You are an engineer with authority over human resources and an employee comes to you and says, “I want to tell you something about someone, but you can’t tell anybody.” He then reveals that someone pushed another employee in the company kitchen. What action do you take?
According to Bertocci (2009), “of the many challenges faced by leaders and managers, managing change is one of the most difficult” (p. 86). I fully agree. It is easy to manage when you have a particular algorithm. However, when the working process takes an unexpected turn, you are on your own. The circumstances described above are a prime example of “managing change” (Bertocci, 2009, p. 3).
In this situation, I see three possible ways for me as a human resources engineer to behave. The first one is not informing anybody about what I have discovered since I have made a promise. The second one is to report this incident. The last one is something in between, and I would rather find that golden mean.
As an engineer with authority over human resources, first of all, I have to be guided by the employment law rules. One of the main of them is Occupational Safety & Health Administration (or OSHA), which guarantees the safety at the workplace and “requires employers to provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers”, no matter in what ways those dangers can appear (Occupational Safety & Health Administration, n.d., para. 1).
Therefore, the first thing I should do is to find out whether a person who was pushed in the kitchen was actually injured, and if he or she was, it is my responsibility as an engineer and as a leader to report it in order to prevent similar situations in the future.
To find it out without revealing myself, I can make, for example, a quick survey in a written form regarding workplace relationships. By accurately asking the right questions, I can find out the answers I am concerned about. As a last resort, I can even talk to a person that has been pushed pretending that I have seen the incident by myself.
So, if an employee was injured, I would report it to upper-level managers. However, if I describe the incident in the way I know it, I would likely lose the support and trust of an employee who revealed this secret to me. That is why I would say that I saw everything by myself or watched the recordings of surveillance cameras (if there were any).
On the other hand, even if an employee is fine, I can not be silent either, since the same situation can repeat, and much more complicated outcomes can follow. In this case, instead of reporting to upper-level managers, I will take measures on my own. I will talk to the offender (again, without revealing myself) and warn him or her about the consequences of such kind of behavior. Besides, an organization I work in should definitely review its policies regarding safety in the workplace and relationships between employees. For example, if there are not any surveillance cameras in the office space, the authority should consider installing them.
Finally, if I did not have any opportunity to resolve the situation without getting revealed, I would ignore my promise and give preference to the rights of a person who had been injured.
Bertocci, D. I. (2009). Leadership in Organizations: There is a Difference Between Leaders and Managers. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Occupational Safety & Health Administration. (n.d.). Web.