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Two of my team members I look after (of a certain cultural background) had some personal issues to look after so I allowed them to use sick leave and work from home for extended periods, without the required paperwork.

Management and HR agreed to this.

Other team members' (another cultural background) similar requests were denied based on what I saw their hardships were.

Some team members noticed and started talking about it. I think this is bullying and harassment and perhaps even racism towards those two individuals. I think this is very disrespectful since it indirectly questions my leadership.

How can I stop them from talking about this? What I want is to prevent them from bringing morale down with their negativity, and concentrate on their deliveries only.

21

How can I stop them from talking about this issue altogether?

I too question your leadership skills, you showed blatant favoritism and your team call you out for it -- and rightfully so.

You cannot, should not, make accommodations for one person on your team and not be willing to do the same thing for any other member of your team. Race, gender, identity, religion, etc. do not play into it.

If your going to allow one person on your team to do a special work arrangement, you should be prepared to do that same thing for anyone on your team. It appears to me that you have used extremely poor judgement, and have a lot of damage to repair to make your team whole again.

The only caveat to this is if we are referring to someone who is clearly under performing.

To remedy this, I would suggest you apologize for your actions to your entire team, let them know you see the error's from the past, and commit to treating everyone on your team the same. This course of action you have chosen is correctable.

  • One of the complainers is actually getting a lot done. The other ones are ok. – user110942 Oct 16 at 12:26
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    @BigV If I worked for you, my perception would be that you favor the Asian members of your team. Can you not see how truly awful this is? – Mister Positive Oct 16 at 12:34
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The problem, as I see it, is the entitlement is based on what "you think", not on what is applicable.

For the benefits (of availing sick leaves of WFH), there is a defined process to avail them. You can guide / help your team to avail the benefits, but doing either

  • Favoritism to allow someone any benefit they're not eligible for
  • Preventing someone from availing something they're eligible for

is wrong.

I think this is bullying and harassment and perhaps even racism towards those two individuals.

Not at all, rather the remaining people can (and should) charge you with favoritism.

I think this is very disrespectful since it indirectly questions my leadership.

No, your decisions are questionable, so anyone questioning your capacity / capability is doing you a favor - take a step back, breath deep and re-think your decisions from a neutral point of view.

Note: If you're in dilemma about making any decision related to team management, take help from HR/ Legal department of the organization.

4

I think the most important part of your question is this:

There were other team members (another cultural background) who had similar "needs", but I didn't think their situation required the same leniency. So their requests were denied based on what I saw their hardships were.

1) If you think their situation did not require the same leniency only or partly due to the other cultural background than you made a big mistake. That is pure simple racism. Apologise, fullfill their request and hope for the best

2) If you have clear objective reasons to not grant them the same leniency then you have the disadvantage that it smells like racism but in thruth you have objective reasons. This is tricky. You cannot simply discuss these reasons (and the difference with the granted requests) without harming someones privacy. Still talk to the ones who's request you denied and try to explain why. You say HR and management agreed with the first requests. Let them also decide about the second ones (the ones you denied). Then atleast its clear that it is not only your decision.

3

"perhaps even racism towards those two individuals."

Haven't you been the one who decided who could work from home based on the race of the employee?

You (rather arbitrarily) decided differently in similar situations, so I wonder why you are surprised that people start to question you as a leader.

"What I want to achieve is to prevent them from bringing morale down with their negativity,"

Well. You brought down their morale by not being consistent in your decisions and favouring people based on their ethnicity.

"If I have the impression that someones life is easy, I won't make special arrangements for them."

You should seriously reconsider if you should be leading a team if this is your attitude. You aren't even consistent with yourself as you also said "Their issues didn't really warranted work from home."

As you mentioned that the race is important, you are currently acting racist so your employees are perfectly right to question you.

2

A lot of damage is done. Picking-up the pieces won't be easy but you need to do it.

First, in the perfect world you should treat everyone fairly. In the real world, this is not always possible, and people make mistakes.

If there is one or a few employees to whom you've denied similar benefits, you should talk to each of them, one-on-one and make it clear that:

  1. You are open to hear and understand everyone's problems, both at the workplace and personal if needed be.
  2. You are willing to bend the rules based on judgment calls of your own, which does mean that rules themselves or the company's needs and priorities cease to exist.
  3. In every situation, the privacy of the employee needs to be respected. He doesn't know, and will not know the circumstances of each judgement call you make.
  4. Gossiping about favoritism isn't helping anyone, it will just make rules harder to bend in the future, and that ultimately is a problem for those in need, which in the future might include the employee you are speaking to. (censorship is also bad, but given the situation, you need to pick your poison)
  5. Receiving unfavorable decisions is frustrating, but everyone needs to deal with it.
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How can I stop them from talking about this issue altogether?

You exercised a bit of favouritism and it got picked on. Thats normal, time fixes the problem, just pretend it wasn't an issue.

As manager you don't have to answer as to what your reasoning is, the assumption by professionals is you know what you're doing. They'll find some other drama to talk about eventually if you don't give them something to pick at.

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    just pretend it wasn't an issue -- this will not work sir. Love most of your answers, just not this one. – Mister Positive Oct 16 at 12:35
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    Works for me every time :-) – Kilisi Oct 16 at 12:36
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    Then I surely pity everyone working for you. – virolino Oct 16 at 12:41
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    @SolarMike not at all. Unless you feed a fire it burns out. If done properly no one should even be questioning the leaders decisions. But if they do, just ignore it. Anything else is inviting it to continue and admission that it is something. – Kilisi Oct 16 at 13:10
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    While I tend to value and agree with most of your answers: "If done properly no one should even be questioning the leaders decisions" Sounds a bit like totalitarianism to me - and where that leads to we can all learn from history books and see in present political systems.. – iLuvLogix Oct 16 at 13:17

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