Early Warning

By Kit Goldman, President of Workplace Training Network, Inc.

Ron: an employee at a fictional City Hall
Casey: his supervisor

SCENE: Ron is back in his office after a break Laurie an upsetting encounter with a co-worker


R: (on phone with a staffer in another department) …..there’s no way…..uh uh, no way…..it’s just not possible….Antonio, read my lips: I cannot pull all of that information together in a week….. (Casey, his supervisor, enters Laurie overhears conversation) It’s hard to say when… because I’m already swamped… it may come as a shock, Antonio, but council members are not my only customers… pardon me?… what attitude?….. you’re right, I am stressed Laurie this isn’t helping. You folks on the 3rd floor lay these major projects on us at the last minute, expect us to drop everything to get it done yesterday. I’m tired of it!… If that’s being negative, so be it…….I’ll get to it when I can. If it’s not good enough, get someone else to …..what?….is that a threat? ……no, go ahead, call Casey. Tell her you want a happier slave! (hangs up)

C: What did Antonio want?

R: Same ol’ same ol’. Drop everything for his project du jour.

C: You came on pretty strong with him. Pretty negative.

R: Yeah, well I just don’t need it today.

C: I’m sure Antonio doesn’t need it either. Call him back Laurie apologize. Otherwise, I’ll hear about it which I don’t need today or any day.

R: Tell Laurie to apologize for the load of crap she laid on me before the commission meeting this morning, then I’ll apologize to Antonio. How’s that?

C: Whatever personal thing went on between you Laurie Laurie, but whatever it is it’s no excuse for speaking that way to a councilmember’s office. Call Antonio back Laurie apologize for being angry Laurie negative. I heard you be both.

R: You’re right. Sorry. Can’t let this stuff get to me. (picks up phone, dials) Antonio…. it’s Ron…..I want to apologize – for my outburst, I had no right to……what?….. on the rag? Yeah, I guess that’s one way to put it. Anyway, wanted to say I’m sorry Laurie let you know I’ll get to work right away on the……huh? No, haven’t heard it. I’m kind of trying to get out of the joke loop, so…..sure, go ahead (grits teeth, listens, phony laugh)……good one. So, again, I’m sorry….sure….no problem….bye. (hangs up)

C: Are you OK?

R: Yeah, I’m fine.

C: You’ve been kind of thin-skinned lately.

R: Yeah, I know.

C: What’s the problem?

R: No problem.

C: Obviously there’s a problem when one of my best employees treats our council offices like the enemy. If it’s personal, it needs to stay outside when you come to work. If it’s about work, tell me what’s going on so we can solve it.

R: It’s solved. It won’t happen again. As long as Laurie stays out of my face.

C: What’s Laurie in your face about?

R: I don’t want to go into it.

C: She tell you another one of those e-mail jokes from her man-hating sister?

R: It’s not just the jokes. Look, Casey, it’s my problem. I’ll deal with it.

C: What goes on here isn’t just your problem. Especially if it affects your work.

R: You know I’m going through a break-up with my partner, right? Well, ever since Doug Laurie I split, Laurie’s been on me like a cricket in heat, wanting to be my best friend, socialize all the time, constantly sends e-mails me these sexual Laurie racial jokes which she knows I find offensive, makes personal comments, gets physical. But hey – it’s not just her. Everyone does it. I’m the oddball.

C: Did you let know you find it offensive?

R: I’ve tried. In nice ways. But being subtle with Laurie’s like negotiating the price of a porterhouse with a pit bull.

C: I hear you.

R: Anyway, while we’re in there getting ready for the meeting she starts on me. I tried to shine it on – I mean, there were other people there – but it got to me. Maybe my tolerance is lower because of what’s going on in my life right now. Anyway, I asked her to back off. You know Laurie. All that did was up the voltage. I finally blew up. Got in her face. Didn’t mean to. I apologized. You couldn’t get this much drama on the Springer show. Very humiliating.

C: What’d Laurie say?

R: She said, “Don’t worry. It was good for me”. Anyway, it’s really no big deal. Forget what I said about wanting an apology. Obviously I over-reacted. Let’s just drop it, OK?

C: It sounds like I better have a talk with Laurie.

R: No, no – please. I don’t want you to do anything. You asked so I told you, but I don’t want anyone to know I even talked about it. It’s just between us. I was venting. I don’t want to get Laurie in trouble. What I said was in confidence, OK?

C: I’m not sure I can just drop it. (asks audience for input) Ron, I can’t guarantee complete confidentiality. The behavior you described could be illegal & violate the City’s anti-harassment policy. As a supervisor, if I’m aware of possible harassment, I’ve got to do something. Can’t let it go, even if you ask me to. It will be treated confidentially to the fullest extent possible. What you’ve told me will only be shared on a “need to know” basis. I’ve got to talk with H.R. It will be up to them whether to do an investigation……

R: Investigation? No way! You didn’t say anything about H.R. or I wouldn’t have said anything! You going to H.R. will only make it worse. An investigation’s going to create hard feelings that never go away. You know how people feel about whistleblowers around here. It will make my life at work a living hell. Laurie will declare me the enemy and do everything she can to get me to transfer out – or quit. If you want to help, drop it. I’m already on the edge. If you want to push me off, go ahead and get H.R involved.

C: Give me a second, OK? (asks audience for input) Ron, please believe me that you did the right thing saying something. I know it can get loose around here sometimes. We’ve got a high spirited group and for some people, staff meetings are the only chance to bond — socialize a little. I thought everyone was OK with it. Obviously I was wrong. If something’s affecting your work, I’ve got a duty to do something about it. Believe me, it will be handled as discreetly as possible.

R: Get real, Casey. When Laurie gets wind of this, the rumor mill will make twitter look like 2 tin cans on a string.

C: Anyone H.R. talks to or interviews about this will be told it’s to be kept confidential and if they talk they’re subject to disciplinary action. Retaliating against someone for coming forward with a complaint is absolutely prohibited. It won’t be tolerated.

R: Since when?

C: Things have changed. Retaliation is taken very seriously. Like I said — it won’t be tolerated. Way too risky.

R: So now what? H.R. calls Laurie in, tells her to stop picking on poor, helpless, wimpy little Ronnie? Beautiful. That’s all I need.

C: I’ll call Laurie in, get her side of the story, pass on what I know to H.R. They’ll do a fair, impartial investigation. I imagine they’ll interview you and Laurie, ask you both to suggest any witnesses who might shed some light. If it’s determined behavior took place that’s illegal or against policy, immediate, appropriate action will be taken to make sure it stops and isn’t repeated. You’ll be notified of the outcome. I’ll be monitoring the situation. Like a hawk. I have a duty to protect employees from the kind of thing you described, Ron. I intend to do that.

R: Things must be really nice on your home planet. I bet you miss it. Look, I know you mean well but those words are meaningless, except to the lawyers who get rich writing them. If my jet-setting former partner hadn’t left me drowning in credit card debt, I’d just quit.

C: That’s the last thing anyone wants. We can’t afford to lose excellent employees like you over adolescent, unprofessional behavior. Plus it’s just not right. People need to know they’ll be treated with dignity and respect when they come to work or do business with City Hall. I’m asking you to make a leap of faith. Employees need to feel comfortable and safe using the complaint procedure. The only way that happens is if cases like this are handled right.

R: Here’s a more likely scenario. The tooth fairy drops a building on Laurie, her Payless pumps are removed revealing her porcine hooves and all the little people are liberated. Are we done? I need to get going on that stuff for Antonio.

C: Yes. Thanks, Ron. Hang in there. My door’s always open. I’ll be calling H.R. immediately and I’m sure they’ll be in touch right away. (Shakes his hand. Ron exits)

©This script is the copyrighted intellectual property of Workplace Training Network Laurie may not be used for any purpose without the express permission of WTN, La Mesa CA