list of mandated courses (approved by personnel and legal), and told her to schedule the course work.
Shortly after performing the mid-year evaluation of Susan, a work place harassment grievance was again filed against me. This really wasn’t an issue, I had crossed every “T” and dotted every “I”, in regard to Susan’s performance, and soon this grievance was dismissed. Three months after the mid-year evaluation (according to regulations) Susan and I again met to discuss her progress. She had made no effort to attend any of the training classes. She advised that the courses were not in the proper sequence, as to how she could take them. I advised her, this was unacceptable and I was going to notify personnel of her non-compliance. Susan had a hissy fit, which I ignored and filed with personnel the appropriate paperwork regarding her non-compliance.
Over the next several weeks there were numerous meeting between myself, the union, personnel, and legal. I also had the opportunity to explain myself to upper management. Everyone was getting extremely tried of the ongoing issues with Susan. It all finally came to a head, and once again a grievance was filed against me. This one again centered on my continued insistence that Susan was not meeting the minimum skill requirements for the position she was in, plus my continued harassment of her regarding this issue. The issues about performance were easily resolved. Susan was advised that she must take the required courses and must show marked improvement over the next 6 months. One final meeting was being conducted to see if an agreement between Susan and I could be met, where we were both happy. I won’t kid you, this meeting I considered to be a waste of time, but it was yet another hoop that had to be jumped thru. Also there was some lingering doubt as to my innocence (complete or otherwise).
Those who attended this meeting included: a senior representative from the union, a senior representative from personnel, my Admin Officer, a senior lawyer representing the Agency, Susan and myself.
It should be noted that over this 16 month period I was the only person to witness the head banging (2 separate incidents), and I only had another manager as my witness to the letter shredding incident (besides Susan’s signed statement that she torn the letter up and scotch taped it back together). I had resigned myself to except whatever came of this and to begin looking for a new job.
We gathered around the conference table in my office. I sat at one end and Susan, the union rep, the personnel rep, my Admin Officer, and the lawyer sat in a semi-circle facing me. I was the only male in attendance. The meeting was going well, it really was a non-adversarial conversation. My whole dialog centered around Susan not being capable of doing the job, and her refusal to take the necessary training. Susan did not dwell on those issues but focused instead on how I interacted with her, and how even the littlest of things would upset me.
The union rep asked her what little things, Susan replied, “Oh, he doesn’t like how I put things in his inbox.” To which the union rep said, “Oh? Really?” The union rep turned to me and asked how she put things in my box that offended me so. I was hemming and hawing, and the union rep turned to Susan and said, “Susan why don’t you give us an example of how you put thing in his inbox.” Susan said sure, grabbed a folder off my desk, stormed out of the office, only to immediately return with folder held high and SLAMMED it into my inbox, just like she did all the time. The lawyer, personnel rep and my admin officer’s chins dropped and their eyes about popped out of their heads. The union rep turned to Susan after this demonstration, and said, “Susan, surely you don’t do that every time you bring paper work to Mr. Hamilton,” to which Susan responded, “Oh yes I do!” The union rep could hardly gather herself, before she said, “Susan, if you do it like this all the time, Mr. Hamilton may have a point.” To which Susan said, “doesn’t matter, that’s how I do it!” The union rep said that behavior such as she just demonstrated was quite disrespectful and very unprofessional, and that Susan would need to change that behavior.
Susan calmly took her seat, and while her chair was still pushed away from the table, looked about the room and slammed her head to the table. She leaned back, took her glasses off and slammed her head two more times. Then Susan jumped up screaming and ran from the room. At this point I turned to the other attendees and said, this is what I have been dealing with for the last 2 years.
It took 3 hours for folks from the outreach office, the nurse’s office, and FPS, to talk her into leaving the bathroom.
While Susan was being talked out of the bathroom, the union rep, the lawyer, the manager from personnel and my Admin Officer decided that, I should continue my efforts to terminate Susan with the full support of the union, personnel, legal, and admin, and that any records dealing with the grievances filed against me would be removed from the records, and I was to be cleared of any wrong doing and so noted in my record.
Three months later Susan resigned, she resigned the day before she was to be terminated for performance. That folks is the story of “Thumper.”
I do apologize for the seer length of this post, and how rapidly I brought it to conclusion. But I figured you were tired of it, and I was tired of talking about it. It is one thing to relate this story verbally in a semi-quiet setting, and to do so in 10 minutes. But it is quite another to thing to think about it, and to rehash it in writing.
I have left out tons of details. I could have more fully explained myself, I could have spoken to the many petty little things that Susan did, and just how poorly she performed. I could have made it into a novel, it would make a perfect a horror story.
As always your comment and suggestions are greatly welcomed. Please take care, Bill