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How can I manage her when I feel so compassionate?

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 22 May 2014
Dear Patricia Marie

I have an ongoing problem with a colleague I am in management of. In 2012 she got arrested in the store for committing grievous bodily harm to her husband. I was very distressed at this, as she is only a small lady and believed her husband was being untrue. I went to the police station to see if I could do anything, and was told she was okay but being held overnight. She came back to work after she was let out, and all of my staff and myself felt very sorry for her.  About two months later she was rearrested for breaking her conditions of bail and visiting her husband when he was asleep, subsequently she spent Christmas in a prison cell.

I was very exasperated with her and could not see a way forward with her, then she phoned in sick, and said she had breast cancer, a doctor's note confirmed this.
12 months down the line after a double breast surgery she has returned to work.

I am glad she is well, but she is as disruptive as ever.  How can I manage her when I feel so compassionate towards her? I have done my utmost to accommodate her, but in the two week she has been back she has been late every day and I do not wish to be remonstrating with her all the time. Please could you give me your advice on how to handle the situation.

Patricia Marie says:

Firstly, your colleague is very fortunate to have such a caring, empathic manager as yourself. Your morals and work ethics, however, are being challenged around this person.

It seems to me that you have been so focused on supporting this member of staff that you have lost sight of the fact you have a professional duty to adhere to, including implementing boundaries within the work place, not only for your staff, but for yourself too.

Having conditions set at work can make one feel secure, and as this lady is all over the place, she may thank you for bringing some stability into her life.

Whilst you have displayed great warmth and kindness, it seems like you have been taken for granted, which you do not deserve. She is clearly not regarding your feelings and how her behaviour is affecting you, which is extremely unfair considering how tolerant and supportive you have been.

You need to sit down in the work place (rather than meet out of work, as she would associate this with you being a friend, not her manager) and have a proper talk with this lady. Do remind her that whilst she has been extremely brave in fighting cancer, and which is why you have displayed great patience, her recent poor professional behaviour cannot continue, and by you being honest with her, hopefully this should encourage her to act more responsibly in the future and also respect you as her manager.

Got a dilemma? Please email  Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.

In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

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