Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Negative Boss Bringing Down Morale

DEAR NATALIE: My boss has the practice of using staff meetings to discuss rule violations at work. Usually only one or two employees have violated a company policy, but because of the nature of the meetings it is affecting morale. We seem to only have staff meetings when she wants to criticize rule violations - no matter how small or insignificant. The biggest problem is people taking more than one break, and this is done by smokers. I believe a better way to handle this is to talk to these people individually. Those of us that follow the rules are tired of attending these events where we face criticism for something we are not part of. Any advice? -- TIRED OF BEING SCOLDED

DEAR TIRED OF BEING SCOLDED: What is this, an office or an elementary school? Sounds to me like she is a petty tyrant drunk with power. If I were you, I would handle this one of two ways. First, you could go to your HR department and talk to them about what your supervisor is doing. It is completely unnecessary to embarrass someone in front of the group over something like a smoke break. If she has a problem with them, she needs to pull them aside and just discuss the issue privately. I think she is doing this purely because she can, and probably wants to shame everyone so that no one else will take unnecessary breaks. If you have a good rapport with her, you could talk to her directly, explaining how people in the office are feeling when they are a part of these demoralizing meetings. But tread lightly here. It sounds as though she may not take well to any kind of criticism. Word it like this: "I was just curious about the staff meetings as of late. It seems as though the agenda has narrowed to just talking about violations. Would it make more sense to have a separate meeting just about that so when we are in the larger group meetings we can talk about ideas for improving workflow?" See if she takes the bait. Set it up like you are helping her and looking out for her -- even though it's clear she isn't looking out for any of you. 

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(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)